ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) — The Pasquotank County Board of Commissioners won’t be meeting with City Council members from Elizabeth City anytime soon to discuss Andrew Brown, Jr’s death — or anything else for that matter.
Monday, commissioners unanimously agreed they would reject Mayor Bettie Parker’s request for a joint meeting, after several members accused several council members of stirring up “hate and contempt” among people in the aftermath of Brown’s killing.
More specifically, county leaders took issue with the assertion that commissioners were exhibiting a “lack of transparency.”
This is only the second time the board has met since sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Brown on April 21 as they tried to execute a drug-related search warrant in Elizabeth City. Council member Kem Spence went as far as to say county leadership “neglected their people as elected officials.”
Chairman Lloyd Griffin (D-Pasquotank County) said he feels the commissioners are being wise to keep quiet until they know the facts.
“It’s really hard when you want to be responsible and not be irresponsible with your comments,” Griffin said.
City officials have been quick to point out in several public statements and meetings since the shooting that while the shooting happened in the city, all the controversy was caused by the county sheriff, which receives funding from the county.
On Monday, County Manager Smarty Hammett shot back, highlighting that both the sheriff and district attorney are elected by the voters and can’t be controlled by commissioners.
He also revealed those meetings helped widen already existing cracks between the two governing bodies.
“Instead of a public meeting to make speeches, I wanted the city and county to work together on an appropriate unified approach,” Hammett said as part of a passionate statement. “City Council had the meeting anyway and many in our community grew angrier. The city’s request for a joint city-county meeting is disingenuous. Mutual respect is needed in every relationship. City Council has made numerous unfounded attacks against the county during my three years as county manager.”
The suggestion was made to have no meetings with the city at all until “wounds heal.”
“Nobody is leading the healing charge,” said Commissioner Barry Overman (R-Pasquotank). “We are more divided now than I think we’ve ever been … I’ll speak to anyone, but I also won’t submit to a meeting where it can potentially turn into me-against-you. That’s just not beneficial for anybody.”
Vice Chairman Charles Jordan said eventually the two bodies will have to get together for both to hear each other out.
Commissioners also received heat through public comments read by the County Clerk Lynn Scott for not having the meeting open to the public even though all social gathering restrictions because of COVID-19 had been lifted.
“Closing the meeting to the public does well to prove our point as a community that none of you care about the community just yourselves,” one person wrote.
Scott told 10 On Your Side Monday morning that the meeting would remain virtual with no public present because the meeting notice went out before Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement on gathering restrictions.
Following the meeting, Parker said she was still trying to wrap her head around it all.
“I’m still not sure why they are not being more involved with at least saying statements to the people. Whether they want to do it through Zoom, just talk to the people. You don’t have to talk about what is being done through the investigation but just a matter of connecting with the people.” Parker said. “If you remain silent, it does appear … not transparent.”