Residents chide board about Edwards’ removal

Published 9:49 am Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Several Southampton County residents stood up on Monday evening to chastise the Board of Supervisors for its decision last month to replace Dr. Alan Edwards on the Planning Commission, and demanded he be reinstated.

Himself a supervisor, the Jerusalem District representative had been serving as the board liaison to the panel for 30-plus years. But early in the January meeting, Chairman Dallas Jones said he had gotten some calls of late and that there had been some concerns with the board on the panel. Jones then asked the other supervisors what they wanted to do. Vice Chairman Ronnie West made a motion to put fellow supervisor Bruce Phillips in place, with supervisor Carl Faison seconding the motion. The majority of votes agreed to the move, much to the shock of both Edwards and residents attending the meeting.

During the citizens comment period the other night, John Burchett of Sebrell said the news “Physically made me more sick when I heard it. I was dumbfounded and shattered,” and added that Edwards is “a very respected man in the community.”

Phillips was asked directly if he knew what was happening then, and said that he knew his name was going to be put in nomination.

Dr. Carolyn Modlin of Boykins told the supervisors that each was elected because those who voted believed “You could consider the needs of the citizens of your district. To think clearly, have backbone, be logical, take responsibility and vote in their best interests. I have attended several meetings, and I’m starting to learn that’s not the case.”

In reference to the controversy of the courthouse, she wondered “When did we [the citizens] cease to become shareholders? Have we lost our voice?”

Further, Modlin said Edwards “was removed because he would not go along.”

Bobby Dunlow of Sedley told the board he looks forward to explanation of why they voted the supervisor off Planning.

“Election time is soon. Don’t get too comfortable. That’s not a threat, it’s a promise,” he added.

Jim Hart of Courtland said that the loss of Edwards from Planning feels “like we’re losing a voice.”

Linda Simmons of Courtland said the courtesy of chastising the physician was not done professionally. She then thanked Edwards for his service.

“I’m very ashamed of my board of supervisors and the way he was treated,” added Simmons.

Glenn Updike of Newsoms called for revoking the board’s decision, and told Phillips that he should not have accepted the nomination.

In a separate presentation to the board, Ash Cutchin of Courtland also called out the supervisors at length for how they handled the matter in January.

Having repeatedly listened to the minutes from that meeting, Cutchin noted that there was no discussion on the proposal. He said the “public’s perception of the event is that it was a Monday night massacre — a hatchet job — planned in advance between two or more of you in secret with no opportunity for Dr. Edwards to comment and with no reasonable opportunity for discussion by the rest of the Board.”

The speaker then called on anyone in the audience who wants the supervisor reinstated to stand, and about two dozen people rose to the occasion.

West was ready to move on to the next agenda item, but Edwards demanded time to respond, saying that the Planning Commission is supposed to be an independent body. He said three PC members, who he would not later name, told him they were being threatened with not being rehired if they didn’t “straighten up.”

He said the supervisors had signed a pledge not to interfere with Planning, which is supposed to be non-political.

Edwards went on to say that to make the Planning Commission a “rubber stamp” is “a bad mistake. I think I was one of the first ones to be removed. If Mr. [Mike] Johnson [county administrator] wants to have a rubber stamp, that’s ridiculous.”

Further, “The Planning Commission has been very strong the past 30 years and has sent a lot of solid good recommendations.”

West replied: “It was said by yourself that I have influenced Douglas Chessom. I have not. Period. I don’t know of any threats. You yourself told me that I was going to hear some very difficult things tonight, and I do not go along with it.”

The vice chairman added that the board will look at this matter next month.