Allegations of racism and malfeasance raise alarm in Sedalia | Beaufort County Now | A former candidate for town council in Sedalia says he filed a report with the N.C. State Auditor’s Office in early June to make the auditor aware of questionable issues with the council’s use of credit cards and town finances.

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    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the Carolina Journal. The author of this post is Zach Rounceville.

    A former candidate for town council in Sedalia says he filed a report with the N.C. State Auditor's Office in early June to make the auditor aware of questionable issues with the council's use of credit cards and town finances. Ed Piotrowski's complaint comes amid allegations that council members targeted him due to his race during his candidacy for a council seat in the November 2021 election.

    The State Auditor's office would not confirm the filing or comment on whether it would investigate, but the complaint is the latest in an ongoing saga in the town over allegations of racism and procedural irregularities involving the town council.

    A long-time black member of the Sedalia town council, Valerie Jones, resigned after nearly two decades of service, alleging racism toward white people by the council.

    Piotrowski spoke with Carolina Journal and said that members of the town council harassed him and treated him with contempt. He also said they accused him of violating a North Carolina anti-wiretapping statute after he recorded a town council meeting on his phone and posted it to Facebook. Under the state's open meetings law, recording public meetings is legal in N.C.

    Piotrowski was given a notice of the alleged statute violation from the town clerk through the attorney, Albert Benshoff, retained by the town on an as-needed basis.

    Sedalia is a small town in Guilford County, where the majority of its 676 residents are black, along with the town's governmental leadership. The town has consistently had black leadership in recent years.

    During his run for town council, Piotrowski said that black residents in the community warned him about running for a council seat. "They told me, 'Beware Ed, you're going to be faced with racism,'" he said.

    Piotrowski said he felt he was being targeted as an outsider during his run for town council. "The council members do not want an outsider; they want the good ol' boy network."

    Piotrowski accused the mayor of circulating a text message to Sedalia residents, telling them not to vote for him.

    Concerns of racism toward white residents in the town were also raised by former town council member Valerie Jones, who is black. According to coverage in the Rhino Times, Jones resigned this year, after 17 years on the council, over the racism she felt was being perpetrated from the all-black council against white residents in Sedalia.

    "He said he was running for office, and I couldn't believe the way they treated him," Jones said to the Rhino Times about Piotrowski's run. "They treated him like a persona non grata. All he did was throw his name in and say he was running for office. That was it."

    Jones declined to speak with CJ on the issue, saying she told the Rhino Times everything she had to say. The mayor, Howard Morgan, and mayor pro tem also declined to comment to CJ.

    "There has been no opposition voice on the council since Valerie Jones resigned," Piotrowski added. "All the council members follow suit with the mayor, and no one responds to comments unless the mayor acknowledges them."

    Piotrowski served on the Sedalia Planning Board starting in spring 2020 and was terminated in March 2022. The letter he received from the mayor gave no reason for the termination.

    Before his termination, Piotrowski said he observed that the planning board and town council did not properly follow Roberts' Rules of Order by failing to keep proper meeting minutes and failing to adhere to the bylaws in regards to voting.

    "The bylaws must be followed," Piotrowski said. "During the vote for planning board members in November of 2021, the chair of the board allowed six people to vote while the bylaws only allow for five votes. It was only after I was terminated from the board that they began to follow them with proper motioning, seconding, and voting in April of 2022."
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