Cary, NC – At the Monday, May 13, 2019 Morrisville Town Council meeting, Council Member Jerry Windle announced his immediate resignation, citing personal confrontations with another council member, which has been denied, and a lack of action by the council as a whole.
Council Member Resigns
Windle, who represented Morrisville District 2, was elected in November 2017, making him the newest member of the town council. From the time of his campaign up to 2019, Windle said he has been the target of harassment and personal homophobic insults by Council Member Michael Schlink, which Schlink has repeatedly denied.
In particular, Windle, who is gay, said the events that led to his resignation happened at the town council’s January 2018 work retreat. One night during the retreat, Windle said Schlink invited him to a meeting, where Morrisville Mayor TJ Cawley was also present. At that meeting, Windle said Schlink asked if he would form a quorum with the rest of town council, excluding Council Member Liz Johnson and Mayor Pro Tem Vicki Scroggins-Johnson, to take a vote and remove the Crabtree Crossing extension from Morrisville’s Transportation plan.
Windle said he declined and also called Schlink’s offer “dirty and unprofessional,” at which point Schlink got in his face, yelled homophobic insults at him and “asked if I wanted to take it outside.” Schlink denied this took place and Cawley declined to comment on the meeting.
“Former Council Member Windle has made statements against an individual who serves on the Council and these have been denied by that individual. Council has been working to address the concerns raised by both individuals over the past several months. The Town Council continues to prioritize working for the good of the Town and serving our citizens. The Town of Morrisville is often recognized nationally as one of the “Best Places to Live” and one of the “Best Places to Raise a Family” in the United States. We have benefited from the intermingling of gifts, talents, and voices from a widely diverse community and have a built a reputation as a community that embraces all,” Cawley said in a statement.
In March 2019, Windle posted about this alleged incident on his Facebook profile and said he chose to do so now after being frustrated with continued harassment from Schlink.
“These statements by Council Member Windle about me are false, but even more importantly; these statements by Council Member Windle about me allege that I have committed serious crimes, crimes I did not commit. For me or for the town, to allow false statements of criminal activity to stand as fact in the public domain is imprudent and wrong,” Schlink said at the Tuesday, April 23, 2019 Morrisville Town Council meeting. “These actions can not be condoned by silence. The record must be corrected, my credibility and reputation must be restored and the council must not tolerate manipulation of public opinion with falsehoods related to town council votes.”
At a council retreat on November 3, 2018, Schlink said he and other council members, together with the meeting facilitator, talked to Windle about a history of social media posts about town council and said during this meeting, Schlink did not bring up the events at the January 2018 retreat. Schlink also said Windle has targeted his family for harassment, which Windle denied at the April 23 meeting.
Decision to Leave
Windle resigned at the May 13 council meeting and did not forewarn anyone on the council or town staff. He said his decision was due to a lack of action on the alleged harassment.
“The five other council members know what he has been doing and they have apologized to me in private, but they didn’t have the courage to publicly acknowledge what was happening,” Windle said. “The mayor could have stopped all of this but he would not acknowledge it until a closed session.”
At the April 23 council meeting, Schlink said Windle made up these incidents because of Windle’s frustration that the Crabtree Crossing extension failed in a vote in October. Windle supports the extension while Schlink is against it.
“I believe Council Member Windle is repeating a pattern of retaliating against me with these false allegations because of my vote against Crabtree Crossing Extension. On March 24, 2019 Council Member Windle posted on social media that my vote against Crabtree Crossing Extension which he favored and I opposed, is blocking its approval to be built and on January 22 and March 24 he called for his followers to vote me out of office specifically on account of it,” Schlink said.
In a closed session after the Tuesday, March 26, 2019 council meeting, Schlink called for a motion for Windle’s allegations to be investigated. Windle said he did not believe this should have been in a closed session and said he did not vote for this investigation because he thought news of an investigation into him would be used against him by his opponents. Schlink said in Windle’s Facebook post on Monday, April 1, 2019, he called for the resignation of Schlink, Council Member Steve Rao and Council Member Satish Garimella for improperly invoking the North Carolina Closed Session Statute.
At the Tuesday, April 23, 2019 council meeting, after Schlink brought up this vote and said Windle did not vote for it, Scroggins-Johnson said there was no second so it was not a real motion and that she, Johnson and Windle did not vote on it either way.
“This is probably the most embarrassed I have ever been in the 20 years I’ve been on council, at the way council members are conducting themselves,” Johnson said at the April 23 meeting.
Also at the April 23 meeting, there was one public speaker who said Windle has been involved in nine lawsuits and suggested this discredits his statements. In one of those lawsuits, involving the companies Alphastaff, Inc. and Orthopaedic and Spinal Associates, Windle accused the companies of harassing behavior, which the speaker said points to a pattern by Windle.
At the May 13 meeting, in his speech leading up to his resignation, Windle commented on these lawsuits, including saying that at least one lawsuit, involving suing for disability payments through Social Security, did not involve him and instead involved someone with the same name as him (unfortunately, documents associated with this Social Security case are not available through the U.S. Middle District Court of Florida so we have not been able to find birthdays or social security numbers connected to the case to confirm or deny this).
“This has nothing to do with my service as a council member,” Windle said.
Now that Windle has resigned, the Morrisville Town Council will decide at their Tuesday, May 28, 2019 how to fill the vacancy. One of the options would be an election together with the other council seats up for a vote on Tuesday, November 5, 2019.
Story by Michael Papich. Photos courtesy of the Town of Morrisville.