Trustees swap seats on divided Cary Village Board

Trustees Cosler, Weinhammer swap chairs after special meeting debate

The Cary Village Board seating chart has changed.

After months of dispute between them, Trustees Jim Cosler and Ellen McAlpine no longer sit next to each other.

The new arrangement was revealed at the board's regular meeting Tuesday night. Cosler now sits between Trustees Kim Covelli and Christine Betz, and McAlpine sits between Trustees Jeff Kraus and Jennifer Weinhammer.

The seat swap followed a contentious special meeting Nov. 27, when the board voted, 4-2, to repudiate the findings of a harassment investigation the village commissioned after McAlpine filed a report against Cosler for behavior she described as “unwanted, derogatory, unprofessional, disrespectful, libelous and defamatory in nature."

McAlpine was the only trustee to bring up the repudiated report at Tuesday's meeting, stating that she believes she was not afforded an opportunity to share the whole story.

A new donation ordinance

The board unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday night establishing procedures for handling donations to the village.

The 6-0 vote followed a contentious debate between divided board members about whether the village should have taken a $60,000 donation from a wealthy Cary couple who wanted their identities kept secret.

In June, trustees rejected the anonymous donation by a 3-2 margin. Betz and McAlpine voted in favor of accepting the donation, while Weinhammer, Cosler and Kraus rejected it. Covelli abstained.

Designed to “establish a formal process for acceptance and documentation of donations,” the ordinance asks that all donations be in the form of cash, real or personal property and either may be designated for a particular purpose or use or undesignated.

Donations must be submitted to the village administrator for consideration, and private donations only will be considered when the donor either is anonymous to all members of the board or when the donor has identified himself or herself to every member of the board.

Mayor Mark Kownick said he is concerned that donors will not be able to learn the needs of the village to inform their philanthropy.

"Someone has to shepherd people through the process. Someone has to let them know what we’re doing and what projects are available," Kownick said. "I struggle with the fact that when people want to have a personal contact with somebody, I don’t think we should push that away.”

The 'fleeing felon'

Covelli and her husband, Chris Covelli, spent a portion of the board's Committee of the Whole meeting criticizing Cary Police Chief Patrick Finlon and the department's response to an Oct. 24 arrest that involved an officer using a stun gun to take down a man in a field near the Goddard School.

The Covellis – who both work in law enforcement – take their newborn to Goddard, and they heard about the incident from the private preschool's staff. Chris Covelli wrote a complaint to the Village Board on Nov. 12, weeks after he picked up his child and learned of a "tussle" that happened near the school.

The school should have been notified of the incident as it was unfolding, he said.

“This is a fleeing felon,” Chris Covelli said. “He’s capable of doing anything to get away. That is what they do.” 

Although police arrested Aaron Elijah Pittner, 24, in connection with disorderly conduct, it could have been worse, Kim Covelli said.

“The kids were absolutely, 100 percent at risk, and they don’t want to admit it,” Chris Covelli told the Northwest Herald.

Finlon said Pittner – who fled from police and ran down Three Oak Roads and into a field between Georgetown Road and the Stryker facility – got close to Goddard because officers brought him there after his arrest. Wanted on a warrant for aggravated assault on a peace officer, Pittner was charged with disorderly conduct.

To Finlon, his officers would have received an "A" grade for their reaction to the incident.

"I do believe we did a good job," he said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correctly attribute a quote to Chris Covelli, not Kim Covelli. The Northwest Herald regrets the error.

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