Monthly Archives: October 2017

KNOW BEFORE YOU VOTE

Before you begin I wanted to take a moment and share that a Meet and Greet was held at Kress Query’s neighborhood.  Everyone attended except Demple Shah, Norah Burke and Sebastian Feculak.  Now you may be asking yourself, why not?  Well, easy answer.  They were not invited.  Citizens who live in Kress Query’s neighborhood were told all candidates were invited and would be attending while knowing this was not true.  Larry Whitley who is running for mayor was informed the Saturday night before the event on Sunday.  Thankfully he was able to make it.  Was this a ploy to discredit these candidates in effort to make citizens believe they did not care enough to attend?  Hmmm….I think so.  I have been asked who’s idea was this?  There is no way that I can answer that question, but if you have had enough of dirty politics by dirty politicians than it is not hard to know “who” is within the establishment here in Matthews.  Just pay attention to the candidates who flock together with their mailers and advertising, as the saying goes “birds of a feather flock together”.  But that’s just my opinion.        

On November 7th (we) the citizens of Matthews will be casting our vote once again for candidates that we feel will best represent the town and all citizens.  Running for Mayor is Larry Whitley who currently serves on the Board of Commissioners and Paul Bailey who has served in the past as Commissioner for nine terms.  The incumbents are Commissioners John Higdon, Jeff Miller and Chris Melton.  The newcomers on the block are Allen Crosby, Norah Burke, Dimple Shah, Sebastian Feculak and Barbara Dement and once again there is Kress Query who has served as commissioner.  

Along with questions submitted by citizens MATTHEWS WATCH presented each candidate with a set of questions.  In order to get a true idea of “who” we will be voting for questions have been tailored for the candidates, some questions are different due to his or her history with the Town.  Some have chosen to answer the questions while others did not.

Before we begin I feel it is important for you to know how a few issues past/present have been voted on and to also give you a glimpse of how your tax dollars are/have been spent.  I was very surprised to learn just how many citizens wanted to know more about the Technology Allowance and Planning Conference.  I even attended a candidate meet and greet and this was also the hot topic.   

So, let’s begin…

TECHNOLOGY ALLOWANCE & INCREASE – In 2005 the Technology Allowance was approved.  This fund allows the Mayor and Commissioners to purchase items they feel are needed to perform his/her duties when serving on the Town Council.  The amount given was $3500.00 per term for the mayor and each commissioner.  During the 2017 Planning Conference Commissioner Jeff Miller recommended that the Technology Allowance be increased $100.00 per member bringing total allowed to $3,600.00 per term.  That comes to a total of $25,200.00 and all items purchased by a council member during their term is there’s to keep.  The increase was approved by Commissioners John Higdon, Jeff Miller, John Urban, Chris Melton and Larry Whitley.  There were questions of  “who” and “how much” has been spent during the 2016/2017 term.  To date Commissioner Larry Whitley has been reimbursed $2,405.61, Commissioner Jeff Miller $2,157.16 and Commissioner Chris Melton $2,240.90.  Until a commissioner submits his receipts for reimbursement to be approved by the Board there is no documentation available.  The mayor and commissioners have until December when this current term ends to submit all receipts.     

ANNUAL PLANNING CONFERENCE – In 2017 the Planning Conference was held on February 23-26th.  This is a public meeting but on February 24th through the 26th this meeting was held at Ocean Isle Beach.  The cost for the Planning Conference came to a total of $5,616.81 not including any reimbursements to the commissioners, of this amount $3,918.00 was for the beach house rental.  An amount of $1,191.89 was spent for supplies, breakfast foods, lunch and dinner.  The restaurant of choice seems to be the Boundary House totaling $466.83 another favorite spot is LA Cucina Italiano totaling $384.52.  Also in attendance was our Town Attorney Charles Buckley who charges $205.00 per hour.  His hourly rate was increased to $205.00 per hour by the Board on June 27, 2016.  The vote to hold the annual planning conference at Ocean Isle Beach was supported by Commissioners John Higdon, Jeff Miller, John Urban, Chris Melton, and Larry Whitley.  Although I would like to say, Commissioner John Higdon has at times expressed his concerns to hold the conference locally.  While on the other hand, during the 2014 Planning Conference Commissioner Chris Melton stated “this meeting was fully advertised and no public showed.  Indicates going out of town wouldn’t negatively affect the public.”   In 2016 he criticized the citizens stating “The board is often criticized for being out of town at the PC and we’ve been in town all day yesterday and since early this morning.  He applauds the board and committee members who are here today but it seems clear to him that the ppl who complain about going out of town/not making it convenient for citizens to attend aren’t even here. He will continue to say that argument is invalid but he thanks those folks who are actively here.”  I my opinion, he just does not get it.  It does not matter if anyone attends the meeting or not.  The problem is that he along with others feel they have every right to spend tax payer funds for an all expense paid weekend retreat at Ocean Isle Beach and call it the Planning Conference.  What’s the difference in discussing town issues here opposed to the beach?  FYI…this is a public meeting.                  2017 Planning Conference Receipts

