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Town manager storms out of meeting

Board raises water rates

Posted on June 7, 2022

Local news
Spring Hope Town Manager Andrew DeIonno, right, stormed out of Monday's commissioners' meeting after an argument with Mayor Kyle Pritchard. The two are pictured in this photo when the board hired DeIonno in January.

Lindell J. Kay | Enterprise file photo

Spring Hope Town Manager Andrew DeIonno, right, stormed out of Monday's commissioners' meeting after an argument with Mayor Kyle Pritchard. The two are pictured in this photo when the board hired DeIonno in January.

lkay@springhopeenterprise.com

At the end of a four-hour meeting Monday night, Spring Hope’s new town manager stormed out, calling the mayor absurd.

Andrew DeIonno, hired in January, showed his ire at continuous barbs from Kyle Pritchard that culminated in a disagreement over why DeIonno had copied board members on emails he sent to Pritchard.

Click here to watch video of the heated exchange.

“You are an absurd individual,” DeIonno told Pritchard as he packed up his papers and left. DeIonno told the board he might tender his resignation in the morning.

Mayor Pro Tem Drew Griffin stepped in at that point to end the tense agenda-packed meeting.

Amid the drama, the board voted for a water and sewer rate increase that could mean up to $17 more a month on utility bills and a $2 a month increase for trash collection.

The unusual meeting went off the rails much earlier in the evening with audience members talking out of order. At one point in the middle of the meeting, an audience member went to the board table and carried on a private conversation with a commissioner.

Pritchard asked multiple questions of DeIonno during the meeting, especially about the 2022-23 fiscal budget, which was approved by the board.

Pritchard said he went through the budget line by line and at first glance thought some of it seemed “bogus” but felt everything made sense on closer inspection.

To kick off the meeting, Pritchard tried unsuccessfully to get the board to introduce a motion to require DeIonno to report all resident complaints to include issues resolved by staff.

At the four-hour mark, Pritchard asked DeIonno if he copied all the commissioners on emails the way he does when he sends him something.

Commissioners said they didn’t email DeIonno. Griffin said he doesn’t email DeIonno at 3:50 a.m. Pritchard said he’s never done that and DeIonno said that Pritchard had emailed him that early in the morning before.

In the emails in question, from about six weeks ago, DeIonno sought to clarify the mayor’s role in the town’s government. Specifically, DeIonno said the mayor was too involved in duties that should be handled by town staff. Pritchard has also suggested he should be given a vote on the board.

Things moved quickly after that, but in short order, DeIonno left the meeting, saying, “Mr. Mayor, make your points.”

Tension became palpable earlier in the meeting when Police Chief Nathan Gant made an impassioned plea for his officers to receive a small cost of living raise. He said that with the amount of vacation and comp time his officers have accrued the town would have to pay out around $4,000 to any of them if they left for greener pastures.

Gant — who insisted his pay increase be divided among his officers when he was promoted — said his patrol officers only make $34,000 a year.

With no money in the fat-free budget for pay increases, commissioners floated around possible solutions including forgoing their pay so it could be given to Gant’s officers.

That idea never reached fruition, and commissioners moved quickly to other discussions when Town Clerk Michele Collins said the town would have to withhold taxes and pension payments.

Collins said she was insulted that the board didn’t consider giving a raise to her and the administrative staff.

“I’m one of the lowest paid employees here, and I do a lot of work. Saturday, I worked for four hours; I’m not getting paid for that,” Collins said, adding that there wasn’t any money in the budget.

DeIonno said employee raises were impossible in the 2022-23 year without a property tax increase.

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