Town's Vice-Mayor Unexpectedly Steps Down - TribPapers

Town’s Vice-Mayor Unexpectedly Steps Down

Weaverville Town Manager Selena Coffey and Councilwoman Catherine Cordell talk before meeting. Photo by Clint Parker

Weaverville – Weaverville Vice-Mayor Catherine Cordell resigned from her position as the town’s vice-mayor at the town council meeting on Monday, May 20th. In a letter to the council, Cordell stated:

“Since elected to council 2 1/2 years ago, my mission has been to serve the residents of Weaverville with integrity. Recently, some events have come to pass that I would like to comment on. Text messages and emails were exchanged in March that were very disrespectful to me. In a closed session during April, some heated words were exchanged between me and Council member Wood. I have extended my apology to Council Member Wood. I have also asked for a formal meeting with Council Member Wood. And neither has been accepted.”

Cordell goes on to say in the letter, “…Town Council has come to feel like a toxic work environment to me, and I can no longer serve with my original enthusiasm. Effective today, I step down from the vice-mayor position. I will continue to serve out my term on council with integrity and be accountable to the residents of the town I call home.

Councilman John Chase was voted in as the new vice-mayor at the meeting. Wood, who asked for a comment after the meeting, answered, “Thanks for asking, I have no comment.”

Behind the emails

The Tribune received a tip that Councilman Dee Lawrence had called for the removal of Cordell as a result of a dispute between Cordell and Councilwoman Michele Wood in a closed session. The Tribune sent an email to Lawrence but never received a reply.

The Tribune asked for and received Lawrence’s emails for the period of April 27, shortly after the close session where words were susposedly exchanged between Cordell and Wood up until May 15 of this year.

In an email dated May 11th, Lawrence discussed the events of the closed session, saying “There was unacceptable behavior on both sides of this matter during the last closed session” and “There have been some passive-aggressive communications that has [sic] exacerbated this situation,” going on to state, “There must be some restitution.” The email went to all the council except Cordell.

He listed several items to resolve the situation, including mediation, committing to civility, and removing Cordell as vice-mayor by resignation or vote. He also said that an “Apologies to Town Council” which sould be “Required” along with an “Apologies to Staff and Town manager, Required.”

The Tribune tried to find out why Cordell was excluded from the email call for her resignation or being voted out, but Lawrence did not reply to the email.

Lawrence also said, “There also appears to be a concerted effort to remove the current town manager. The majority of Town Council is aware of this and strongly disapproves and condemns these efforts, especially at this time when there are many high profile projects currently under consideration. This is not a time for upheaval in the management of the Town of Weaverville.” The emails did not discuss who was calling for the removal of the town manager.

Lawrence first floated the idea of a civility course on May the 9th, and Wood was quick to respond to Lawrence’s email about an online civility seminary, saying in an email on the 9th, “I have considered the civility class, and have decided I am not enrolling. Forcing adults to take classes as “punishment” for whatever behavior is decided to be unacceptable is not a winning solution and builds resentment. This feels like being assigned “detention” and we are not children.”

Wood went on to say, “I take responsibility for my role in this, specifically in the words I said in response to the unexpected outburst in closed session. I hope to meet with Catherine at some point and I feel confident the two of us can find a way to work together on council going forward.”