MR. NEUBERT PURSER –  Mr. Purser was a WWII Veteran whose farm was condemned by the mayor and five commissioners who were serving in 2005.  The Town continues to deny the condemnation and continues to state, we paid for the land.  All condemnations must be compensated but the issue here is that Mr. Purser did not want to sell.  This condemnation was supported by former Commissioner Kress Query and Paul Bailey.  

Purser Closed Session Minutes

MR. & MRS. WRIGHT – For over twenty years the Wright family fought the Town for their property rights and the town has yet to disclose the total amount spent in pursuing this issue.  In 2013 the vote to support the condemnation of the Wrights property was supported by Commissioner Jeff Miller, John Urban and former Commissioners Paul Bailey and Kress Query.  In 2014 the court ruled the condemnation was for the “well-connected”  and ruled in favor of the Wrights.  The appeal was supported by Commissioners John Higdon, Jeff Miller, Chris Melton and former Commissioner Kress Query.  In 2015 the NCCOA ruled in favor of the Wrights and they were awarded their attorney’s fees of $74.570.00 for the appeal filed by the Town.  There was discussion to appeal the 2015 ruling which was supported by Commissioner Chris Melton.  Commissioners John Higdon and Jeff Miller were in disagreement. 

 Judgement               NCCOA opinion 4-21-2015       Judge Bridges email     

LEAGUE OF MUNICIPALITIES –    http://www.nclm.org/Pages/default.aspx      The Town of Matthews has been members of this organization for many years, membership fees are paid in July.  Cost for the past three years, 2017 -$22,609.00, 2016 – 23,715.00 and 2015 – $22,705.00 a total of  $69,029.00 of tax payer dollars.  

TOWN HALL DAY –  http://nclm.org/legislative-advocacy/involved/Pages/TownHallDay.aspx       This is an annual event held by the League of Municipalities in Raleigh and was held on March 29, 2017.  This year the enrollment fee of $50.00 per person was waived which helped in the cost.  For banquet room rental fee, dining and alcoholic beverages this a one day event cost was $1,079.75.     

METRO MAYORS COALITION –   http://ncmetromayors.com/    This is an organization for Mayors of North Carolina.  The Coalition holds two meetings a year and its members are are provided with “email updates almost daily of the work of the General Assembly and the Coalition advocacy agenda during session.”  They also offer weekly legislative conference calls. To date there are only 31 members.   For 2017 membership fees were $8,089.00 and was supported by Commissioners John Higdon, Jeff Miller, Chris Melton and Larry Whitley.  From 2014 to present total cost for the Metro Mayor Coalition membership has been $28,115.00.   

STORM WATER FUNDS USED ON PRIVATE PROPERTY – You may remember in July 2014 we received a massive amount of rain which caused flooding in and around Matthews.  One resident who is chair of the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) private drive received flooding. A phone call and email was made to Mayor Taylor and on July 22nd and 23rd Matthews Public Works spent two days cleaning and removing the debris.  Former Public Works Director Ralph Massera noted it was the property owners responsibility but this cost was covered by the residents of Matthews.  Many residents received damage but were told by the town clean-up was their responsibility.   Storm Clean up @ 1200 Home Place – 2014

TAG FEE INCREASE –  In 2014 Commissioners John Higdon, Chris Melton and Kress Query voted to raise the car tag fee from $10.00 to $25.00 per car.  This would create $234,000.00 a year which was to help fund road repairs.  This is also know as a hidden tax.  

