by David Anderson
Members of the N.C. House gave their final approval Wednesday to a bill that will give voters the chance to decide whether or not Kinston’s mayor has veto power.
“I’m just looking forward to the voters having a chance to vote on it, to express their opinion … whether they believe mayors of the city of Kinston should have some authority to add checks and balances to our local government,” Mayor B.J. Murphy said Wednesday from the office of Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, who sponsored House Bill 310.
If approved by a voter referendum — which is expected to be held this fall — Kinston’s mayor would have the power to veto any document approved by the council, although the veto can be overridden by a four-fifths majority council vote.
“It doesn’t really concern me one way or the other,” Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Will Barker said. “I think everybody needs to look at, not just the current situation, but where things will be in the future and whether people think it’s warranted for the mayor to have veto power.”
He continued: “The way the bill is written, if the mayor vetoes an item, if four out of five members disagree with the mayor the item will pass anyway; just because the mayor has veto power doesn’t mean that the item can’t pass.”
HB 310 requires the city attorney to submit it for preclearance by the U.S. Justice Department under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act within 30 days, to determine when the vote will be held. If Kinston City Attorney Jim Cauley does not submit it by then, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper must submit it.
LaRoque said previously this provision will avoid any “foot-dragging” by Kinston officials. Cauley also could not be reached Wednesday.