WILMINGTON — Officials are looking at possible changes to public participation at city council meetings, and the city approved a separation agreement with a former police officer.

Possible Town Halls

At the beginning of Thursday’s Wilmington City Council meeting, council president Mark McKay held a discussion about the future of public interaction at meetings.

He referenced recent meetings where individuals had come in making accusatory remarks about city officials and personnel and, according to McKay, “using them as their bully pulpit to push their agendas and gain social media prominence.”

At the previous council meeting, two subjects were arrested and charged for allegedly disrupting a public meeting. The two were arrested for making remarks about Mayor John Stanforth.

McKay suggested, along with the current guidelines, the possibility of requiring public comments to be about items on the meeting agenda.

He also brought up the possibility of a town hall setting to discuss items with people.

Council member Bill Liermann advised he wants to see order and civility at meetings.

“Disparaging remarks and public attacks, it’s got to stop,” said Liermann.

Council member Matt Purkey agreed with Mark McKay that there needs to be a “contact point” for citizens and their officials. Purkey also expressed support for a town hall environment.

“I think they should be on a regular basis schedule and in a venue big enough for anyone who wants to attend and be able to attend and participate,” said Purkey. “I understand that doing the city’s business is paramount, but we also need to make sure we have a place where the public can interact with officials.”

Council member Michael Snarr agreed to a town hall idea, saying it could “alleviate the rumor train.”

Council member Jonathan McKay expressed that he didn’t like what the meetings had become, and was torn on the idea, but did express support of a public forum.

“People need to be heard and it’s important we don’t stifle that,” said McKay.

Det. Baker Departure

After an executive session, the council agreed to a separation agreement with former Wilmington Police Detective Scott Baker. This was confirmed by Brad Reynolds, the human resource director for the City of Wilmington.

Reynolds told the News Journal this separation occurred due to policy infractions.

Baker had been placed on paid administrative leave back in May 2022. Baker had been the subject of other conduct investigations, as published in a September 2022 article.

In January 2022, Clemans Nelson & Associates “Consultants To Management” submitted a report to the city regarding the firm’s investigation into a sexual harassment complaint filed in 2021 by a WPD officer.

The complaint came after an alleged 2021 incident in which Baker was with other officers serving a warrant and Baker allegedly commented that the officers “owe him” for calling him there and “states he ‘wants both’ of their wives, whom he mentions by name, ‘at the same time,’” according to the report. Earlier that same day, “Baker had texted [the officer’s] fiance “seeking permission to post a photograph of her” [posing for a calendar] “in the department as a joke on [the officer].”

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574