Indian Trail’s mayor censured for ‘unethical conduct’

INDIAN TRAIL – An Indian Trail Town Council missing two of its members voted 3-0 on Tuesday, May 28, to censure Mayor Michael Alvarez for alleged comments he made against a lieutenant in the Union County Sheriff’s
Office.

Mayor Pro Tem David Cohn and Councilman David Waddell read statements Tuesday night accusing Alvarez of making false allegations against Lt. Chase Coble following a dispute over the town’s contract negotiations with the sheriff’s office.

Cohn questioned Alvarez on Tuesday night about the mayor’s alleged comments to local media outlets saying Coble tried to intimidate him following the Feb. 16 contract discussion. Cohn and Waddell said those allegations could have cost Coble his job. Alvarez, speaking prior to Cohn and Waddell’s statements, said he likely over-reacted when making his comments in February and said Coble did not make any direct threats against him.

Cohn and Waddell commended Alvarez for admitted some of the statements he made to the media were not accurate, with Cohn saying following the meeting that the admission played a part in not asking for Alvarez’s resignation. Waddell instead motioned for council to censure Alvarez – a form of political reprimand that doesn’t limit Alvarez’s power or responsibilities in regard to town government – and Cohn and Councilman Chris King agreed. Council members Robert Allen and Darlene Luther were not in attendance.

“This is not easy for me to do (and) I understand this could hurt our town,” Cohn said to Alvarez, “… but I think it’s more important we do it and make sure (a similar
situation) doesn’t happen again. … It’s about the integrity of the position you’re sitting in.”

A censure serves mainly as a public admonishment against a politician. It’s not an unfamiliar act in Union County. Indian Trail’s council voted to censure then-mayor John Quinn in November 2011, and Weddington’s council voted to censure then-mayor Nancy Anderson in July 2011. Both Cohn and Waddell said they would follow Alvarez’s actions through the remainder of his term to see if further action is warranted.

Few Comments On Proposed Budget

Tuesday night also served as the public forum on Indian Trail’s proposed $12.3 million 2013-14 budget. Those who did sign up to speak asked council to be wary about taking on nearly as much debt – $11 million – as the town brings in through revenue like taxes and a share of state fees.

Indian Trail is not proposing a tax increase this year, and will pay off a number of ongoing projects through a capital reserve fund created by a tax increase proposed during last year’s budget discussions. Those projects include the Chestnut and Crooked Creek at Indian Trail parks, the Chestnut Parkway road project and the Unionville-Indian Trail Road sidewalk, though most of the sidewalk project is paid for through federal air quality
grants.

One resident asked council to keep in mind the possibility Indian Trail could lose more than $1 million if bills changing how state fees are handled are approved. Many towns in Union County are having the same conversation in regard to this year’s budget.

It’s a concern in Indian Trail in part because unrestricted intergovernmental funds make up more than 32 percent of the town’s revenue. It’s unclear how much funding Indian Trail could lose. Other towns, such as Wesley Chapel, have already said they may have to consider a tax increase to make up for state funds if legislators in Raleigh change the fee structure.

Indian Trail is scheduled to vote on its budget at the June 11 meeting. Find more information on the town’s website, www.indiantrail.org.

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