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NHC vice-chair says options to remove Olson-Boseman are legally limited

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Commissioner Rob Zapple and Vice-chair Deb Hays on August 1.

At Monday's New Hanover County Board of Commissioners meeting, the embattled chairwoman attended remotely — while the vice-chair addressed the elephant in the room.

Chairwoman Julia Olson-Boseman barely spoke during the one-hour meeting. Vice-chair Deb Hays indicated that she had been asked to conduct business.

County commissioners have said little about Olson-Boseman’s ongoing legal problems, but Hays did acknowledge them before opening the public comment section — saying the board has limited options.

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Chairwoman Julia Olson-Boseman attended the August 1, 2022 meeting remotely.

“I understand that some of you may be here to speak about recent news reports regarding Commissioner Olson-Boseman. I would like for everyone to understand the legal boundaries that this board of commissioners is subject to regarding any elected member. Based on the state law, this board cannot remove any commissioner who was duly elected to office unless the commissioner moves outside of the jurisdiction they were elected to serve, or is convicted of a felony,” Hays said.

Related: Julia Olson-Boseman's wife says county chairwoman drained accounts, maxed out cards, cut off communication

Hays added that the county’s rules of procedure prevented removing a commissioner from the chair position except for the same reasons, moving out of the jurisdiction (i.e. New Hanover County) or committing a felony. Unlike state law, the county’s rules of procedure can be changed with a vote by a majority of board members.

Only one speaker, Neal Shulman, spoke on the topic, denouncing the board for not taking any action.

“You have not censured her or removed her from any responsibilities, which you can do. And it disturbs us that you haven't,” Shulman said.

There was limited public business on the rest of the agenda, although the county did formalize the donation of land for a county-run grocery store in Wilmington’s Northside, long a food desert. And Commissioner Rob Zapple momentarily cut through the evening’s tension with a resolution honoring the late Tony Rivenbark, director of Thalian Hall and a pillar of the arts community for over forty years. The resolution passed unanimously.

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.