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SUNSET BEACH, NC (WECT) - Local leaders are divided in Sunset Beach. Mayor Richard Cerrato is raising questions about an event funded by taxpayers, and things have not gone smoothly since he won the mayor's race in November.
In a battle between town council and Cerrato, the disagreement stems from organizing an event called Sunset At Sunset, a festival now funded by the town.
Council has referred to the situation as a "witch hunt" by the mayor, and Wednesday night, council tried to lay issues to rest.
Mayor Richard Cerrato has questioned the handling of the event which is funded by taxpayers – however, council says enough is enough, and voted to prohibit the mayor from inquiring anymore about the event.
"For the mayor of the town to pursue a negative course regarding this town's most successful event is, quite frankly, embarrassing," said Councilwoman Karen Joseph. "As an elected official, it's our job to talk about the good things in our community."
Joseph says she thinks the mayor is a bad seed in the town.
"He is implying that there has been misuse of taxpayer dollars," she said. "How he can continue to say that is beyond me."
Cerrato, however, thinks he's doing a good job.
"I, as mayor, have a duty to make sure town hall and what it does is legal and proper, and I realized when I raised these questions at town hall, they perceive it as a witch hunt," said Cerrato. "It's called accountability and creditability."
Cerrato says records weren't readily available on the administrative side of the event, and that a checking account was created outside of town hall -- something Cerrato says is illegal in North Carolina.
"I'm against the administration of the event, and how it would escape the audit process…the watchful eye of town hall and those kinds of administrative issues," he said.
Cerrato says he simply wants to hold people accountable for their actions.
Still, Joseph disagrees with Cerrato.
"His job is to be supportive, is to be positive, is to be the champion for this town," she said. "Rather than work for good, he'd rather condemn and criticize."
Cerrato says credibility and accountability is the best way to manage a town
Council made a motion Wednesday night to direct town staff to ignore any and all attempts by Cerrato to ask questions regarding the event.
They told him that he may not bring the topic up again or ask the attorneys for information without getting approval from council first.
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