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In Rural Hall, where town council has seen upheaval, voters select new leaders
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In Rural Hall, where town council has seen upheaval, voters select new leaders

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Voters in Rural Hall elected Eddie Horn and Terry Bennett Tuesday to two seats on Rural Hall Town Council, according to complete but unofficial results.

Horn, the retired chief of the Rural Hall Fire Department, received 205 votes, and Bennett received 199 votes, according to the Forsyth County Board of Elections.

Horn and Bennett, who were both elected to their first public offices, will serve four-year terms.

The election followed recent political turmoil in Rural Hall, with three town council members and the town manager all resigning their positions less than two weeks ago. Horn and Bennett had been appointed to serve out the remaining weeks of the unexpired terms of former council members Ricky Plunkett and Jesse Stigall.

Horn said Tuesday night he was pleased to emerge as the top vote-getter and that his victory “is a new day for Rural Hall citizens.”

“I am looking forward to working with the citizens and making things transparent,” Horn said.

Bennett called the town’s election “a great day.”

“It was hard,” Bennett said of his campaign. “The town of Rural Hall is ready for a change.

“I’m ready to get to work, and get the job done for the citizens of Rural Hall,” Bennett said.

Plunkett and Stigall resigned their council seats Oct. 21, but their names remained on the ballot for Tuesday’s election. John McDermon, the third council member who resigned, was not up for reelection.

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Plunkett finished third with 31 votes on Tuesday, and Stigall finished fourth with 30 votes, according to complete, but unofficial, results. Voters cast four votes for write-in candidates.

Plunkett and Stigall said they didn’t expect to win.

“I’m done with politics,” Stigall said. “It’s too rotten for me.”

Plunkett said he didn’t actively campaign for re-election.

State Treasurer Dale Folwell called Monday for an investigation into allegations of financial impropriety in the town of Rural Hall. He asked State Auditor Beth Wood to investigate Rural Hall’s financial statements because of allegations that $1.5 million had disappeared from the town’s bank account.

No criminal charges have been filed, and Christina Howell, spokeswoman for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, has said she’s not aware of any active criminal investigation.

In their resignation letters, McDermon, Plunkett and Stigall cited conflicts among the town’s elected officials and what they called unfair allegations against Megan Garner, who resigned her position as town manager the same day.

Town officials have indicated that a lawsuit will be filed against Garner over a six-figure severance package that Plunkett, Stigall and McDermon approved the day they resigned. Garner has since accepted the position of town manager of Graham in Alamance County.

Rural Hall officials have not disclosed the amount of the severance package. They say they cannot because it is marked confidential, and they want to ask a judge to make it public.

In a letter to the editor published Tuesday in the Winston-Salem Journal, McDermon, Plunkett and Stigall said that Garner was the victim of a smear campaign launched by a few residents and designed to push Garner out of office.

Rural Hall Town Attorney D. Barrett Burge also resigned on Oct. 21. Town Clerk Dora K. Moore resigned Oct. 13 and her last day was Oct. 27.

Moore said she was pursuing another job opportunity, and Burge did not give any specific reasons for why he was leaving.

336-727-7299

@jhintonWSJ

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On her first day as city manager for Graham, Megan Garner got sued by her former employer, the Town of Rural Hall. Garner and three council members who resigned after a meeting on Oct. 21 are accused of violating state law and town protocols in negotiating and approving a six-figure severance package. No one on either side has disclosed the amount of the severance package, or settlement agreement, even though state law says it should be a public record. 

Two weeks after three Rural Hall town council members and the town manager resigned, the interim town manager, Frank James, resigned Wednesday. James, who retired in 2017 after 38 years as town manager, came back to resume duties after Megan M. Garner resigned and then took a position as city manager for Graham. On Oct. 21, three council members abruptly resigned after a meeting, citing conflicts among elected officials and what they called harassment and unfounded allegations of financial impropriety lodged againt Garner. State Treasure Dale Folwell has called for an investigation into the town's financial statements as a way to settle the matter once and for all. 

Megan Garner, the former town manager of Rural Hall, is starting her new job as city manager for Graham on Monday. Also on Monday, a lawsuit might be filed by her former employer over an undisclosed six-figure severance package she received. This is just the latest in the turmoil that is ever-evolving in Rural Hall swirling around allegations that $1.5 million vanished from town coffers. But a town audit says no money was missing, but other questions remain, including how much Garner was paid in a settlement agreement. 

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