Jaymie Baxley Staff writer
January 6, 2014
PEMBROKE — The Pembroke Town Council in a split vote on Monday fired Town Manager Oryan Lowry for using the town’s credit card for unauthorized purchases.
The 2-1 vote came after an hour-long closed session. Lowry did not attend the meeting, with the town denying his request that he be allowed to do so. There were three police officers at the meeting.
“He was asked not to come as council did not want that confrontation, it didn’t want any flare-ups,” Town Attorney Gary Locklear said. “It’s a serious matter and the council wanted to treat it as serious.”
Lowry was suspended for 10 working days without pay on Dec. 2 after it was discovered that he used the town’s credit card to make almost $1,200 in personal transactions. On Dec. 16, the council announced that his suspension had been extended indefinitely.
“I think it’s abundantly clear what the reasons are,” Locklear said. “His conduct was detrimental to the town’s best interest.”
Councilmen Allen Dial and Ryan Sampson voted in favor of Lowry’s dismissal, with Councilman Larry Brooks voting against.
“We don’t want to fire him, but from the recommendation of our attorney, I think it’s the right thing to do,” Sampson said.
The unauthorized transactions, which total $1,187.71, included multiple purchases made in Salt Lake City, Utah, where Lowry was visiting a sister. According to Locklear, the town has been reimbursed and does not intend to pursue legal action against Lowry.
“Given this outcome, it is a sincere desire of this council that no charges be pursued,” he said.
Locklear added that new policies will be put into place to ensure that the town’s credit card cannot be misused in the future.
“There will definitely be a policy that will state in unequivocal terms how the card can be used, and failure to do so will result in dismissal,” he said.
Town Clerk Amira Hunt will serve as the interim manager while council works to find a replacement for Lowry — a process which Locklear said is “going to take time.”
Lowry was hired as Pembroke’s manager under a three-year contract in July 2012. His annual salary was $63,000.
The council normally has four members, but one seat has been vacant since the death of Robert Williamson about two years ago.
In other business:
— In a 2-to-1 vote, the council approved a donation of $600 to the Pembroke Wrestling Club. Dial, who voted against the donation, expressed concern that it would create a precedent. “What are we going to do when the basketball program and the baseball program asks for money? Are we financially able to do that for each sport?” he said.
Mayor Milton Hunt suggested to council that donations should be earmarked in the budget ahead of time.
— Joseph Locklear approached council for permission to hold a week-long baseball camp in the Pembroke Athletic Complex. The camp would be led by Gene Locklear, a former Major League baseball player and a native of Robeson County. It would be privately funded.
The council granted permission upon liability issues being resolved.
— The council approved a contract with Locklear, Locklear and Jacobs, PLLC, to handle engineering services for a pretreatment sewage plant.