Despite spending a lot of time on the issue at a Stokesdale Town Council meeting earlier this month, and running through proposed drafts of a possible new agreement, the Stokesdale Town Council has still not come up with a policy on town attorney access that’s acceptable to Stokesdale Town Councilmember Tim Jones – who, this week, continued to insist that the new policy is an attempt to restrict his right to consult with the town attorney on matters regarding town business.
The Town Council adopted a new town attorney access policy on Thursday, July 11 that had Jones up in arms. He claims that the new policy restricting access to the town attorney was meant to limit his ability to participate in town business.
Jones said that he’s often the sole no vote on the board since, he said, he’s adamant about keeping the town’s spending to a minimum; so, often, he’s in opposition to the other members of the five-member board. In the Town Councils’ July meeting, Jones cast the lone no vote against the new policy that requires all councilmembers to address any requests to use the attorney to the mayor. Before that vote, Jones and other members of the Stokesdale Town Council had been able to contact the town attorney and ask their legal questions – with the town then being billed for that time.
However, according to the new policy, those requests must go through the mayor, who can approve or deny the requests.
Jones said that’s not fair to him.
“I could ask for a Kleenex and not get it,” Jones said of the way he believes he is treated by the mayor, the council and often town staff.
At the Stokesdale Town Council’s September meeting, there was a unanimous vote to try to come up with an amended policy, but Jones said the new policy drafts he’s seen have not been acceptable.
He also said that, if he continues to ask the town attorney questions, he’s been told by fellow councilmembers that he could be “censored” by the council and could be held personally liable for those legal fees he accrues with the town attorney.
Currently, while the Town Council is looking at new policies that everyone could hopefully agree on, the July 11 policy remains in place.
Jones said he’s still continuously excluded from town business because other members won’t take his calls or return his emails.
Other councilmembers argue that the new policy helps avoid redundancy, streamlines the process of engaging with the attorney and keeps the town’s legal costs down.
Jones has taken his fight to the UNC School of Government, the NC attorney general and the local media, and he’s also stated that he’s considering hiring a personal attorney to help him address the issue.
Jones wrote in an email to the Rhino Times this week, “The Mayor thinks any legal concern I have should FIRST be directed to him or the Town Clerk for an answer. Given the verbiage used I think there is a clear and obvious intent to screen/block my communications with the Town Attorney. I am out voted 4/1 right now and I feel they would be locking me out of the building or telling me how to vote if they could.“
Jones added: “The current scenario with this threat of ‘Censure’ reminds me of the constant threats by democrats to ‘Impeach’ Donald Trump. It just sounds like a good plan if you are a democrat. Just something to try and use to tarnish my name and try to imply I have done something wrong. Normally I would be concerned about my name but you have to consider the source of the potential charges against me.”