Atlantic Beach replaces arrested board member

ATLANTIC BEACH, SC (WMBF) Atlantic Beach's Town Council approved three new candidates to fill the town's Housing Authority Board during a meeting Saturday afternoon.

The move comes less than two days after police arrested Atlantic Beach Housing Authority Chair Gary Bell for impersonating a public official.  According to the J Reuben Long Detention Center web site, Bell was released without posting bond.  Atlantic Beach Mayor Elect Jake Evans says the decision to throw out the charges against Bell was justified.

"The judge absolutely made the right decision in throwing that out," Evans said.

But Evans appears to be in the minority, as Mayor Retha Pierce, Councilwoman Windy Price and Mayor Pro-Tem Carolyn Cole all voted to replace Bell on the housing authority board.  Evans was the lone nay vote.  During Saturday's meeting, Cole explained that town council voted to remove Bell from the housing authority board in September, yet he continued to attend and participate in housing authority meetings.  Mayor Retha Pierce says Bells removal from the board, in turn meant any meetings he participated in were illegal.

"No board has the right to usurp authority of a council," Pierce said.  "If you've been removed, you can't continue to do what you want to do."

Evans says he believes Bell should not have been removed without a hearing and due process.

"He's still a member of the board," Evans said.  "And I'm sure he'll remain a member of the board."

Statesville, North Carolina Housing Authority Executive Director David Meachem acts as secretary for the Atlantic Beach Housing Authority, and says according to South Carolina Code 31-3-970 states being a resident is not a requirement to serve as a housing authority board member.  Atlantic Beach town Council voted to remove Bell from the board because he no longer lives in the Atlantic Beach Housing Authority.

Town Council approved three new members to the housing Authority Board:  Vincent Graham, Kantrese Wright and Norman Hutchinson.  Cole said Graham will replace Bell as chair on the board.  Graham is slated to serve a four year term, Wright a three year term, and Hutchinson a one year term.

Meachem says he worries the councils decision to remove and replace Bell could result in a lawsuit against Atlantic Beach.

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