Monday, November 28, 2022

Tempers flare on Carolina Beach’s Town Council

Tensions were high on Monday as Town Council met to discuss actions to take on Covid-19 (the meeting was broadcast to the public). (Port City Daily/File)

CAROLINA BEACH — The Town of Carolina Beach, like virtually everywhere else in the world, is trying to figure out the best way to deal with the novel coronavirus crisis. As with any elected board, there are bound to be personality clashes between members and on the north end of Pleasure Island, things have come to a head this past week.

Last Friday, Town Council voted in a 4–1 decision to shut down access to the beaches and town parking lots in an effort to help stop the spread of Covid-19. Not everyone agreed this was the best route to take, including Councilman Steve Shuttleworth (who did ultimately vote in favor of the closure).

While things during the meeting were relatively calm — there was healthy debate and some disagreement — after the meeting things apparently got a bit more heated.

So much so, in fact, one resident has asked Shuttleworth to resign his position in an email.

Then on Monday during another council meeting, Councilman JoDan Garza made known his displeasure with the way the rest of the board was handling certain things.

The Friday decision

The vote to close the beaches was not the most popular choice amongst residents, nor was it pleasant for Town Council, but it was what leaders agreed had to be done to help slow the spread of the virus. However, Garza and Shuttleworth had two different opinions on how to move forward.

For Garza it was simple, the town should not close the beaches or take any action limiting visitors at that point in time.

Shuttleworth, on the other hand, wanted to close the bridge to non-residents while keeping the beaches open to those who live on the island. The rest of the council believed this was a step too far and it would have significant impacts on residents of Kure Beach as well and instead decided to simply close the beaches and parking lots.

At the end of the meeting, after the cameras were off, Shuttleworth was involved in an altercation with a local resident and business owner Daniel Tangredi.

Both Shuttleworth and Tangredi agree that there was an incident, and Shuttleworth admits he was ‘heated’ during the discussion, but it is not the first time that has happened after an emotional decision had to be made, he said.

“It’s not the first time in Carlina Beach history or even my time on council that a decision was made and a councilmember and a resident had a strong disagreement over that decision. After that meeting yes there was a heated conversation between myself and another Carolina Beach resident who was expressing to me his strong dissatisfaction on my position and our action … The reality is we were both heated, we both said some words,” Shuttleworth said.

Tangredi, on the other hand, claims Shuttleworth’s behavior was an attempt to intimidate him and required police intervention.

“As the councilman finished the meeting and began to approach several of the people in the audience, I approached the councilman leaving roughly 6 feet between us (social distancing) in order to ask the councilman a few questions. I proceeded to ask if he knew if the local airports had been shut down because of Covid-19 or even if public transportation had been shut down and prohibited due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Tangredi wrote in his email.

“Instead of calmly answering the questions ask[ed] by myself, a taxpaying citizen of Carolina Beach and upstanding member of this community, I was immediately aggressively approached by the councilman and verbally attack. He proceeded to use loud vulgar language which left me feeling a sense of intimidation. He approached me and entered into my personal space, within about 6 inches of my person. His behavior was so out of control and aggressive that he needed to be physically held back by the Police Chief Chris Spivey who was directly standing in his close vicinity. This form of intimidation should never be tolerated by any member of council. It not only creates an environment of unease between members of the community and council, it can also have lasting effects of public input,” Tangredi added.

But Shuttleworth disagrees with how things are presented and even suggested getting Chief Spivey’s opinion on the incident. (At the time of publication, Spivey has not responded to attempts to reach him for comment — this article will be updated with any comment from him if it is received.)

At the end of the day, Shuttleworth said he hopes that the town leaders can come together and take positive steps during these difficult times instead of focusing on ‘JoDan versus Steve.’

New week, new concerns

When the Town Council reconvened their meeting Monday to receive additional updates on the rapidly developing situation. Once again, there was a difference of opinions regarding what actions to take and how elected leaders should be handling the situation, however this time, it was Garza who had choice words for the rest of the council.

With the beaches closed down, naturally, people on the island looked for ways to replace their outdoor recreation time and headed out to the town’s parks. Town Manager Bruce Oakley suggested the town work to encourage social distancing and limiting the number of people gathering in the parks.

In fact, two lacrosse teams were out practicing at one of the town’s parks, something Oakley said was ‘inexcusable.’

But where Garza took issue was the fact that two councilmembers apparently witnessed the teams practicing, violating social distancing orders (and likely the requirement of no more than 10 people in an area) and they did nothing.

“The downside about that is that we had two councilmembers that witnessed both [events] and neither one of them … went up and spoke to them,” Garza said.

The meeting continued for about 15 more minutes with councilmembers both arguing and agreeing with one another on different points. Eventually, Garza brought up the email that Tangredi sent to the entire council and asked why nobody was addressing it.

Garza also said he has had at least three incidents where Shuttleworth had used profanity and been what Garza called, aggressive, towards him in Council Chambers.

Garza and Shuttleworth have had several instances where they did not see eye to eye, but for the most part, Carolina Beach’s Town Council has worked together despite the strong personalities.

As far as Tangredi’s demands that Shuttleworth resigns or the rest of the Town Council vote to have him removed, it does not appear that Shuttleworth has any intentions of stepping down. It also is unclear if the rest of the council will even take that request into consideration.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Mayor LeAnn Pierce actually made a motion to recess the meeting, cutting Garza off and leaving him to continue voicing his concerns even after the vote was taken.

You can watch the entire meeting from this past Monday online. Garza did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication but messages were left with him asking for comment on the situation.

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