My Reaction to the Questionable Awarding of Contracts by Ranlo

I took most of the day today thinking about my reaction to the post in Ranlo Chatter the revealed that the company owned by incumbent Mayor Lynn Black had performed extensive amounts of work for Ranlo. I avoided immediately commenting as I did not have the facts and the implications of the materials are serious enough to warrant a careful and well researched response. I read over and reviewed the invoices and sign offs then I started researching the relevant local, state, and national laws. You can see some of the outcome of that research on the election fact check page linked in the top right of this page.

What I found leads me to believe that nothing illegal has occurred. I will caution that I am not a lawyer and my interpretation is that of a lay person. The local ordinance makes reference to the state statutes which are written exactly like you would expect when dictating what is considered a conflict of interest- long, full of exceptions, and open to interpretation. I found further references from the UNC School of Government that broke the relevant section of law in to more easily understandable language.

The two relevant things I learned are that the law does not require a bidding process for projects underneath $30,000 and that in towns (and counties) with populations under 15000 members of the board are allowed to take contracts that do not require a bid subject to a $40,000 limit in a rolling 12 month period. Ranlo has approximately 4500 residents per the census. When I reviewed the invoices and checks, the amounts paid out were under the financial limit. This is why I have to draw the conclusion that this is not evidence of illegal activity.

Public figures, elected and unelected should be held to a higher standard. An appearance of impropriety or a conflict of interest may as well be one. Just because something is legal does not mean it is the right thing to do. This is why our elected officials can’t just review things at a surface level. It allows an opportunity for ignorance to create a perception of wrong doing. Saying “I didn’t know it was happening” when you had the resources available to see it happening leads to inadvertently condoning what does happen.

One of the things I get to review as President of my HOA is an end of month report that includes all monies spent and received by the HOA that month. It is gathered by the HOAs management company and delivered to all board members. I can only assume that an equivelant is available to Board of Commissioners. The management company assures me that our HOA is in good financial shape. I make a point of going through the expenses listed and the bank statements to make sure the money is being spent on items that the board has specifically approved or is a known ongoing expense.

I think that there are serious ethics questions that need to be answered by all commissioners who signed off on work by LB Electric. The narrative presented in the post makes it seem like there was collusion by the Mayor Lynn Black and a single Commissioner- Ronnie Laws to enrich the mayor through work the town needed done. The evidence presented shows that multiple projects were undertaken and paid out for to LB Electric after Mr. Laws was no longer a commissioner. This indicates that anyone serving Ranlo -elected and unelected from 2017 to now had an opportunity to question the invoices and bring it in to the light for public discussion.

I do not believe that a facebook group is the most appropriate medium to bring these concerns to the public eye. Jessica Haley is no longer a resident of Ranlo so she may not have been allowed to speak at a Commissioner’s meeting so I can understand her using the soapbox available to her. My preference would have been that she brought her evidence to a local newspaper or television station. Then we could be reasonably confident that the facts would be reported without an overt agenda or bias. Reporters have a high standard they are held to for presenting verified facts. The questions being asked about not receiving requested information from the Town of Lowell makes me think that we as citizens of Ranlo are possibly missing a relevant part of the story. A reputable media outlet would delay publishing till the whole picture could be presented.

As both a candidate and a voter in Ranlo, this knowledge certainly has given me cause to think about my choices. In the spirit of transparency, I had decided to vote against Mayor Black when I watched the June 2021 Board Meeting and heard his comments asking the Commissioners and the citizens of Ranlo not to publicize things that might make the town look bad. (They start at 16:46 in the video) That is the opposite of leadership. Leaders take ownership of mistakes, even if they are made by those you are leading. His words were the opposite of that.

I need to hear further from those candidates who have served previously and those who have long standing relationships with anyone who had potential involvement in this unethical practice to understand how much they knew or why they didn’t know. I plan on reaching out to them.

I’ve gotten a chance to get to know most of the candidates and board members since I elected to file for this election. I truly believe everyone running wants to do what’s best for Ranlo. I unfortunately have to doubt the ability to lead of the candidates who may have known of these questionable practices and were either complicit through their signature or their inaction.

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