A study from The UNC School of Government finds that The Village of Pinehurst has some serious flaws in its conflict resolution procedures. According to the study, there are few to no options for (1) staff who have grievances with the manager, (2) council members who have issues with each other, or (3) council members who have issues with village managers:
[…] Problem: Pinehurst Village Government operates under the Council/Manager form of government. The Mayor and Council members are elected to four-year terms. The Village Manager and two Assistant Village Managers are appointed by the Mayor and Council. All department heads report to either the Village Manager or one of the Assistants. Currently, there is no formal dispute resolution or conflict management system in place for staff and department heads to resolve issues they might have with the manager or assistant managers. They are left with the choice of going to Human Resources (who also reports to the managers) or leaving their position if the dispute continues to exist.There is also no system in place to resolve council disputes with each other or with the managers. Sometimes issues get aired in public which causes conflict and embarrassment for everyone involved.[…]
To add to this conundrum, village manager Jeff Sanborn has instituted serious restrictions on communications between village staff and council members. No council members may speak with village staff AT ALL without first obtaining the permission of Sanborn. So, he’s protected against any staffer going over his head to the mayor or council. Unfortunately, the mayor and the council allow him to get away with this. (Never mind that Sanborn is actually THEIR employee.)
Perhaps this explains the recent departures of a number of senior / key staff from village hall.
You may remember that mayor John Strickland and his two council allies attempted to censure council member Lydia Boesch for daring to speak with the village’s police chief without first obtaining Sanborn’s permission.
In the wake of the failed censure attempt in late 2021, Sanborn was asked to come up with a policy defining the conditions for staff speaking with council members. According to village hall sources, that policy has yet to be produced.
Council members are our elected eyes and ears. If they are being blocked from checking on things for us, THAT is a problem.