Chilton uneasy with Carrboro tax dollars aiding his own roast

CorrespondentSeptember 20, 2013 

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Mark Chilton

HARRY LYNCH — hlynch@newsobserver.com

— Mayor Mark Chilton is stepping down after 10 years as an elected representative of the town of Carrboro.

An Oct. 29 event at the Century Center will honor Chilton with a roast. But the mayor expressed discomfort that town dollars might help pay for the event, which is a fundraiser for Empowerment Inc., an organization that employs him.

Chilton asked the aldermen to nix an agenda item from last week’s meeting that would have appropriated $2,500 from the town contingency fund to assist Empowerment Inc., where he works as special programs coordinator.

“If we were going to vote on such a thing, I would recuse myself,” he said before Tuesday’s board meeting. “I appreciate the thought, but I wasn’t really comfortable with the proposal, so I’m going to ask to have the agenda item pulled.”

But the aldermen didn’t let him off that easy.

After Chilton said he thought the move might set a bad precedent, some aldermen noted the money would help buy $50 tickets for people who could not otherwise afford to attend.

Lydia Lavelle, Carrboro’s uncontested candidate to replace Chilton this November, said, “My only concern is … setting a precedent of donating to a very worthy cause.”

The event is a $50-a-plate fundraiser for Empowerment Inc., which offers financial counseling and homebuyer education, runs job fairs and financial literacy programs, and helps put low-income people into affordable housing, sometimes by connecting them with low-interest loans.

Chilton left the Town Hall meeting room during the discussion.

Town Manager David Andrews told the aldermen the amount would offset the estimated costs in food and facilities of the town’s giving Chilton its own send-off.

The board put off voting on the matter until its next meeting.

The dinner and roast will be from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, at the Carrboro Century Center.

Is it typical for towns to throw going-away parties for outgoing mayors?

Chilton might not be a typical example. He was the youngest person elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council at age 21, when he was a UNC undergrad. In 2003 he joined Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen, and was elected mayor in 2005.

He recently sought the nomination to replace N.C. Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, a former Carrboro mayor, when she stepped down this summer.

“I did throw my name into the hat for senator,” Chilton said. “I just couldn’t resist the possibility, and I was disappointed not to get it. But it was a relief at a certain level.”

“I don’t think I consider myself done with political plans for good,” he said. “I am looking forward to taking take some time off to be with my older son, who just started high school.”

Chilton’s association with Empowerment, Inc. is longstanding.

“He is in charge of special programs, and when we have our for-sale properties, negotiations with those,” said Sarita Nwachukwu, who is in charge of community programs for Empowerment. “He will work securing new funds to purchase properties.”

Efforts to reach executive director, Delores Bailey, were unsuccessful.

Hartwell: 504-251-6670

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