WORK AND PRIVATE EMAIL ACCOUNTS – According to the North Carolina Sunshine laws work and private email accounts can be used, BUT when used all emails must be forwarded to a town account for public record.  Recently it was discovered that Mayor Taylor was using his work email account and over 11,000.00 emails had been sent over a four year period.  Paul Bailey has used his work email account and when a public records request was made he denied that he had used his Duke Energy account. Paul Bailey email response    John Urban and Jeff Miller have also used their work email accounts.  We even have a former commissioner who used his work email account and now according to the town they do not have access to them.  On July 24, 2017 a public records request was made for all emails sent and received by former commissioner Kress Query from 2013 to present.  The response was “Mr. Query has reported that he has no emails relating to town business in his personal email account for this time period.  This is not true.  A saying that comes to mind, Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.   

DISRESPECT OF CITIZENS – What can you say when Mayor Taylor and Commissioner Chris Melton disrespect citizens in email.  Not only is this a disgrace to the Town, they are public servants and should be held accountable.  U-4714 Taylor- Melton email   –                                    U-4714 – CRTPO Taylor – Robert Cook email   –  Melton – Taylor – Urban email & Church letter –   Commissioner Chris Melton & Mayor Taylor Ridge Church email  John Street Emails Taylor/Melton – scroll to pages 5 & 6.   You may find this report by WSOC-TV interesting.       

http://www.wsoctv.com/news/local/channel-9-finds-matthews-city-leaders-taking-jabs-at-constituent/615476415

2018 Operating Budget Ordinance

MEET THE CANDIDATES – 

————————  MAYORAL RACE  ———————————————————————————

Larry Whitley –

1. You once told me that I could not fight government.  Do you really believe citizens do not have a voice?   Yes, citizens always have a voice in government, it was 2 years ago when you and the mayor was having exchange of words.  You were running for office, this is when I made this statement to you.

2. Your first and only priority while serving as commissioner was the widening of Crestdale, which is the road your church is on.  Granted this road may need improvement but there are many town owned roads in desperate need of repair.  Why was this road your only concern?  My 1st priority was not widening of Crestdale.  This came up in my second year.  My first priority was to make Martin Luther King a Holiday for the town of Matthews. All other surrounding towns already had.  We passed 7 to 0 back in 3/2016.  My next priority was to bring about Diversity training for all town employees, which is a must for the times we are living in.  This will address the needs of all our citizens.  Crestdale Rd. is very close to downtown with a very heavy flow of traffic and had no work done to it in over 16 years.  This road needed widening and the curve at the box factory needed straighten.  There are other roads that need to be repaired also and if elected your Mayor this will be one of my priories.

3. In the local community newspaper you stated “I believe that Matthews should have a mayor that’s representative for everybody.  In the two years I’ve spent as commissioner, I’ve seen that the town is not represented for everybody.”  Please explain your statement.    As a former police office, I notice that we had no ranking minorities out of 56 sworn officers in 2016 but we do now. (2017)

4.  With so many other options available should the citizens of Matthews continue to fund the Technology Fund and Planning Conference trip to Ocean Isle Beach?  Couldn’t these funds be put to better use for our Police and Fire Department?   Yes we need technology funds to keep up with the changing times, also the planning conference trip is a time to get away to work out the town business.  We are not on vacation.

Paul Bailey –  Mr. Bailey has chosen not to answer the questions. 

1.  Why were you dishonest in disclosing the use of your Duke Energy email account?

2.  Why did you support the condemnation of Mr. Purser’s farm?

Why did you support the condemnation of Mr. & Mrs. Wrights property?

If my memory serves me correct, you wanted to pass a cal leash ordinance.  Why?

