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Cornelius News

Quiet agenda tonight, except for fate of Miltich

Aug. 6. The Cornelius Town Board meeting tonight promises to be momentous, in spite of a light agenda that includes a public hearing on a $24 million transportation bond set for the November elections. What’s not on the official meeting agenda is the status of Mayor Pro Tem Michael Miltich.

He is in hot water over concerns raised by the executive director of the Ada Jenkins Center, where Miltich served as an Ex officio member of the board. The Davidson-based non-profit restructured their board to remove him, and two years ago he was privately admonished by the Cornelius town attorney.

The matter was a loosely kept secret—even during the subsequent 2017 town board elections—until recently.

Michelle Ferlauto, who ran unsuccessfully for the town board in 2017, successfully dislodged the secret from the town and got it onto the public record in June, amidst the backdrop of budget discussions and concerns over firefighter pay.

Here’s where it gets nasty.

Someone secretly—and apparently illegally—recorded Miltich making disparaging comments about what firefighters do and don’t do in between emergency calls.

MICHELLE FERLAUTO

The comments were broadcast on WSOC-TV, and Miltich back-slided to an on-air reporter as to whether or not he made them.

Around this time, a former local reporter, Cassie Fambro, chimed in on Facebook saying she was the subject of Miltich’s inappropriate behavior as well.

Now a TV reporter in Alabama, she apparently emailed the town to formalize her complaints.

Town officials at the time said they were not convinced the email came from Fambro, who did not return a phone call from the town.

But in a more recent email to Ferlauto, Town Manager Andrew Grant seemed to confirm there have been two complaints by women about Miltich.

“The Town does not have a record of any other sexual harassment claims alleged against any Town elected official, other than the two claims regarding Commissioner Miltich,” Grant said in the email to Ferlauto.

Ferlauto, meanwhile, made the comments a “thing” on Facebook by sharing them and promoting discussion—and ridicule.

Now Miltich is suing Ferlauto.

In a lawsuit filed in Superior Court in July, Miltich comes clean on the veracity of the recording, but alleges that Ferlauto’s sharing on Facebook subjected him to ridicule and disgrace.

The lawsuit says:

On May 31, 2018 Ferlauto posted again on Facebook, this time stating in part:

“Which would bother you most if you were a resident of Cornelius?…
—Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Mike Miltich accused of sexual harassment by a reporter while she was just trying to do her job covering the town. Do we know for a fact this is the first time of such accusations?…
—Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Mike Miltich getting caught on camera audio trashing the fire department?…”

Miltich’s complaint says he has not been accused of sexual harassment, “nor has there ever been any formal complaint or investigation regarding the false statements.”

Ferlauto will not comment on the lawsuit which alleges damages in excess of $25,000.

Cornelius Today asked attorney Chris Mauriello, who does not represent either party, for his opinion.

“This sounds like a tough one against her UNLESS she ‘adopted’ the comments i.e. independently slandered the public official and/or made false statements against him—or was responsible & participated in some part for obtaining the recording illegally.”

Tonight’s meeting will be interesting, and difficult for Miltich.

DENIS BILODEAU

Town Commissioner Denis Bilodeau, who was elected in November and not privy to any of the shop talk at Town Hall in 2016, is expected to bring up the Miltich matter during what’s called “Commissioner Concerns” at tonight’s meeting. He would not comment.

Miltich could be stripped of his mayor pro tem mantel, or somehow censured.

The Town Board probably has no stomach for censuring—the last time they did, then-Mayor Chuck Travis ignored them and plowed on.

But whether Bilodeau has enough votes to de-elevate Miltich from mayor pro tem won’t be apparent until tonight.

The meeting begins at 7 pm, at Town Hall on Catawba Avenue.

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