TRINITY — During an open meeting of Trinity City Council earlier this month, a heated exchange between two members of council unfolded after a brief discussion of staff behavior.
Councilman Jack Carico initially began exploring personnel matters involving city staff when he was cut short by words of guidance from City Attorney Bob Wilhoit. After being advised by the city attorney to reserve any further discussion pertaining to city staff for closed session, Carico brought up Councilman Don Payne’s past conversations regarding city staff, which he said were conducted in open session.
“What’s fair for one is fair for the other,” Carico said. “I’m tired of this one way stuff.”
Payne then addressed his fellow councilman directly, calling into question his ability to judge fairness.
“Jack, you ain’t never been fair about nothing ever in your life,” Payne quipped.
Carico became visibly upset, expressing his displeasure with what he believes is a pattern of aggressive verbal barbs from Payne. He pointed to two specific instances, one from the same day and another from last year.
“I’m tired of Don’s freaking mouth,” Carico said. “I told you today. I’m tired of it. He got mad at me in a closed session on the 17th of October and hasn’t spoken to me since.”
Payne replied to the remarks made by Carico, even as others tried calming Carico.
“You asked to speak to me in private, and I told you I didn’t trust you,” Payne said.
It was not the first time the two men have been involved in a public spat. In June 2017, Carico brought charges against Payne for allegedly communicating threats after a dispute between the two men escalated during a community event.
Those charges were later dropped.
At the time, Carico said a discussion between him and Payne became heated when Carico inquired about remarks Payne made to city officials, staff and local media throughout the previous six months. The alleged altercation happened June 16, 2017 at the Jacob Carroll cleanup project hosted by the city.
Carico did not indicate a physical altercation, but did acknowledge the conversation was loud and that both men could be heard by onlookers, which included other city officials. A crowd was on hand for the cleanup project.
City Manager Debbie Hinson declined to comment at that time on behalf of the city when the charges were filed and said she was not present for the interaction between the two men. Payne was then one of three Trinity elected officials whose seats were before voters in the 2017 election. Payne again faces a contested election for his seat this year.
Following this month’s exchange, Mayor Richard McNabb attempted to move forward with the meeting, asking if any further city business needed to be discussed. Carico brought an additional item to the attention of council, saying he wishes to see the local government do more for constituents with tax money the city receives.
He mentioned a community playground for the youth of Trinity, referencing Creekside Park in Archdale as a comparison.
“We never spend any money out of that general fund,” Carico said. “The citizens of Trinity deserve something.”
No action was taken on a community park.
Also during the meeting, council approved an increase to Hinson’s salary. Effective the city’s next pay period, her annual salary will be $95,000.
“We’ve discussed the salary of our city manager and came to a conclusion that due to the work she does and the position she’s held in this city — for what she’s done for us — we have not brought her up to the [acceptable financial] standards of a city manager,” Payne said. “We recommend that we increase her salary to $95,000.”
Hinson, who has served as the city’s manager, clerk and finance director on various occasions in the past, has served in dual — and at times, triple — roles for the city. In November 2014, Trinity began exploring ways to alleviate some of the extra workload on Hinson.
During a Nov. 10 pre-agenda meeting of Trinity City Council, then-councilman Ed Lohr lobbied for an investigation of ways to minimize what is expected of Hinson. Lohr, who is running again this year for a Ward 2 seat held by incumbent Stephen Lawing, contended that Hinson was overextended and had been for quite some time.
In reshuffling staff and filling positions previously thrust at Hinson, Trinity had promoted existing staff members to those roles. Two of the staff members were among those in question during the back-and-forth between Carico and Payne.
Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.