Navassa councilman, finance officer James Hardy to step down next month

James Hardy speaks to two voters after Thursday’s Navassa city council meeting. (Carl Blankenship / PCD)

NAVASSA – A brief encounter with some high tensions and old issues culminated in a Navassa official announcing his resignation Thursday.

By the end of the evening’s open session, board member James Hardy, who has served on the board since 2019, announced that next month’s regular meeting will be his last. His term ends next year.

READ MORE: Financial reports late again? Navassa council member blames lack of auditors, state treasurer denounces mismanagement

“I knew that as an elected official I would have to sacrifice my time but not my character,” Hardy told the board.

After the meeting was adjourned, Hardy confirmed to Port City Daily that he has been considering stepping down since August. He pointed to the dysfunction of the board, as well as “personal problems” which he refused to comment on further as the main reasoning.

Hardy was arrested on July 7 for driving with a revoked license and not stopping for a police officer. He said he was returning from the city hall after signing the financial documents.

Since June 16, Hardy has also served as the city’s finance officer, paying bills and managing payroll.

He was appointed after the resignation of former Navassa administrator Claudia Bray and the city could no longer manage its finances. The board attempted to host the meetings that month, but not enough members attended to form a quorum. Eventually, the council managed to meet after pressure from the state local government commission.

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The move came after the city fired its employees following Bray’s departure. The board approved a $ 1,500 bonus in an effort to compensate employees after they were brought back to work in June.

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The city’s financial woes date back to years of late audits and difficulties in repaying the debt. The city council belatedly submitted a 2021 audit report and was not reviewed by the state until January 3 of this year.

Hardy said the city was making progress in fixing its finances. The director will leave the board with an outstanding annual audit agreement with Goldsboro Nunn, Brashear and Uzzell for $ 9,978. His previous auditor, S. Preston Douglas and Associates, was unable to plan the city this year.

Hardy told PCD that he personally contacted more than 100 companies to find one with an opening for the city.

The audit, scheduled for October 31, will almost certainly be delayed, as announced at the August board meeting.

Hardy said he will also leave a list of candidate city administrators for the council to consider.

“There shouldn’t be anything unfinished, more or less,” Hardy said.

Following the announcement of his resignation Thursday, the meeting went on without any of his fellow elected officials commenting on his departure.

Mayor Eulis Willis said PCD Hardy’s resignation “totally surprised” him.

He credited Hardy for being “sharp enough” and introducing new ideas to the board, but declined to elaborate further.

“He definitely brought a different perspective to Navassa,” Willis said.

According to Willis, the city is looking for a permanent employee to fill the role of city administrator and finance clerk, but the council may have to appoint another interim next month.

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Mayor Willis and Hardy didn’t always see each other in the eye, some of which were also on display on Thursday night.

Although there were some non-controversial points in the evening, such as the signing of some minor change orders and staff reports, the mayor hijacked the meeting, speaking verbally to the council members and contesting the rebuttals. He didn’t like a proposed new addition to the Lena Springs subdivision, which has been added over the years and is now in phase five. He said the project would require students to walk farther to their school buses.

During the discussion Willis rushed out of the room, only to return moments later.

Upon his exit, Hardy pointed out that Brunswick County schools had adapted by making retreat safer for his children by stopping directly in front of his home, where there is no sidewalk. He believed it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money to challenge a project that could lead to a lawsuit when the developer followed the required steps.

Back at the meeting, Willis was holding a printed copy of the city ordinances and began to indicate when the platform approvals expire. Several dates, including 2007, 2019, and 2020, were discarded during the discussion, but city attorney Norwood Blanchard assured that Willis state law supersedes the city ordinance and that the project was compliant. The board eventually approved the addition to the development.

He also signed an easement, but not without conflict. Councilor William Ballard asked a Duke Power representative to provide a “written” assurance that a new easement would have no impact on his ownership before voting on the matter. Duke had already made an adjustment that would have avoided the Ballard property boundary.

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Blanchard had to advise Ballard to withdraw from the vote due to a conflict of interest. The city attorney also said the council will need to appoint someone to serve the rest of Hardy’s seat.

State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who has LGC expertise, said Hardy’s resignation is another troubling news about the city. In July he mentioned Navassa in the same way as East Laurinburg, which recently ceased to exist after the LGC revoked its charter.

“Every time a new story comes out [Navassa,] it takes away the rich tradition of that community, “Folwell said.” Our job at the Local Government Commission is to save, not conquer, but we can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. “

Folwell said he believes most people who have read the headlines about the city over the years would come to the conclusion that his council doesn’t want help.

Hardy’s last fight will be on November 17th.

On Monday morning, he will provide the board with a hard copy of his resignation letter.

“I don’t see a way that I can continue, personally, and even do my job of doing what’s in the best interest of the citizens,” Hardy said.

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