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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

H2GO Board reverses course, Belville Mayor calls emergency meeting ‘illegal’

H2Go Commissioners Trudy Trombley (left), Bill Beer and Jeff Gerken consult with Stephen Coble, H2Go's general counsel after passing a resolution that reverses the sale of its assets to Belville. (Port City Daily photo / JOHANNA FEREBEE)
(From Left) H2Go Commissioners Trudy Trombley, Bill Beer and Jeff Gerken consult with Stephen Coble, H2Go’s general counsel after passing a resolution that reverses the sale of its assets to Belville. (Port City Daily photo / JOHANNA FEREBEE)

BELVILLE — Monday, newly elected H2GO members met for an emergency board meeting to discuss the filing of a temporary restraining order against H2GO Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer.

The restraining order was filed on Dec. 1 on behalf of the town of Leland to prevent the sale of H2GO to the town of Belville. H2GO Commissioners were notified of the injunction by Leland Police officers on Sunday night; Monday morning they met to reverse court, halting the dissolution of H2GO and the sale of its assets to Belville.

However, Belville Mayor Mike Allen declared the Monday, Dec. 4 emergency meeting illegal and reiterated that Belville was now the owner of all H2GO assets, following a resolution approved Nov. 28. Allen told H2GO commissioners that, since the Town of Belville acquired H2GO, the H2GO building in Leland was the now property of the Belville.

Allen asked H2GO members to exit Belville town property after the meeting had adjourned.

“In my personal opinion, I think this meeting is held illegally according to the open meeting laws in the state of North Carolina,” he said.

“We allowed them to have the meeting until they come up to full speed on all of the legal ramifications,” Allen said. “They are on town property, the town of Belville, until the courts decide otherwise.”

In response to Allen’s comments, commissioner Jeff Gerken wrote in a statement that they had not violated the Open Meetings Law.

The restraining order

In addition to H2GO, the restraining order also names the town of Belville, H2Go Chairman William Browning, H2GO Vice Chairman Ron Jenkins and H2GO Secretary Carl Antos as defendants.

The restraining order states that in H2GO’s last-ditch effort to save the $35 million reverse osmosis plant by transferring its assets to Belville, Browning, Jenkins and Antos “unlawfully voted a resolution and certain agreements.”

Monday’s meeting reversed that transfer after a vote by Commissioners Trudy Trombley, Bill Beer and Gerken. According to Gerken, board members who failed to attend Monday’s meeting “technically” approved the new resolution by default.

H2GO Commissioners would not comment or could not be reached about the emergency meeting.

Phone numbers for Jenkins and Browning, named in the order, were out of service. Antos’ wife, Judith Antos, said “they’re not supposed to talk to anybody.”

“He’s been told by their injunction not to speak,” she said. “Lord knows what they’ll do next.”

Judith Antons confirmed Gerken’s statements, stating the couple had been served at 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, with notice of the temporary restraining order by a Leland Police officer and “another board member out of the district.”

The new board

Monday was Beer’s first day as a publicly elected official. He campaigned in opposition to continuing the pursuit of the reverse osmosis plant, and his election to the board was a motivating factor behind the previous board’s motion to transfer its assets to save the plant.

Beer, Trombley and Gerken approved a resolution to render the bill of sale to the town of Belville as null and void.

The three commissioners declared the resolution to be withdrawn. They also terminated the representation of H2GO by the law offices of Ward and Smith and directed the firm to file a notice to withdraw representation before close of business Monday, Dec. 4.

The board also directed H2GO Executive Director Bob Walker to “immediately cease and desist with the illegal and void transfer,” according to Gerken.

Walker was ordered to “take all necessary steps to assure that all Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer H2GO employees also cease and desist all efforts to proceed with the illegal and void transfer,” Gerken said.

The district ordered Walker to complete a written account of his actions and deliver it to H2GO commissioners within 24 hours. According to Gerken, Walker’s account must include:

  • All knowledge regarding the events and circumstances leading up to, and all persons involved in, the resolution and agreements that were approved on Nov. 28
  • All knowledge he has regarding any steps that have been taken to perpetuate the illegal and void transfer and who was involved in taking such steps
  • Before noon on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, demand the return of any property that was wrongfully transferred to the town of Belville under the illegal and void resolution and agreement approved on Nov. 28, 2017
  • Provide H2GO commissioners in writing, on a daily basis, a reporting of his schedule, all meetings and calls with a summary of items discussed and a summary of any major activities he has undertaken under the course of his employment each day.

Walker will be terminated “with cause” if he fails to do so, Gerken said.

All employees of H2GO, with the exception of the elected board members, were ordered by Monday’s board resolution not to discuss any matters with the media.

The full temporary restraining order can be read below:

Temporary Restraining Order – Emergency H2GO Meeting by Johanna Ferebee on Scribd

Belville’s acceptance of H2Go’s Nov. 28 resolution to transfer itself can be read below:

Town of Belville and H2Go by Michael James on Scribd


Johanna Ferebee can be reached at johanna@localvoicemedia.com or @j__ferebee on Twitter

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