Snow Hill Maintains Mayor Violated Town Charter; Dorman To Be Replaced By Mathews

SNOW HILL – Snow Hill’s mayor said a disagreement over methods to bring in new business prompted his resignation last week, but members of the town council say the mayor was abusing his powers.

Last week, Snow Hill Mayor Charlie Dorman submitted his resignation to the town council. Dorman has served as mayor since 2012 and just this year was reelected for another two-year term.

While he declined to comment last week, Dorman released a statement on Monday briefly explaining his reasons for resigning.

“In July, the town manager and one of the councilwomen disagreed with me on some of my tactics to draw new business to Snow Hill,” the statement reads. “Since then, I’ve become a figurehead only as the mayor, with no authority anymore. I then decided that I would resign effective Oct. 31, 2018. I have aggressively sought to sell my residence and I am fortunate to have a buyer. I will be moving in November. I sincerely hope that the new mayor will continue to encourage new businesses and make Snow Hill a destination on the Pocomoke River.”

Within hours of issuing his statement on Monday, however, the Snow Hill Town Council – consisting of Councilwomen Alison Cook, Jenny Hall and LaToya Purnell – responded with its own editorial letter.

“Throughout Mayor Charlie Dorman’s administration, the Town Council had faith that he was making decisions that were in the best interest of the town and its citizens and that he was adhering to the regulations and guidelines of the Town Code,” the letter reads. “We allowed and supported Mayor Dorman in making decisions to encourage business growth and economic development. We believed that what he told us was factual and that he was honest. However, it came to light several months ago that there had been actions by the mayor that we believed to be in violation of the duties of the mayor as specified in the Town Charter.”

The letter states the mayor had the authority to see that all ordinances are faithfully executed, to appoint and remove department heads with the majority approval of the council, to make recommendations to the council, to supervise the financial administration of the government, and may veto or vote to break a tie. The statement added, however, that the mayor had no authority to make certain decisions that were later discovered by the town council.

“Mayor Dorman has proclaimed that the council took away his power. This is false,” the letter reads. “As stated herein, the position of mayor never had the authority for the decisions he made.”

In one instance, the council said Dorman directed staff to ignore provisions of an agreement between the town and a local business owner.

“An agreement was entered with a local business owner that required them to perform certain renovations to a building in exchange for being granted building ownership,” the letter reads. “As part of the agreement, certain obligations had to be met prior to opening the business, some of which being safety-related or mandated by federal and state law. Mayor Dorman directed staff to ignore the Code and laws, ignore the memorandum of agreement, and allow this business to open, fully aware it was in violation. Additionally, Mayor Dorman covered some of the repair costs that the agreement stated were to be paid by the business owner.”

In another instance, the council said Dorman directed a member of staff to reduce the cost of an EDU (equivalent dwelling unit) for a resident.

“A resident requested a reduction in the cost of an EDU for water/sewer connection to a rental property and the Council denied the request,” the letter reads. “Later, Mayor Dorman directed the Code Enforcement Officer to reduce the amount of the EDU by 50 percent without the knowledge or approval of the Council.”

The letter also states that town officials began to further investigate Dorman’s decisions and activities after Town Manager Kelly Pruitt submitted a retirement notice in June.

“Town staff members had met with the Mrs. Pruitt regarding a potential hostile work environment, stating they were made to perform duties at the mayor’s direction that they believed to be in direct violation of the Code,” the letter reads. “Mrs. Pruitt had decided to retire solely because of the issues with the Mayor. Several other employees were seeking to leave employment because of the hostile environment and being put into situations where they felt uncomfortable.

“When the Council addressed these issues with Mayor Dorman he apologized for overstepping his authority and explained he would work to rebuild our trust. He apologized to the Town Manager and the staff. At the end of the meeting there was a mutual understanding that everyone would move forward in a positive, inclusive manner.”

The letter states, however, that “community gossip” and “untruths” have surfaced since the meeting.

“Mayor Dorman has continually made negative comments about the council and town staff in an attempt to gain public sympathy,” the letter reads. “He has championed to make the council and town manager look bad in the public eye. As a result, community members and business owners have stated that they feel a divide between themselves and town government. The perceived ‘divide’ stops today.

“Mayor Dorman announced at the October 9th town meeting that he was resigning with no advance notice to or discussion with the council. The community stated they were told it was because he believed he had lost his ‘power.’ The truth is that he never lost any power. He made decisions and promises that were the responsibility of the council.

“The council has cohesively come together and discovered that our trust and belief in Mayor Dorman’s decision-making was violated and we found it necessary to hold the mayor accountable. We, as council, support all local businesses and are united in continuing to bring more to Snow Hill. However, we feel that the Code should be adhered to, to be fair and equal to all.”

In its letter this week, the town council also announced former Mayor Stephen Mathews will take over the position of mayor until the next election in May of 2019.

“We feel this decision is in the best interest of residents and business owners in Snow Hill, as Mr. Mathews served as mayor for 14 years and can easily take over the position,” the letter reads. “Mr. Mathews has accepted our request and will be sworn in on Nov. 1, 2018.”

When contacted on Tuesday, Dorman declined to comment on the town council’s letter.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.