Lake Norman & Mooresville

Cornelius Board of Commissioners at odds over who should fill vacant seat

The Cornelius Board of Commissioners recently delayed a decision on who will fill a vacant seat, and one commissioner is calling it an act of cronyism.

But two other commissioners, who voted to postpone the decision, say they just wanted more feedback from the public.

When John Bradford won Thom Tillis’ seat in the state House of Representatives, it left an opening on the town board of commissioners.

Cornelius Commissioner Dave Gilroy said appointing the next top vote-getter to fill that seat was the logical move, as it best represents how residents voted.

Commissioner Jim Duke said the board was ready to appoint a replacement during a Nov. 17 meeting as a way to avoid a months-long delay that occurred during a similar appointment process a few years ago.

But Gilroy called the move suspicious, saying Commissioners Duke and Woody Washam wanted to power through the vote to appoint someone likely to vote in their favor.

Gilroy, Commissioner Thurman Ross and Mayor Chuck Travis eventually voted to postpone the decision and get public feedback.

The two people being considered for the seat are Mike Miltich, who ran for election, and Bruce Trimbur, who has been chosen to fill a vacant seat in the past but did not run in the latest election.

“It should be a rule, clearly: The next top-vote-getter should be elected,” Gilroy said. “That’s how residents voted. … It’s pure cronyism that Woody (Washam) is ignoring what people said in the last election and is personally bear-hugging Bruce (Trimbur)… to essentially adopt him as his second facsimile next to Jim Duke.

“What possible justification could there be to not go to the next top vote-getter. We have elections for this very reason.”

The board was asked to delay the process to allow other candidates to come forward and for the public to express their views on the matter, Duke said, but no other candidates came forward, and only about a dozen residents made their preferences known.

At the Dec. 15 meeting, board members plan to select a replacement for Bradford, Duke said.

“That selection will be made based upon multiple criteria and, in the end, who the board believes will be the best choice for the town,” Duke said.

Miltich has lived in Cornelius almost two decades and has served in a variety of volunteer positions in the community. Miltich feels Trimbur has a better shot at the seat but believes he stands a chance now that the board delayed the vote.

“If there is a precedent that is understood, felt to be fair and is consistently followed, it eliminates all post-election bias and politicking,” Miltich said.

While it’s good for the board to be on the cautious side, Trimbur said, it’s important board members fill the vacancy quickly.

Trimbur also has lived in Cornelius about two decades. If he gets appointed, he says he will bring better representation to the board from the east side of town. He also cites his public service record and familiarity of staff and procedures as positive attributes.

“I was chosen the last time around out of 12 candidates,” Trimbur said. “But by agreeing to be appointed, (the commissioners) requested I didn’t run in this election. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t run. I plan to run in the next election, and I think I’ll be voted in.”

While Trimbur thinks the board is handling the situation fairly, he said members’ indecisiveness could hinder forward progress.

“If they decide to put this off after Dec. 15, that would be unfortunate,” he said. “I think they have the information they need to make the decision.”