Councilwoman Brandi Matthews took several members of the Goldsboro City Council to task Monday before and after a 4-2 vote to deny council keys to the city administrative office area after hours.

Matthews, who asked that all members of the council be provided a key to the administrative office area, said the request was not unusual after at least two former councilmen had the same access in recent years. The administrative office area includes the offices of the clerk to the board, the mayor, city manager, several administrative staff and the mayor’s conference room.

Matthews said she wanted the ability to meet with residents and collect her mail, which she is not able to do during the day because of working a full-time job.

“I can’t go and access my mail,” Matthews said. “It has been very problematic that I have come into the city manager’s office or made attempts to and I can’t get in because the door is locked and it has been locked before 5 p.m. I can’t check my mail.

“So what I’m asking for is access to that area.”

During the council work session, Matthews asked members of the council if they already had keyed access to the area. She said she asked the city manager, Tim Salmon, for the same information but has not received a response.

Mayor David Ham said the information may border on security and may need to be discussed in closed session.

“Uh, no,” Matthews said. “I think we should talk about it in open session because I can go around the table and ask council members if they ever had a key to that area or if they still do and I’m 100% confident that that answer would be yes.

“If anyone has any feelings about it, I think we should share it now.”

Salmon also cited security and said the matter should be discussed in closed session.

“There were requests for specific information on who had what key where,” Salmon said. “That, I think, is a security issue and I think is a public safety issue that should be handled in closed session if you want to talk to that level of detail.”

Matthews questioned references to security when she is aware that two former council members had keys to the offices.

Councilman Bill Broadaway and Councilman Gene Aycock said they never had keys to the city administrative office area.

“I’ve been on the council for 10 years,” Broadaway said. “I have never had any access to the mayor’s office, the mayor’s conference room or anything else and never saw a reason for it. I see it as a security issue. We will have to hire extra people if we open those conference rooms.

“I’m just against it. I don’t think you need it.”

Matthews clarified that she never asked for a key that provides access to the mayor’s office. The access is intended to provide space for her to meet with residents to discuss city-related business.

“I did not ask for a key to the mayor’s office,” Matthews said. “That is not it. I do not want to go in Mayor Ham’s office and spin around in his chair. I am asking for access to get inside of that space where, one, my mail is and, two, to get into that conference room that would allow me access to do some things that I am unable to do from 8 to 5 when the doors are unlocked.

“Unlike some of you, I am a full-time employee, and I have to utilize and maximize on my time.”

Councilwoman Hiawatha Jones said she is concerned about the personal safety of Matthews being in city buildings in the evening.

“I still think it is so dangerous for a young lady to be out here working in the conference room alone,” Jones said. “I don’t want anything happening to anyone.”

Matthews said she heard the city finance director often talk about working late hours on the city budget. She also said meeting in City Hall is a better space than other locations.

“I would like to think that meeting here at City Hall in the large conference room or in council chambers or in our large conference room is a lot more safe than trying to catch them in the Walmart parking lot or talking to them here or talking to them there,” Matthews said.

Aycock said that during his 10 years on the board he never had a need for a key to the city administrative office area.

“I have never, ever had a key that would let me into any internal offices in this building,” Aycock said. “That is a fact.”

Following the discussion, the board voted 4-2 to deny members of the council a key to the office area. Matthews and Councilman Taj Polack voted in favor of providing the keys while Jones, Broadaway, Ham and Aycock voted in opposition.

After the vote, two former councilmen — Wayne County Commissioner Antonio Williams and Wayne County Commissioner Bevan Foster — attended the regular council meeting and said during public comment they see no problem with Matthews having keyed access, since they both previously had keys to city administrative offices.

“From the time I was elected, two terms, I’ve had access,” Williams said. “I’ve had a key fob and a hard key because I too work different schedules. I wasn’t retired like a lot of our city councilmen. So it’s kind of difficult to go and check your mail at different hours so I talked to Scott Stevens, our city manager, and he gave me a key.

“I think that it would be reasonable that someone like Ms. Matthews and all of you, for that instance, have access to the area. This is a trustworthy individual. She was elected by the people, and I think that is just reasonable for her to have access.”

Foster said it did not make sense not to provide a key to members of the council.

“Just as Commissioner (Antonio) Williams just spoke, I too was a city councilman here for four years,” Foster said. “I also had a key to the building to come and go as I please, a key fob and a hard key.

“It seems like every time, you know, Ms. Matthews asks for something it’s a problem. When I sat on this council for four years, you all claimed there was divisiveness and all these things, but who’s being divisive now? It makes zero sense, so work together. If you truly stand for what you say you stand for, work together and do what’s right.”

Foster also addressed the recent resignations of several city department leaders and concern related to the city manager. He said employees were leaving prior to Salmon being hired as manager.

“Don’t blame it all on him as the fall guy,” Foster said. “I sat on the board when we hired him. I said why are we hiring someone with zero experience of being a city manager. But the three of you, Aycock, Ham and Broadway, all voted for him. So now don’t blame it on him. If you want to blame it on anybody, take a look in the mirror because you’re just as responsible.

“Work together to make employees want to stay here. Find out what the problems are and what needs to be changed, and be willing to change it.”

Also during the meeting, the board voted 4-2 to appoint Charles Gaylor IV to its District 5 seat that was vacated after Ham was appointed mayor. Gaylor and Phyllis Merritt-James, who was present during the Monday meeting, applied for the seat and made presentations to the council earlier this month. Gaylor will be sworn into office during a November council meeting.

The council did not discuss the appointment, although Matthews appeared as though she planned to comment prior to the vote. Jones, Broadaway, Ham and Aycock voted for Gaylor. Matthews and Polack voted for Merritt-James.

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