CARRBORO — Mayor Mark Chilton’s retirement roast will be partially funded by taxpayers, a step he asked the Carrboro Board of Aldermen not to take.
Chilton stepped outside the room a second time Tuesday night as the board voted to appropriate $2,500 for food and tickets for “members of the community who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend” the October event.
The money will come from the town’s contingency fund, and it will be used to honor Chilton by putting on a fundraiser for Empowerment Inc., a nonprofit that employs him.
Chilton said his position as special events coordinator for Empowerment Inc. (whose mission is dedicated to affordable housing) is funded through a grant, and that he makes “less than $20,000” per year.
A memo prepared by the town manager’s office said, “In addition to contributing $2,500 to support this event, the Town expects to provide in-kind services by waiving the Century Center’s normal rental fee.”
Chilton said on Sept. 17 that he didn’t like the precedent set by appropriating town funds for a nonprofit that employs him. He asked the board to remove a vote on the appropriation from its meeting agenda.
Instead, the board deferred the item to its next meeting, held last week. On Tuesday, with Chilton out of the room, aldermen voted unanimously to approve funding the event.
Town employees will provide “limited” staff time assisting with the event, according to the staff memo, which recommended only that the Board of Aldermen “consider the attached resolution.”
Not much discussion preceded Tuesday’s vote, other than to thank Town Manager David Andrews and staff for preparing the memo.
“The board members expressed concerns over the precedent. It was never a question of legality,” Andrews said.
The week before, board members discussed some concerns over the precedent set by Chilton’s event and the recent planting of a tree outside Town Hall to honor then-outgoing Alderman Dan Coleman, who resigned the board after his wife was hired to work in Australia.
“The town does hold retirement functions for retiring employees, and the town does use town money for these events,” Andrews said. “In a way, Mark’s retiring from the Town of Carrboro.”
Chilton is not running for reelection this November. Another board member, Lydia Lavelle, is running unopposed.
Lavelle said she hopes a policy on such commemorations can be established. Though a departing elected official is different from a retiring employee, “to recognize someone who’s served with distinction … is something worth thinking about,” she said.
Lavelle also praised Empowerment Inc., which offers homebuyer education courses, administers grants and works as an advocate for affordable housing.
“One thing is, it is a nonprofit, so it’s not a business that you run,” Lavelle said. “Mark happens to work for nonprofit, but it’s actually a great housing authority that we work a lot with.”
The event will be an Oct. 29, Friars’ Club-style roast of Chilton plus dinner at $50-a-plate to benefit Empowerment Inc. It begins at 6 p.m. at Carrboro’s Century Center and is open to the public.