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Gibsonville mayor has police remove man from meeting when he protests town’s failure to demolish house


Gibsonville’s twice-monthly board of aldermen meetings are typically fairly staid affairs.

But this week’s April 1 version included an unprecedented expulsion of one man and his wife after the resident challenged the board’s failure, or unwillingness, to follow through on what he deemed to be a plan for demolishing a dilapidated house that stands on a lot next to his own.

Mayor Lenny Williams (center) and aldermen (from left): Irene Fanelli, Paul Dean, Mark Shepherd, Bryant Crisp, and Tangela Mitchell.

Residents along Burlington Avenue, one of the main approaches to the downtown, had turned out in force on March 4 at the board meeting to voice their concerns about what they considered the town’s ongoing delay in doing anything about the longstanding eyesore, which they also claimed to be a safety hazard.

The board took no action at its March meeting, and when the topic recurred on this month’s agenda, town manager Ben Baxley said the matter is now being handled by the Alamance County inspections department, where the owner of the home had sought and obtained permits on March 5, the day after the board meeting (see separate story in this week’s edition) to make improvements to the house.

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Background on history of 734 Burlington Avenue in Gibsonville: 11th hour permit allows work to begin on dilapidated house, rather than begin its demolition –

In Gibsonville’s fairly casual approach, residents are often allowed to make comments to the board from their seats in the audience.

Stephen Efird, of 736 Burlington Avenue, who lives next to the  dilapidated home at 734, attempted to question the aldermen about why the agenda item was being largely skipped over, rather than voting on the demolition, as he claimed had been promised at the board’s March 4 meeting.

Efird grew increasingly agitated in the few minutes he attempted to speak, which prompted mayor Lenny Williams also to become agitated with the resident’s angry tone toward the board.  Williams ultimately gaveled Efird to stop talking and directed police to remove Efird from the meeting chambers.

Alamance News publisher Tom Boney, Jr., present to cover the meeting for the newspaper, questioned the mayor asking under what authority Efird was to be removed from a public meeting.

Williams insisted that he was going to run an “orderly meeting,” and would not tolerate having people make accusations against the board or the town.

“Excuse me,” said the mayor.  “I’m finished with you.  Your time to talk at this meeting is over,” he told Efird as he signalled for the police to remove him.

“Why is the board not doing what it said it was going to do?” Efird persisted.

Boney then questioned, “Mr. Mayor, under what provision are you asking this gentlemen to be escorted out? I’m just questioning –perhaps your lawyer would like to speak up – but I’m not aware of any provision that would allow for this man to be told to leave a meeting.

Williams responded, “I’m going to have order in this meeting. If the attorney tells me not to do it, then I’ll back off.  I have to conduct the business of this town, and I’m not going to let one or two indivudals come in and stop me from doing it.”

Bob Giles, the town’s attorney, who was seated on the front row in the audience, did not speak to the board or the mayor about what transpired.

Read the newspaper’s editorial page views on this week’s kerfuffle at Gibsonville board of aldermen meeting: Gibonville’s mayor was harsh, unfair todisgruntled resident –

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