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Oxford city council: Resident questions candidate

OXFORD - At least one Oxford resident is concerned about the possible outcome of next week's city election.

Oxford resident Claude Sitton approached the Oxford City Council during its meeting earlier this month to bring up his concern regarding a candidate running for the open City Council seat.

Sue Dale, who is running for the empty Post 4 seat currently held by Emma Lou Patterson, works as a human resources manager at Oxford College, a position she's held since 2007.

Sitton brought before the council this month the state law that prohibits public officials from voting on matters in which they have a personal interest, as well as the city of Oxford's charter that prohibits council members from deliberating or voting on matters in which they have a private interest.

"Everybody wants to make sure people running for the council, if elected, are not going to get on the council and vote one way or another on a matter in which they have a personal interest," Sitton said Tuesday.

No other residents have publicly brought up the same concerns, but Dale said "of course" she would recuse herself from voting on matters involving the college that would be a conflict of interest.

"The right thing will be done, just as it would be with any council member," she said Tuesday.

Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry said, as with any council member, he also will keep an eye on any potential conflicts of interest.

"I'm alert for things like that, even if a council member has lapses," he said Tuesday. "We've had it happen a few times, not just with the college but with other things, too."

In the past, current Councilman Hoyt Oliver also was employed by the college or had ties to the college and has had to recuse himself from votes.

"Claude made the exact same speech when I ran for the council 10 years ago," Oliver said Tuesday.

Oliver said the college and the city often have parallel and complementary interests, but there were times when he had to vote against the college or tell them to take the correct approach when he served on the Planning Commission.

"If I ever experienced a situation in which I perceived a conflict, I'd, of course, recuse myself," Oliver said.

Roseberry said if elected, Dale, who is also a grant writer for the city, still will be able to participate in the grant-writing process but cannot be paid extra for her work. Her son Michael, who often completes Web work for the city, also will not be allowed to do so anymore if she is elected, Roseberry said.

Dale faces opposition from Tillie Smith for the vacant Post 4 seat on the Oxford City Council on the Nov. 3 municipal election.

Smith has not returned phone calls seeking comments about the election.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.