Hyde commissioners fire county manager Mazie Smith
By CONNIE LEINBACH
newly installed Hyde County Board of Commissioners at their December
meeting last night fired county manager Mazie Smith.
action came at the end of the three-hour meeting at the
of which newly elected commissioners Anson Byrd of Fairfield Township,
John Fletcher of Ocracoke Township, and Earl Pugh Jr. of Lake
Landing Township, were sworn in, and Barry Swindell, Currituck
Township, was elected board chairman.
the new members were sworn in, the board went into a closed session for
about a half hour.
Byrd, Fletcher, and Swindell voted for the
termination. Dick Tunnell, Swan Quarter Township,
against, and Earl Pugh Jr. abstained, which was tantamount to a “yes”
vote, according to county attorney Fred Holscher.
No reason was
announced for the termination. Swindell had a meeting this
morning with the elected officials (the sheriff, clerk of courts, and
register of deeds) and department heads. After that meeting,
Swindell said that the board will not appoint an interim
before January and that the department heads are capable of handling
things and will report to him in the meantime.
“Not all the
people were in favor of this decision, but we, as a board, decided we
felt the majority of the citizens wanted this,” he said today. “We look
forward to keeping taxes down and moving forward. It was
personal, just the style of management and a different direction the
board wants to go.”
“My personal dealings with Ms. Smith have
been pleasant,” noted Fletcher prior to the vote. “Other people in the
government have said otherwise.”
“I don’t like to make decisions based on hearsay,” said Pugh about his
Smith responded to the action by saying she has been honest and has
worked to bring transparency to Hyde County government.
real disappointed the board wants to change course,” she
She questioned when the board will allow a manager to stay in place,
let them do their job and make county employees follow the rules.
County managers have come and gone – or come and been fired -- in Hyde
County with some regularity in recent years.
to Megan Shaw, county information officer, since the 1980s, the average
length of employment for Hyde County managers has been 18 months.
had been on the job fewer than two years. She started working in
January of 2011 and was officially named county manager the next month.
commissioner Sharon Spencer spoke during the final public comment
period and noted the power struggles that have gone on within the
“In the interest to the county, you have done a
great disservice,” Spencer said about the firing. “Mazie has
her job. She hasn’t done anything against the
has brought transparency and better service for the citizens. I’m just
so sorry for this county.”
Mary Gibbs, a former employee in the
tax office, countered Spencer’s remarks. “She (Spencer) has a nerve to
say that after she (Smith) fired nine people,” Gibbs said.
commissioner Darlene Styron-Doshier, among the group on in the Ocracoke
School Commons room where the meeting was being broadcast via computer
hookup, commented that she was saddened by this action and that Smith
had acted at the direction of the board.
“You cannot base a decision on hearsay,” she said.
Several other Ocracoke community leaders who had attended the meeting
was no discussion, no reason given,” noted Bill Jones, who is president
of the Ocracoke Preservation Society and who attended the
meeting. “They had that closed meeting and we don’t know what
they did in there.”
Rudy Austin, president of the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association,
said Smith’s loss is a big step backwards.
concern on Ocracoke is not storms or sea-level rise,” he said. “Our
main concern is Hyde County government functioning in a responsible
In other action, the board appointed Avery Simmons to
the position of board clerk, replacing Lois Stokesbury, whom, Styron
said, had recently received national certification.
will continue to work as a secretary in the county manager’s office,
Justin Gibbs, EMS director, was appointed deputy clerk. Dick
Tunnell was elected vice-chairman of the board.
board tabled until January action on re-hiring lobbyists Henri and Joe
McClees to fight ferry tolls in Raleigh and whose contract expires Dec.
31. The $10,000 of Hyde’s payment share to the couple this year came
from an appropriation by the Ocracoke Occupancy Tax Board, which
typically meets in April each year.