The Pinehurst Hot Mess: Even MORE Open Meetings Law violations ???


A Moore County Superior Court judge is currently mulling over whether to dismiss an Open Meetings violation lawsuit against The Village of Pinehurst.  He’s had the information for about two weeks now.

While awaiting that decision, it appears at least two more potential violations of state Open Meetings law have surfaced.  Boy, the blatant ignorance of / disregard for the law by the ruling Strickland-Pizzella-Hogeman mob is astounding. 

I turn your attention to the Pinehurst Village Council’s September 13 work session.

At approximately the 2hrs, 15 minutes mark, the discussion by council members turns to the September 27 public hearing on the Strickland-Pizzella-Hogeman championed proposal to crack down on and ban vacation rentals. On the video, council members are seen trying to decide on the content of the hearing and the meeting on the 27th.

Village manager Jeff Sanborn throws in a priceless gem of a comment:

“[…]Maybe the public doesn’t need to know the details. […]


Mayor John Strickland proposes a closed session meeting with village attorney Mike Newman to hash out a final version of the proposed vacation rentals ordinance. Recent arrival in Pinehurst and Mayor Pro Tem — and DC lobbyist — Patrick Pizzella blurts out that the council has already had “two closed sessions over the last five months” to hash out ordinance details.  He and Strickland proposed having one more closed session prior to the public hearing.

Seriously?  Let’s look at the allowed circumstances for public bodies to have closed sessions:

§ 143-318.11.  Closed sessions.

(a)        Permitted Purposes. – It is the policy of this State that closed sessions shall be held only when required to permit a public body to act in the public interest as permitted in this section. A public body may hold a closed session and exclude the public only when a closed session is required:

(1)        To prevent the disclosure of information that is privileged or confidential pursuant to the law of this State or of the United States, or not considered a public record within the meaning of Chapter 132 of the General Statutes.

(2)        To prevent the premature disclosure of an honorary degree, scholarship, prize, or similar award.

(3)        To consult with an attorney employed or retained by the public body in order to preserve the attorney-client privilege between the attorney and the public body, which privilege is hereby acknowledged.General policy matters may not be discussed in a closed session and nothing herein shall be construed to permit a public body to close a meeting that otherwise would be open merely because an attorney employed or retained by the public body is a participant. The public body may consider and give instructions to an attorney concerning the handling or settlement of a claim, judicial action, mediation, arbitration, or administrative procedure. If the public body has approved or considered a settlement, other than a malpractice settlement by or on behalf of a hospital, in closed session, the terms of that settlement shall be reported to the public body and entered into its minutes as soon as possible within a reasonable time after the settlement is concluded.

(4)        To discuss matters relating to the location or expansion of industries or other businesses in the area served by the public body, including agreement on a tentative list of economic development incentives that may be offered by the public body in negotiations, or to discuss matters relating to military installation closure or realignment. Any action approving the signing of an economic development contract or commitment, or the action authorizing the payment of economic development expenditures, shall be taken in an open session.

(5)        To establish, or to instruct the public body’s staff or negotiating agents concerning the position to be taken by or on behalf of the public body in negotiating (i) the price and other material terms of a contract or proposed contract for the acquisition of real property by purchase, option, exchange, or lease; or (ii) the amount of compensation and other material terms of an employment contract or proposed employment contract.

(6)        To consider the qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, conditions of appointment, or conditions of initial employment of an individual public officer or employee or prospective public officer or employee; or to hear or investigate a complaint, charge, or grievance by or against an individual public officer or employee. General personnel policy issues may not be considered in a closed session. A public body may not consider the qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, appointment, or removal of a member of the public body or another body and may not consider or fill a vacancy among its own membership except in an open meeting. Final action making an appointment or discharge or removal by a public body having final authority for the appointment or discharge or removal shall be taken in an open meeting.

(7)        To plan, conduct, or hear reports concerning investigations of alleged criminal misconduct.

(8)        To formulate plans by a local board of education relating to emergency response to incidents of school violence or to formulate and adopt the school safety components of school improvement plans by a local board of education or a school improvement team.

(9)        To discuss and take action regarding plans to protect public safety as it relates to existing or potential terrorist activity and to receive briefings by staff members, legal counsel, or law enforcement or emergency service officials concerning actions taken or to be taken to respond to such activity.

(10)      To view a recording released pursuant to G.S. 132-1.4A.[…]

Item #3 is what looks like is being violated here.  No litigation has been filed over vacation rentals. No final ordinance has been approved by the council.  Pizzella and Strickland appeared to admit on camera that the closed sessions are about hammering out details on the proposed ordinance change.  THAT is clearly a policy matter that needs to be discussed publicly.  It’s become quite clear that Strickland, Pizzella, and Hogeman are in the tank for The Friday Group and quite possibly some other yet-to-be-revealed financial interests on supporting a vacation rental crackdown and ban.  Perhaps they consider the crackdown approval a foregone conclusion and are prepping for the expected litigation — regardless of the cost to taxpayers, or the damage to the village’s economy and / or reputation. 

Strickland is reportedly not running for reelection, so he is not giving one single damn about public opinion on this matter.  He can’t be held accountable, he thinks.

The sloppiness and patent disregard for the law and for taxpayers by the council majority is appalling.  Even more appalling is the apparent enthusiastic cooperation by village employees Mike Newman and Jeff Sanborn in these travesties.

This is what we get for not taking municipal elections seriously.  A small group of loonies can take over local government and create a lot of expensive havoc.

The sane majority of residents in Pinehurst need to step up and remove Pizzella, Strickland and Hogeman from the council. Newman and Sanborn also need to be removed from their posts.  Their failure to offer sound, sane advice to the council is clear grounds for dismissal. Back in 2014, Mike Newman spoke publicly about how lawsuits over a vacation rental crackdown and ban would not be “winnable” for the village.  He is strangely silent this go-around.

How come Newman had no problem speaking publicly about this policy in 2014, but has to do it in closed session NOW?