Lee County’s Republican-led board of commissioners were warned of the county’s potential liability of its recent controversial “town hall meeting” at Carolina Trace last week, according to an email obtained Wednesday by The Rant.
The staff memo (attached below) mentions “legal problems associated” and “certain inherent difficulties” with the March 6 meeting, which was held at the Carolina Trace Country Club – a private facility which sits behind a guarded gate. After multiple citizens, including County Commissioner Amy Dalrymple, were turned away at the gate (video above) for not providing their names, Commission Chairman Charlie Parks told The Sanford Herald the incident was a “miscommunication.”
The memo suggests Parks and the other commissioners were warned in advance that the meeting would create legal problems.
“I do not want this critical point of our liability (under the Open Meetings Law) left in private hands without some public presence,” the memo reads, after a suggestion that a deputy sheriff and a representative of the Carolina Trace Homeowner’s Association be present to wave meeting attendants through the gate. The author of the memo, as well as the recipients and the date, have been redacted, but multiple credible sources have confirmed to The Rant that the document is authentic.
The county first announced the town hall meeting on March 4, initially noting that “since the meeting is being held in a gated community, only residents from Carolina Trace will be allowed to attend.”
Later, the notice was revised to state “if a citizen wishes to attend the meeting at Carolina Trace and has a problem at the gate, please have the guard contact Mr. Lloyd Jennings.”
Jennings is the founder and president of the Lee County Americans for Prosperity chapter, a national group which promotes right-wing candidates for public office.
Two days later, The Rant obtained an email from a Trace country club official advertising the town hall as an opportunity not just for county commissioners to update residents on county business, but also an opportunity for residents to interface with several other Republican officeholders and one Republican candidate for the county board.
A letter in Wednesday’s Sanford Herald called the meeting “Charlie Parks’ dog and pony show.”