Councilman Newt Gunter Considering Rescinding Vote to Terminate deBin Because "Feels Sorry" for deBin, Says Fisher is also Considering Rescinding Vote.

Published on 12 June 2024 at 15:24

On Monday night the Washington City Council voted to request the resignation of city administrator Jerry deBin. The vote was 5 in favor and 1 opposed. Councilman Andy Anderson was the opposing vote.  This isn’t surprising since on more than one occasion at a city council meeting Anderson has stated he believes deBin is doing a great job.

 

The vote was taken after the council went into executive session for nearly an hour to discuss concerns about the performance and behavior of deBin. I was able to speak to councilman Nathaniel Cullars Sr. who told me he has had concerns about deBin’s performance for quite some time and in February he drafted a letter of reprimand listing many of the concerns he had. This letter was mentioned in greater detail in a previous article. Cullars Sr. told me that city clerk Debbie Bazemore and 6-7 city employees were invited into the executive session to share their concerns about deBin. Cullars Sr. did not share specifically what the concerns were but that they were taken very seriously by all in attendance. He did share with me that the way deBin handled my requests for the utility deposit records was mentioned.

 

Many of you may recall that I have been asking for records regarding the utility deposits for the past six months. I wanted to know how much had been collected in deposits, what type of account they were being held in and how much money had been returned. I was told over and over that these records didn’t exist. Each time I was told this by deBin and Bazemore, I copied each member of city council and the mayor on my response so they knew I was being denied the records and the reasons stated.  None of the council members responded to me or seemed interested themselves in the information about the deposits. Cullars Sr. did recently tell me he went to city hall and obtained some of the information I was requesting. He told me there is just under $500,000 in a non-interest-bearing account where the deposits are kept. He also told me there is in fact a list of customers and the amounts they have paid in additional deposits after having utility services disconnected. I was most recently told in an email by Bazemore that I would need to pay nearly $300 and it would take 9.5 hours to get this information. Cullars told me he got it in a matter of minutes. On Monday afternoon I received an email from mayor Bruce Bailey telling me he didn’t think I should have been charged almost $300 for the records because they were already being assembled for city purposes. He apologized for the long delay in having my request filled and said he has instructed Bazemore to provide the records with a charge only for copying.

 

Cullars Sr. also said that the resignation letter city clerk Debbie Bazemore sent to the mayor and council the Sunday evening before the council meeting, raised a red flag. Bazemore was specific in stating the handling of the utility deposits was an example of issues that create a very challenging work environment for her and others at city hall and was the reason she no longer wants to work there. Cullars Sr. told me previous city clerks have also resigned and one sent a letter to mayor and council voicing concerns about the work environment.

 

Richard Crabbe spoke to Bazemore at City Hall on Tuesday and asked her more about her decision to resign. She confirmed the handling of the utility deposits was a significant reason and that it created an uncomfortable work environment for her and other staff. She also told Crabbe that she would reconsider her resignation if deBin is no longer the city administrator. Crabbe reported that deBin did not come into city hall on Tuesday and that he saw the locks to deBin’s office door being changed while he was there.

 

Crabbe  spoke to deBin on Tuesday. He said deBin stated “I’m not going to have any comments…not going to get into that. DeBin said he loves the city and the people he worked with. He liked what he was doing. There was some unconfirmed reporting that deBin had gone to city hall on Monday night after the city council had voted to ask for his resignation and that the sheriff was called. DeBin told Crabbe “I’m not going there.”

 

Crabbe interviewed city councilman Newt Gunter this afternoon and Gunter told him he is considering rescinding his vote and that councilman David Fisher is as well. Gunter said he feels the issue might have been rushed and that he “feels sorry for deBin because now he doesn’t have a job.” He went on to say deBin might “deserve a second chance.” When Crabbe asked about a vote to rescind, Gunter said they may have to wait until August because city council doesn’t meet in July. Gunter said “that’s probably too long” so they may need a special called meeting. He went on to say “Everything was a little rushed so I just decided to go along with the others. At first, I thought it might be a tie vote and the mayor would break the tie, so I was kind of surprised the way it went.”  Gunter said he now thinks they should have put the administrator on “administrative leave.” Councilman David Fisher and all of the city councilmen as well as mayor Bailey have been reached for comment. So far only Gunter and Cullars Sr. have replied.

 

The potential for Gunter and Fisher to rescind their votes has the city talking and some taking action. I received many messages through the Washington Wilkes Informer contact form asking if it is true. One reader sent a letter (see letter attached below) they have drafted and are sharing with citizens to send to the mayor and council to voice their opposition to deBin returning to his role. The letter was sent anonymously and it is unclear if the author is a city employee or citizen. In my interview with Cullars, he said deBin had told him and other members of council that if he was ever fired, several city employees would “walk off.” Cullars Sr. said so far, none of them have quit.  Cullars  Sr. said he believes deBin was “just lying.” He said city employees are very happy and telling him that they feel such relief with deBin being gone. “You can see it and feel it at city hall” Cullars Sr. said.

 

We are still waiting for confirmation deBin has resigned. If he doesn’t resign and is terminated he is entitled to severance pay.

 

 

This story is developing and updates will be provided as they are obtained.

Letter To City Counil Re De Bin Pdf
PDF – 72.7 KB 78 downloads

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Comments

Cynthia Uhrich
a month ago

THIS IS A JOKE, RIGHT? RIGHT?!! You feel SORRY for someone who should probably be held criminally accountable? This is so backwards I cannot even wrap my head around HOW it is that residents aren't protesting outside his home, at this point. SOMETHING IS VERY ROTTEN here, and you people need to get it together. He wouldn't have been fired if his actions had not been EXTREMELY suspect...

Chapman Jimmy
a month ago

Why publish something someone will not sign?