——————-  BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS ———————————————————————-

John Higdon –  http://www.electjohnfhigdon.com/

1. Please tell why you decided to run again.  I enjoy being a town commissioner and feel I am making a difference.

2. When a elected official has participated in an unethical manner should he/she be held accountable by the council?   This would depend on the infraction.  The Board shouldn’t get involved, for instance, if a commissioner was found to be cheating on his spouse.  This is certainly unethical behavior, but not something that requires local government intervention.  On the other hand, if a commissioner participated in a serious crime or otherwise harmed the town or its residents in some way, then yes the Board should address.

3. Our tax dollars are used to pay your cell phone bill, why do you not post your contact number on the Town website?   I don’t post my cell number publicly to prevent non-residents from tying up my phone with spam calls.  However when a resident contacts me via e-mail regarding a concern, my reply regularly includes my cell number.  Also I am a dinosaur of sorts and still have a land line at my home.  My home number is publicly available.

4.  What exactly was the reason for upping your electronics budget and what rationale could you give for Chris Melton to purchase three electronic items (iPad, 2 Macbooks) in less that two years?  Is this an example of your ethics in fiscal responsibility?  Do you feel the stipend should not be used with some accountability to the taxpayers?  Also, in lieu of other towns and cities conducting all retreats internally, how do you rationalize your annual beach trip when other municipalities have already deemed such excursions as not having the public trust in mind, or being frivolous use of tax dollars?   The technology allowance was increased from $3500 to $3600 per term as a nod to inflation (this is a $4.17 per month increase per commissioner).  Our accountability to taxpayers lies in our commitment that we will not exceed this budgeted amount.  Commissioner Melton’s purchases were within this allocation.  On several occasions I have offered for consideration local alternative to the planning conference, but the consensus of the board has been to continue these meetings at the beach.  If re-elected, I will again suggest we consider a local, less costly venue.

Jeff Miller –    http://www.commissionerjeffmiller.com/

1. Please tell why you decided to run again.  For consistency on the Town Board and to continue on the projects that are already underway.

2. When a elected official has participated in an unethical manner should he/she be held accountable by the council?   This depends on the level described as ‘unethical’.  The Resident Voters are the ones who make the ultimate decision.

3. Our tax dollars are used to pay your cell phone bill, why do you not post your contact number on the Town website?   We could, but I don’t manage the Town website.  I am unable to talk on my cell phone in my home due to poor coverage.  I also prefer not to use it while I drive….  There are links to email us when questions arise.  Email is my preferred method of communications as 1. There is no bad time to send or reply to an email.  2. It creates a ‘paper trail’ that is traceable.

4.  What exactly was the reason for upping your electronics budget and what rationale could you give for Chris Melton to purchase three electronic items (iPad, 2 Macbooks) in less that two years?  Is this an example of your ethics in fiscal responsibility?  Do you feel the stipend should not be used with some accountability to the taxpayers?  Also, in lieu of other towns and cities conducting all retreats internally, how do you rationalize your annual beach trip when other municipalities have already deemed such excursions as not having the public trust in mind, or being frivolous use of tax dollars?   The Technology Allowance went up by $4.16 per month per Commissioner; not sure why that is a hot topic.  I cannot speak for Mr. Melton about that purchase or why he made those.  The Beach House was cheaper per person than any Hotel accommodations due to the number of rooms, break-out sessions and cost of food & beverage.  We stay in the home all weekend and go the Grocery store for breakfast items, snacks and beverage.

John Urban –   http://www.votejohnurban.com/      Mr. Urban has chosen not to answer question number five. 

1. Please tell why you decided to run again.   I am continually asked to serve and likewise fell my professional and business owner qualifications provide me with the effective leadership skills for the community.  Serving as a Commissioner and serving on a variety of local non-profit boards is my way of contributing to the Town of Matthews.

2. When a elected official has participated in an unethical manner should he/she be held accountable by the council?    Provided if that Commissioner violated and local or state statues, regarding the ethics rules that are set by the State Legislators – then, yes, held accountable.

3. Our tax dollars are used to pay your cell phone bill, why do you not post your contact number on the Town website?    Tax dollars are not used to pay my cell phone bill, I have never asked for reimbursement.

