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4 Rural Hall town leaders resign
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4 Rural Hall town leaders resign

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Three of the four members of the Rural Hall Town Council and the town manager resigned Thursday, Rural Hall Mayor Timothy Flinchum said.

The resignations were fueled by conflicts among the town’s elected officials and unfounded allegations against Megan Garner, Rural Hall’s town manager for more than four years, the three council members wrote in their resignation letters.

Council members John McDermon, Ricky Plunkett and Jesse Stigall resigned at Thursday’s meeting of the town council, Flinchum said. McDermon, who had served on the council for 18 years, was the town’s mayor pro tem.

Garner’s annual salary was $111,514 in a job she had held since 2017, said Wade Gilley Jr., the town’s finance director. Garner managed a town budget of $4.2 million and oversaw 19 full-time employees.

Garner couldn’t be reached Thursday to comment on her resignation.

Rural Hall’s 2020 population was 3,351, according to the U.S. Census.

Flinchum initially declined to comment specifically on the resignations, but he issued a statement Thursday night about the matter.

“As mayor of Rural Hall, I want to assure our citizens that the apparently coordinated resignations of three town council members, for reasons not yet fully apparent, will not negatively impact or impair services for Rural Hall citizens,” Flinchum said. “All town services will continue in a normal (manner).”

Flinchum said that Rural Hall’s new leadership team is now in place.

Two new town council appointees — Terry Bennett and Eddie Horn — have been named to fill the remaining few weeks of the unexpired terms of Plunkett and Stigall, Flinchum said. The names of Plunkett and Stigall are on the Nov. 2 ballot for Rural Hall’s municipal election.

McDermon was not up for election until 2023, and his former seat will be kept open for the time being, Flinchum said.

“Our new leadership team will discuss and develop in the coming days an open and transparent process to fill that seat,” Flinchum said.

“Rural Hall is a wonderful place to live, and I look forward to working with our local officials and staff to move our town forward in a positive direction,” Flinchum said.

Town council members in Rural Hall receive an annual salary of $2,801, Gilley said.

McDermon wrote in his two-page resignation letter that the past two years he has served on the council, had been “horrific.” McDermon’s term would have ended in 2023.

In an email, McDermon said it wasn’t an easy decision for him to resign, and he declined to comment beyond what he wrote in his letter.

“The letter should speak for itself,” McDermon said.

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Rural Hall describes itself as the “Garden Spot of the World,” but McDermon described the town as “Gossip Spot of the World” in his letter.

“This gossip focused on harassing our town manager, Ms. Garner, attempting to force her out of her job,” McDermon wrote.

Garner has accomplished many good things for Rural Hall, and “she did not deserve to be targeted like this,” McDermon wrote.

Throughout his letter, McDermon described incidents of rumors, text messages and phone calls from residents critical of Garner. One caller urged McDermon to join the effort to oust Garner from her job.

McDermon wrote that he declined to join in any effort to remove Garner as the town manager. He said he was disappointed in a few Rural Hall residents who made false allegations against Garner.

McDermon also portrayed what he indicated was a false assertion from a Rural Hall resident that $1.5 million had vanished from the town’s bank account after Garner began her job, according to his letter.

The town auditors never reported any discrepancy in the town’s finances, and no town money is missing, McDermon wrote.

Christina Howell, a spokeswoman for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, said she wasn’t aware of her agency conducting a criminal investigation regarding the Rural Hall town government.

“The hate-fueled, almost warlike shenanigans that I have witnessed for the past two years have worn on me,” McDermon wrote.

“With all of this in mind, I have decided that I cannot remain on this town council for two more years to work with elected officials who demonstrated a lack of respect and support for our town manager, Ms. Garner,” McDermon wrote.

“She deserved better,” McDermon wrote. “Things like this are a shameful stain on the town of Rural Hall and those who have promoted it.”

Plunkett referred questions about his resignation to D. Barrett Burge of Winston-Salem, Rural Hall’s town attorney. Burge couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

In his resignation letter, Plunkett wrote that he disagreed with the treatment of the town’s staff by some members of the town council and local residents. Plunkett has served 12 years as a council member.

“Our town manager has been the subject of many of these attacks, including false accusations and lies by citizens and some members of this elected body,” Plunkett wrote.

“These actions and others are intolerable, and I refuse to be a part of it,” Plunkett wrote. “So therefore I am resigning my seat on the town council today.”

Stigall, who also has served 12 years as a council member, couldn’t be reached for comment. In his resignation letter, Stigall criticized Council Member Susan Gordon and Flinchum.

Gordon “has made a determined effort to rid the town of good employees and rally people to her cause,” Stigall said. “I have never seen a town more divided and believing things that are absolutely untrue.”

Stigall accused Flinchum of failing to maintain decorum at council meetings and said Flinchum “has allowed personal and public attacks on (town) staff,” Stigall wrote.

Gordon declined to comment on Stigall’s criticism of her and about her colleagues’ and Garner’s resignations.

336-727-7299

@jhintonWSJ

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