An ominous warning from Graham’s outgoing mayor has apparently given cold feet to one candidate in this year’s race for Graham’s city council.
Brooke Flood, one of seven contenders who’ve filed for two of the council’s regular seats, admits that she’s been second-guessing her decision to run ever since Graham’s mayor Jerry Peterman told her husband Duane that he’d have to sacrifice his job as a captain with the city’s police department if his wife wins a seat on the council.
Flood told The Alamance News that her husband received this caveat in mid July, just a few days after she had filed the paperwork to run for Graham’s city council. She added that her husband received this bolt from the blue at a singularly bad time. He was apparently prepping the city’s police force for a mass demonstration when Peterman, who was accompanied by current city councilman and mayoral candidate Chip Turner, confronted him about his wife’s bid for the council.
“My husband was in the command center on the Saturday morning before the protest,” Flood said as she recalled her husband’s account of the run-in, “and here come Chip Turner and Mayor Peterman. And they told him that, if I won the seat, he’d have to quit his job.”
Peterman has largely confirmed the gist of Flood’s account about the unsettling heads-up he shared with her husband. In an interview after a recent city council meeting, the mayor told The Alamance News that he had indeed informed the police captain that, under current municipal policy, he would have to give up his job if his wife wins a seat on the council. The newspaper didn’t ask Peterman about the specific context or circumstances of his conversation with Captain Flood.
Brooke Flood contends that Peterman and Turner apparently based their prognostications about her husband on a section of the city’s personnel policy that addresses nepotism. This passage explicitly forbids an employee of the city from holding a position of authority over an immediate relative who’s also on the city’s payroll. It then goes on to extend this principle to some of the city’s higher-ranking officials.
“The city,” the operative passage asserts, “also prohibits the employment of any person into a permanent position who is an immediate family member of the following positions: mayor, mayor pro tem, city council member, city manager, city clerk, or city attorney.”
The policy proceeds to qualify this provision by noting that “otherwise,” the city can “consider employing family members or related persons” as long as neither is in a supervisory role or position of influence over the other.
In the course of requesting a copy of this policy from the city, The Alamance News asked Graham’s interim city manager Aaron Holland if the rules would “grandfather in” an existing employee who has an immediate family member that’s elected to the council. Holland stated that “the manual does not speak to the ‘grandfathering’ of an employee.”
Flood said that, after examining the passage herself, she has come to believe that the provision in question applies more to new hires than longtime employees of the city. She acknowledges, however, that the mayor’s menacing inference has put quite a damper on her own aspirations for public office – especially when she weighs them against her husband’s 22-year-long career with the city’s police force.
“22 years is a long time to be invested,” she conceded, “and it’s not worth his job for me to do it.”
Flood seems to have been thinking along these same lines when she received a call from the county’s elections office earlier this week.
Jeanette Grant, a staff member in the elections office, recalled that the candidate hinted at her potential withdrawal from race when the two of them spoke about an unrelated matter concerning Flood’s paperwork.
“She didn’t know if she would still run,” Grant recalled in an interview Wednesday; “that’s what she told me.”
The county’s elections staff has since sucked the air out of Flood’s musings about her prospective departure from the council race. According to the elections office, the window of opportunity for a candidate to have his or her name struck from the ballot ended even before the state wrapped up its two-week period for candidate registration. In fact, the deadline for a candidate to withdraw passed at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 13 – nearly three days before the filing period itself ended on Friday, July 16.
Flood’s realization that her name is now indelibly etched on the ballot has only intensified her frustration about the warning that Peterman shared with her husband. Her angst over the implicit threat to her husband’s career is only compounded by the tactless way that she said he delivered the message to the police captain on the morning of a mass demonstration.
“What I’m really furious about,” she said, “is that at the exact moment when he’s stressed out about protecting the city, he’s worried about how he’s going to tell his wife that she can’t run for the council.”
Flood also takes issue with a further remark that Peterman allegedly made to her husband, commending his wife for the “courage” she showed when she signed up to run for the council. The would-be councilmember insists that this backhanded compliment was patronizing, at best, and at worst, a manifestation of the boy’s club mentality that she believes still dominates Graham’s municipal government.
“It was belittling; it was sexist; and it was just rude,” she asserted. “It’s also scare tactics…I think there’s some dirty dealings going on, and it’s time for the city to change. But we’re never going to change as long as we have these old ideas that we need to let the menfolk handle things.
“What I would like to see is a change in Graham,” she added. “I’m on the ballot, and right now, we’re waiting to see where all the cards are going to fall…But if I get a seat on the council, I want to bring some light to some of these dark corners [of municipal politics].”