4.  What exactly was the reason for upping your electronics budget and what rationale could you give for Chris Melton to purchase three electronic items (iPad, 2 Macbooks) in less that two years?  Is this an example of your ethics in fiscal responsibility?  Do you feel the stipend should not be used with some accountability to the taxpayers?  Also, in lieu of other towns and cities conducting all retreats internally, how do you rationalize your annual beach trip when other municipalities have already deemed such excursions as not having the public trust in mind, or being frivolous use of tax dollars?    Every Commissioner has the ability to use the technology allowance as they deem fit to best address their needs when serving as Commissioner.  I don’t recall why the technology budget was increased because I do not use the technology allowance.  Each Commissioner can use the allowance up to the limits prescribed.  Again, I have never used the technology allowance and have actually given back my allowance to the general fund.  I can see with the demands of the Office and that there are reasonable needs that some may require.  Likewise, those Commissioners should not be subject to being labeled fiscally irresponsible nor unethical provided they follow and meet the terms of the technology allowance.  I would not lump in “all other towns” conduct retreats internally, that doesn’t speak to what they may expense.  Regardless, I am not opposed to a local planning conference and in the past some conferences have split time between the town and external to the town.  There are pros and cons to both situations.  I have proposed local planning conferences in the past, but the Board works via consensus.

5. Your architectural firm has made a nice fortune in the development of Matthews.  Because you serve on the Town Board and know the future plans and development of the town, do you not find this to be a conflict of interest?     FYI – Mr. Urban’s architectural firms most recent designs include, Northend Development, Point Blank Range, Pike’s Nursery and Taft Development Group.  These are the apartments going along Monroe Road that were just approved on February 13, 2017.

Chris Melton –  Commissioner Melton has chosen not to answer the questions. 

1. Please tell why you decided to run again.

2. When a elected official has participated in an unethical manner should he/she be held accountable by the council?

3. Our tax dollars are used to pay your cell phone bill, why do you not post your contact number on the Town website?   

4.  What exactly was the reason for upping your electronics budget and what rationale could you give for Chris Melton to purchase three electronic items (iPad, 2 Macbooks) in less that two years?  Is this an example of your ethics in fiscal responsibility?  Do you feel the stipend should not be used with some accountability to the taxpayers?  Also, in lieu of other towns and cities conducting all retreats internally, how do you rationalize your annual beach trip when other municipalities have already deemed such excursions as not having the public trust in mind, or being frivolous use of tax dollars?   

Kress Query – Mr. Query who currently serves on the Planning Board has chosen not to answer the questions.  Because Mr. Query has served as commissioner in the past his questions have been tailored specifically for him.   

1. Why did you decide to run for Town Council again?

2.  When there were other properties available why did you support the condemnation of WWII Veteran Neubert Purser’s farm?

3.  In 2014 Judge Bridges ruled the condemnation of Mr. & Mrs. Wrights property was for the well-connected.  Why did you support this condemnation?  Why did you support the appeal?

4.  Do you believe there should be term limits?  Please explain your view.

Allen Crosby –    http://www.votecrosby.com

 1. Please tell a little about yourself and why you decided to run for office?  I am a life time resident of Matthews and I want to help Matthews continue to be the great place to live that it is currently for many years to come. 

2. Do you believe government should be transparent?    Yes, Representative government by definition, reflects the will of the people and ought to work on their behalf.  If government is not transparent then it cannot be truly representative.

3. What is your opinion of the Technology Fund and Planning Conference?  Is this being fiscally responsible?  A limited number of tools are necessary to complete needed work, but misuse of tax payer funds is never acceptable.  Commissioners should only use funds as needed and always have the tax payer cost benefit in mind.  As far as the planning conference if the board must go away it needs to be somewhere cheap and to work.  I don’t really see the need for it.   

4. Should the citizens of Matthews be responsible for the cost of alcoholic beverages for the council?   My gut tells me to go with no.  Tax payer dollars should never be used without an inherent benefit to the citizens of Matthews.  So, when it comes to personal consumption the council should pay out of their own pockets.  However, In certain situations I believe it would be appropriate.  For example an outside party, who’s actions could improve the lives of citizens i’e: state legislators, governors, federal officials, etc., would like a glass of wine at an official function I believe it might be in Matthews best interest to pay for the glass of wine.  The key is that the tax payer’s funds are not wasted and it is for official business. 

