LUMBERTON — After much discussion, some of it adversarial, the City Council has hired Edwin Holt Moore as its new city attorney.
Moore, an attorney who currently lives Wilmington, will oversee the city’s legal affairs beginning on March 3.
“I look forward to working in Lumberton and I hope to make them proud,” Moore said.
Moore, 44, is originally from Mt. Airy but has lived in Wilmington, where he has a private practice, since 1998. He will earn a starting annual salary of $92,000, according to City Manager Wayne Horne.
“Having grown up in a smaller community, being a part of a close-knit environment has always been kind of important to me,” Moore said. “I’ve spent some time up there (in Robeson County) doing cases with people from Lumberton and Pembroke and they’ve always been real pleasant.”
Moore said he has practiced municipal law since 2000, as well as zoning law. Lately, he has been focusing more on employment and civil law and, in addition to his private practice, served as town attorney for Carolina Shores for seven years.
“It is always a little bit of a different world when you’re doing local government. You’re in the limelight a little bit since you’re client is the government — there’s maybe a little more attention to what you do,” Moore said.
Moore attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for undergrad and the University of Kentucky for law school.
Mayor Raymond Pennington said Moore’s qualifications and personality made him the right man for the job.
“He seemed like a good fit for Lumberton,” Pennington said. “Any manager’s position in local government is a tough decision because you’re working for anywhere from seven to 10 different ‘bosses,’ if you will. In our case it would be nine, so he’s got to be able to relate to all them both individually and as a group.”
Pennington said the city attorney is integral to Lumberton’s daily business.
“It’s very important in this day and time with an increasing number of lawsuits brought against local governments for various and sundry reasons, case in point the gaming laws that are still being contested in court,” Pennington said.
Despite a unanimous vote on Jan. 2 to not interview additional candidates, the decision to appoint Moore did not come without argument.
Erich Hackney, Precinct 8’s councilman, voiced concerns that the field of more than 15 applicants had not been narrowed down to two fairly and according to protocol. Precinct 5 Councilman John Cantey argued that there was no problem with the decision process and that Hackney and other councilmembers’ complaints, which were aired in open session, should have stayed within the council chambers.
In years past, the council met to discuss each applicant before choosing who to interview. This year, the Human Resources Department recommended the final candidates. The council received each candidate’s resume and application, but did not discuss their qualifications as a group.
Hackney contended that Pennington had individual communication with James Bryan, who served previously as city attorney, in an attempt to bring Bryan back.
Pennington declined to comment on any accusations made against him regarding the decision process, but previously told The Robesonian he did contact councilmembers to ask if they would have a problem with Bryan applying for the job.
“I can see why there might be concern about how things were handled, but there’s nothing that would rise to the level of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concern,” interim City Attorney Rob Price said.
Cantey asked the council to leave the meeting open to the public to clear up accusations against the mayor and council.
“What was put in the paper should have been done behind closed doors,” Cantey said. Cantey contended that Hackney had a “personal vendetta” with Bryan, a claim Hackney denied.