Sunday, May 9, 2021

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Graham council’s discussion on food trucks leads to second recusal debate

Graham’s city council got bogged down for the second consecutive month in whether to modify the city’s rules for food trucks, in order to satisfy one local businessman who wants the city to ease up on its limitations.

In the process, the council got into its second consecutive monthly dispute about whether council member Jennifer Talley could vote on the measure.

Currently, the city’s ordinance allows food trucks at the same location only every three days within a seven-day period.

Last month’s proposal, from Patrick Miller, which was defeated 3-1, would have allowed them five days within every seven.

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This month’s variation proposed to expand the eligibility to five days within every seven (the same as last month’s), but provided it as a temporary measure, with the provision to sunset on June 1, after which the rule would revert to the current, three-days-within-seven standard.

As with last month, council member Melody Wiggins raised the question of whether fellow council member Jennifer Talley should be able to participate and vote on the proposal.
The council had voted 3-2 in March in favor of Wiggins’ motion that Talley should be recused from participating in the discussion and vote.

Talley spent some of this month’s meeting arguing that she had been wrongly prevented from voting last month, and she repeatedly asked for a review of the council’s March decision to make her sit out.

Earlier in the meeting, Talley also questioned whether she had actually voted on the recusal. The minutes, which she challenged, said she had, and a recording of the March meeting appears to substantiate that interpretation. But, in any event, a majority voted to prevent her participation.

This month, when Wiggins again raised the question of Talley’s eligibility to vote, mayor Jerry Peterman took a different tact from last month when he had seconded Wiggins’ motion to force Talley’s recusal.

This time, Peterman argued that because the suspension of Graham’s ordinance was only temporary, Talley did not have the same degree of a conflict of interest and thus could vote on the issue.

Wiggins did not press the matter. While Talley argued that on the substance the council should not repeatedly be asked to change its ordinances on food trucks, the majority disagreed.

By a 3-2 vote, the council voted for the suspension of the three-days rule in favor of the requested five-days standard, with the change to expire on June 1. Wiggins, Peterman, and mayor pro tem Chip Turner voted for the revision with the June 1 termination date; Talley and councilman Ricky Hall voted against.

Meanwhile, Talley provided council members with a legal opinion from her attorney that she should have been allowed to participate, and mayor Jerry Peterman agreed to seek the opinion of city attorney Bob Ward on whether Talley had been properly excluded from voting on the matter or not.

Peterman had pressed Bryan Coleman, Ward’s law partner and therefore the city’s other attorney, whether the council’s March action had been proper or not. Coleman read from an e-mail received from the Institute of Government in Chapel Hill, but would not stake out a firm position on whether the council’s action against Talley had been proper or not.

An interpretation from Ward is expected at the council’s May meeting.


See coverage of March meeting on same subjects: food trucks and recusal of council member:

Graham council forces member to sit out food truck debate https://alamancenews.com/graham-council-forces-member-to-sit-out-food-truck-debate/

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