5. When a elected official has participated in an unethical manner should he/she be held accountable by the council?    Yes,   unethical behavior should not be tolerated.  It is important to follow  the letter of the law set for by the State GA and our town ordinance.  Defining unethical behavior is critical for this to occur.  There cannot be any grey area.  I think ordinances to govern unethical behavior need to be transparent and readily available to the citizens.  Beyond that it is the duty of the citizens to vote out those who have proven to be unethical.    

6. In 2015 the NC Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Mr. & Mrs. Wright awarding them $74,570.00 for their attorney fees.  On August 24, 2015 the Board approved the Budget Ordinance Amendment for this amount to be paid to the Wrights.  Listed on the ordinance it states “Legal Fees”.  Should town documents be property disclosed?  (see attachment)   I think all town documents should be disclosed for public viewing if it does not violate the law.  These documents should be property defined provide direction as to where additional documentation on the subject can be found.   

Norah Burke –    https://norahburke.com/   

1. Please tell a little about yourself and why you decided to run for office?   I grew up in rural Pennsylvania and attended Penn State University, where I earned a B.S. on Psychology.  After graduating I moved to Orlando, Florida, where I lived for 7 years before having the opportunity to move to North Carolina.  My husband and I chose to live in Matthews because it had the small town feel we were looking for in our new community.  I work from home as an assistant to a financial advisor, which also allows me to care for my three small children.  I decided to run for office because I have a number of concerns about the way our town is being run – including the lack of accountability, the lack of a forward thinking plan for future development, and the lack of diversity on our current board.  I hope to address all of these issues as commissioner.   

2. Do you believe government should be transparent?   Yes, I believe the public has a right to know exactly where their tax dollars are going and the manner in which their elected officials are representing the town.  This information should be readily available to anyone seeking to access it.  

3. What is your opinion of the Technology Fund and Planning Conference?  Is this being fiscally responsible?  As someone whose job requires up to date computer and cell phone technology, I am aware of the present cost of these things and I do believe the present technology stipend is high.  I also think the planning conference is an unnecessary expense.  The event can be held much close to Matthews and at a greatly reduced cost to the Matthews taxpayer.  

4. Should the citizens of Matthews be responsible for the cost of alcoholic beverages for the council?    No.  Most major companies don’t reimburse for alcoholic beverages, government should be no different.  Furthermore, I don’t think council members should be drinking alcoholic beverages while conducting town business.  

5. When a elected official has participated in an unethical manner should he/she be held accountable by the council?    Yes,  We should have a system of formal reprimands and a method of removing council members for egregious offences.  

6. In 2015 the NC Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Mr. & Mrs. Wright awarding them $74,570.00 for their attorney fees.  On August 24, 2015 the Board approved the Budget Ordinance Amendment for this amount to be paid to the Wrights.  Listed on the ordinance it states “Legal Fees”.  Should town documents be property disclosed?  (see attachment)    Town documents should be fully accessible and fully disclosed.  Any time town money is spent a specific breakdown should be available for public review.  

Barbara Dement –   Ms. Dement has chosen not to answer the questions.

1. Please tell a little about yourself and why you decided to run for office? 

2. Do you believe government should be transparent? 

3. What is your opinion of the Technology Fund and Planning Conference?  Is this being fiscally responsible?  

4. Should the citizens of Matthews be responsible for the cost of alcoholic beverages for the council?   

5. When a elected official has participated in an unethical manner should he/she be held accountable by the council? 

6. In 2015 the NC Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Mr. & Mrs. Wright awarding them $74,570.00 for their attorney fees.  On August 24, 2015 the Board approved the Budget Ordinance Amendment for this amount to be paid to the Wrights.  Listed on the ordinance it states “Legal Fees”.  Should town documents be property disclosed?  (see attachment)

7.  During the Plantation Estates Candidates forum of 2015 you had mentioned it was the Towns responsiblity to inform the citizens of issues not MATTHEWS WATCH.  Because the citizens have not been informed of the truth on issues will this be an item you plan to address if elected?  If so, will all the facts be disclosed?

For example… In 2013 the Town of Matthews tried to condemn property along a private road for their well-connected friends.  Citizens were told the condemnation was for opening, widening, sidewalks, etc. when in fact this was not true.  Also, the Town has yet to disclose total amount spent in pursuing the Wrights for over twenty years.    

Dimple Shah –   http://www.dimpleformatthews.com/  

1. Please tell a little about yourself and why you decided to run for office?   I am a native of Virginia and have been in North Carolina since 2007.  I am a graduate of Radford University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing.  As an RN, I worked at a VA Medical Center in Virginia as an oncology nurse, as well as a community hospital in TN as an emergency room nurse.  After having children, I chose to be a stay-at-home mother and devote my time to volunteer service.  I enjoy volunteering to tutor children at local schools, and being engaged in voter registration and education efforts. I am member of the League of Women Voters, Sustain Charlotte, Physicians for a National Health Plan and an active PTA member.  I am on the Board of Director of Health Care  Justice-NC and on the Board of Directors of North Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition.  My husband works at the Salisbury VA Medical Center, and we live near downtown Matthews with our 2 sons, ages 11 and 13.

 On November 9, 2016, the vision I had of myself, my community, my country were challenged and shook me to my core.  I realized how my parents must have felt like when they stepped off the plane as immigrants – a foreigner in a land they loved.  In an instant, I live in an America I couldn’t recognize.  I suddenly felt like an outsider, unwelcome here.  Aside from voting, I had never been active in politics.  I thought that’s what politicians did… not a regular person like me.  After the Women’s March in DC, I returned home with a newfound energy and excitement to be the changer I wanted to see.  I joined newly formed activist groups, I marched, I rallied, I wrote postcards, I called my representatives and met with their staff.  ‘Were my actions changing anything?’  I thought. Since November, I have been inspired by so may friends in my community who have stepped out of their own comfort zones, overcame challenges, and decided to make a difference.  I thought “Where can I make the most impact for positive change in my community?  Where can I listen to people’s concerns and make a difference?”  “What local issues affect me?”  Local government impacts our day-to-day life.  There are issues in Matthews that people, including me, have concerns about and not many officials really want or try to listen.  That bothers me.  One of my concerns is the increase in commuter traffic through our historic downtown, which affects me and my children to be able to walk and bike around Matthews safely.  Our elected officials work for the benefit of our community, and that community needs to feel represented.  I decided to run for Matthews Town Council because I love my town, and I want to be a leader that listens and puts the needs of Matthews and its residents first.  Preserving the historic charm and character of our downtown, improving public safety, and account for fiscal responsibility are important issues to many people in Matthews, including me.  I also believe in having diverse leadership that is accessible and engaged with the Matthews community.  Currently there are no women on the Town Council, and there should be?  “I want to be the voice for Matthews residents and represent YOUR concerns?  Whatever your concerns, I will be available and accessible to listen.”  

2. Do you believe government should be transparent?    Government cannot be transparent unless its leaders are transparent.  And they definitely should be transparent.  As an elected official, transparency earns trust.  There should be nothing to hide from constituents.  Our representatives should be open and honest about their actions and decisions, and in mistakes are made, then it’s best to recognize it.  I think most people would prefer honesty in their normal lives, so why not from our leaders.  As a constituent, I would respect the opinion of my representative if he/she is honest and transparent. 

3.  What is your opinion of the Technology Fund and Planning Conference?  Is this being fiscally responsible?   I believe there can be much more fiscally responsible ways of supplying technology to the Council and attending a Planning Conference.  Our technology stipend of $3600 (after a $100 recent increase) is more than that of Charlotte City Council and surrounding towns.  Computers are not very expensive nowadays, and one’s entire cell phone bill doesn’t need to be covered if it is also being used for personal use.  If officials are re-elected, being allowed to purchase another $3600 worth of technology seems like a waste of taxpayer money.  In a nearby town, officials are given iPads to use that are town-owned, and if they do not get re-elected, they are offered to purchase it for a $1.  Personally, I do not believe the amount designated as a Technology Fund is fiscally responsible.

