Newsoms mayor hasn’t resigned, town attorney says

Published 1:51 pm Saturday, April 30, 2016

Southampton County Judge Carl Eason Jr. earlier this month agreed to dismiss one of the pending lawsuits against the Town of Newsoms and acting mayor/vice mayor Harvey Porter on the condition that he resign.

The lawsuit was brought on by six Newsoms residents who were requesting reinstatement of the town’s police department, a permanent injunction prohibiting town council from acting on any matters in a closed meeting and the appointment of a special commissioner to observe town council meetings and audit town accounts. They alleged that the town, and Porter both individually and in his official capacity, engaged in negligent, grossly negligent, wanton, intentional and/or criminal acts and/or accepted negligent or grossly negligent legal advice contrary to the town’s best interest.

As of Friday, however, Porter was in the town offices conducting usual business.

“He’s the vice mayor of this town. He hasn’t [resigned] yet,” town attorney Tim Drewry said. “This was a complete dismissal based on an agreement that has been drafted by [Porter’s attorney Mike Lockaby] and has been circulated to [attorney Jack] Randall’s office. It is my understanding that they’re waiting on Mr. Randall’s clients to all sign it. Then, once that agreement is done, that satisfies whether he is to resign or not … He’s going to be here Monday night, presiding over the [town council] meeting. Unless that agreement is signed, he is still presiding.”

Randall confirmed that the six residents have not signed the agreement.

“We’ve got an order, it just hasn’t been endorsed yet,” he said. “We have to get everyone in here to sign it. But, it was my understanding that he was supposed to resign following the court date.”

Porter, who cannot run for an elected office for five years as part of the conditional agreement, said that he was not planning to seek reelection even before the judge agreed to dismiss the lawsuit.

“I told people two cycles ago that I was getting ready to get out of the business of the town. I ran last time as a council member to slow the pace down and be of assistance should anyone ask for it,” said Porter, who assumed the role of acting mayor in August 2015 after former mayor Kenneth Cooke resigned. “I was in the process of slipping out. I’m 75 years old. I am ready to turn it over to the young guns.”

With only two days until mayoral and town council elections, Southampton County Assistant Registrar Lynn Burgess said that nobody filed paperwork to run for those respective positions in the Town of Newsoms.