Wake County

Zebulon manager out after second DWI arrest

Rick Hardin, Zebulon town manager, looks on as Sen. Chad Barefoot explains the Senate's proposed budget plan in his office on May 21.
Rick Hardin, Zebulon town manager, looks on as Sen. Chad Barefoot explains the Senate's proposed budget plan in his office on May 21. PAUL A. SPECHT - aspecht@newsobs

Town leaders accepted the resignation of Town Manager Rick Hardin on Friday in the wake of his second arrest for allegedly driving while impaired in the past seven years.

Hardin, 52, served as town manager for 15 years. His most recent salary was $113,657.

The town will compensate Hardin for any unsettled business expenses and unused vacation and provide health insurance until Hardin reaches age 65 or becomes eligible for Medicare. The town will not pay any additional severance pay.

Hardin’s contract with Zebulon stated the town had no obligation to pay him severance if he was terminated because of charges or convictions of a misdemeanor involving “moral turpitude.”

Commissioners appointed Sidney Perry, the town’s former fire chief, as interim town manager after a 30-minute closed-door session Friday afternoon. Perry, the father of current Zebulon Fire Chief Chris Perry, retired from the town in February 2013 after 46 years working in several town departments, including police and public works, and at one point serving as public safety director.

The town waived its nepotism policy to hire Perry, “because of Sidney’s unique qualification and the stated current need of the town,” a commissioners resolution stated.

The contract calls for Perry to work three, eight-hour days per week and be paid $45 per hour.

Hardin suspended Monday

The Zebulon town board had suspended Hardin with pay after a 45-minute closed-door meeting Monday night. Hardin was not present.

A Wake County deputy stopped Hardin on Raleigh’s Glenwood Avenue near the intersection of Argyle Drive early Sunday morning for speeding, then also charged him with DWI.

A breath test indicated Hardin had a blood alcohol content of 0.13. The legal alcohol limit for driving in North Carolina is 0.08. The arresting deputy reported that Hardin admitted drinking one hour before he was pulled over.

Hardin was also charged with speeding after the deputy determined the 2008 BMW he was driving was going 55 mph in a 35 mph zone, according to a citation filed Monday at the Wake County Clerk of Court’s Office.

He was booked into the Wake County jail Sunday at 1:50 a.m. and was released later that afternoon after posting a $500 bond, a jail spokesman reported. Court documents show Hardin has been allowed limited driving privileges.

Support after first DWI arrest

Hardin’s first DWI charge was on Feb. 11, 2007, when a Wake County deputy stopped him shortly after midnight at Interstate 540 and the U.S. 64 Bypass near Knightdale. Court records show his blood alcohol content in that instance was 0.10.

He was found guilty and sentenced to one year probation. He was also ordered to perform 24 hours of community service and pay fines and court costs totaling $210, court records show.

Zebulon Mayor Bob Matheny publicly expressed support for Hardin following the first DWI charge. He said Hardin had provided “good solid leadership” for the town, was willing to support the board’s interests and had been a very progressive town manager.

On Wednesday, