FENWICK ISLAND – Disagreements among council members regarding meeting minutes, council gatherings and allegations of misconduct reached a boiling point in Fenwick Island late last month.
What started in December as a disagreement over amended meeting minutes boiled over into the Jan. 22 Fenwick Island Town Council meeting, during which council members voiced their objections to comments made by Councilwoman Vicki Carmean.
“I don’t think we can let this sit,” Merritt said. “Councilwoman Carmean is consistently questioning the integrity of the council, and I find it quite offensive and not accurate. I didn’t get on this council to question my integrity.”
In October, the town council voted to approve the September meeting minutes with several of Carmean’s corrections, which involved her comments on public participation and opposition of an outdoor pool bar at the Fenwick Shores hotel.
In December, however, a motion was made to amend the September meeting minutes yet again.
Merritt told council members at the time he and the town clerk had reviewed the September audio recording after approving Carmean’s corrections at the October meeting and said his proposed amendments would provide a more accurate reflection of what transpired.
“I went back and listened to the audio of this,” he said. “And this is not verbatim, but pretty darn close to what was said.”
Carmean, however, argued against the proposed amendments.
“I think it’s wrong to censor or twist meanings in order to falsify the minutes,” she said at the time. “The September meeting minutes were amended and approved in a proper fashion during the October meeting, the way we’ve always done other amendments.”
Carmean questioned if she was being ambushed for sharing her concerns regarding town procedure and the Fenwick Shores outdoor pool bar. She also alleged members of the town council had remained in town hall for roughly an hour after the October meeting to discuss the meeting minute issue.
“I personally witnessed the entire council remain in the town hall for a better part of an hour after the October meeting,” she said. “So let me remind you again that it is illegal for council members to meet and discuss town business without proper notice given to all council members and the public.”
Mayor Gene Langan told Carmean those who stayed after the council meeting remained only a few minutes. Councilman Richard Mais added they discussed his sister’s illness and college basketball.
With no further discussion, the council in December voted 6-1, with Carmean opposed, to amend the meeting minutes for September.
But at the end of last month’s town council meeting, Merritt said he wanted to address the comments Carmean made during that December meeting. He said her claim that the September minutes had been falsified were not true.
“The council has the responsibility to be factual. Vicki knows this,” he said. “That’s why the minutes were amended to reflect a more accurate and clear picture of what was stated at the September council meeting. There was no maneuvering the minutes at all.”
Merritt went on to state that the council welcomed her to share community concerns and issues pertaining to town business, but that her accusations of being ambushed were unwarranted. He also said the council did not conduct town business after its October meeting.
“For the record, Vicki, you were not asked to leave once the meeting was over,” he said. “Members did not conduct town business, and your suggestion that a conspiracy exists and actions against you were being taken during that period after that meeting was just wrong.”
Councilman Bill Weistling told Carmean he was not present with council members after the October meeting. He then asked Carmean to provide documentation of when he left town hall that evening.
“I think the facts are very important when you make comments like this,” he said.
Carmean, however, continued to stand by her statement.
“I know what I saw that night, and I’m sorry you want to keep dragging this up,” she said. “This now goes back to the fall, and you keep going on and on and on.”
Adding to Merritt’s comments, Houser said recent allegations of misconduct and censorship by the town council were false and inaccurate.
“Summarizing, I totally reject these repeated and frivolous allegations,” he said. “They are baseless and inaccurate. They have cost the town of Fenwick Island time, money, and probably most important, spirit.”