The Planning Conference takes place over several days.  In 2015, it was 4 days long with the last 3 days being at Ocean Isle beach.  In 2016 and 2017, it was also over 4 days with the last 2 days at the same Ocean Isle beach.  What benefit to Matthews is there to continue the conference at a beach?  It is an unnecessary added expense (big expense I may add), and seems more like a “taxpayers trip” than a meeting.  A nearby town has their annual retreat or meeting at a location in uptown Charlotte with a free facility rental and no overnight stays out of town.  That puts money back into our community locally, and saves taxpayers money.  Using town funds to take beach trips for a public service office is not being fiscally responsible.          

4. Should the citizens of Matthews be responsible for the cost of a alcoholic beverages for the council?   Absolutely not!  Providing food and drinks during public service hours is appropriate.  But alcohol is a personal choice, that should be paid with personal funds not taxpayers funds. 

5.  When a elected official has participated in an unethical manner should he/she be held accountable by the council?   Absolutely!  As an elected official who represents the town and it’s citizens, upholding oneself to a high ethical standard is paramount.  “With great power comes great responsibility” is a phrase that comes to mind.  That includes being responsible for one’s ethical actions.  When one’s responsibilities are not carried out, then he/she should be held accountable.  Ethical violations reflect negatively on the Board and, ultimately, the Town. 

6.  In 2015 the NC Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Mr. & Mrs. Wright awarding them $74,570.00 for their attorney fees.  On August 24, 2015 the Board approved the Budget Ordinance Amendment for this amount to be paid to the Wrights.  Listed on the ordinance it states “Legal Fees”.  Should town documents be property disclosed?  (see attachment)   So, without knowing too much detail about this matter, according to this document, it looks like the town increased the revenue of their General Fund (at least on paper), just to use it as an expenditure to fund the payment of the Wrights legal fees.  So, our taxpayer monies went to pay for a lawsuit that was won by the Wrights against the Town.  I would’ve hoped the Town’s legal counsel at the time would’ve known the law enough to not have had the need to fight a lawsuit in the first place.  However, if the details of the lawsuit and costs incurred by taxpayers was not disclosed to the public, it should have been. We as taxpayers have a right to know where and how our tax monies are being spent. And accurate records should be kept and available to the public.

Sebastian Feculak –   https://sebastianformatthews.com/

1. Please tell a little about yourself and why you decided to run for office?   I decided to run to better represent the needs of a thriving community to adjust to the changes happening around our region.  I want to work on preserving our history and community, while also bridging the gaps that have existed.  This means solving issues both physical and social.  We also need to make sure everyone’s voice is represented on issues that affect them.

I have been a resident of Matthews for the last 10 years, and have attended East Mecklenburg High School and University of North Carolina at Charlotte where I received my degrees in Economics and Political Science.  I currently work in the financial technology industry in Uptown Charlotte.    

2. Do you believe government should be transparent?   Yes, Improvements can always be made on every level as well.  Transparency and honesty builds trust in our representatives and government, and why it’s important that our actions reflect that. 

3.  What is your opinion of the Technology Fund and Planning Conference?  Is this being fiscally responsible?    I don’t believe it is necessary for the commissioner to have access to such a high, personal technology fund.  The planning conference can also be hosted locally to lower the cost of such forums.  

4. Should the citizens of Matthews be responsible for the cost of a alcoholic beverages for the council?   No, The town shouldn’t be responsible for paying for the commissioners’ entertainment.

5.  When a elected official has participated in an unethical manner should he/she be held accountable by the council?     They certainly should be held accountable and some governing bodies do have boards responsible for ethical review, with experts in law and ethics to appropriately review cases with impartiality.  There should be a process for ethical accountability as well; for instance we currently have a quasi-judicial Board of Adjustment that overlooks issues of zoning.  Any concerns that are not resolved then move on up to the court system.  A similar process can be placed together for ethical review.   

6.  In 2015 the NC Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Mr. & Mrs. Wright awarding them $74,570.00 for their attorney fees.  On August 24, 2015 the Board approved the Budget Ordinance Amendment for this amount to be paid to the Wrights.  Listed on the ordinance it states “Legal Fees”.  Should town documents be property disclosed?  (see attachment)   Yes, This follows my previous answer about transparency and clarity as well.

Budget Ordinance Amendment – Document presented for question six.

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THANK YOU,   GINA HOOVER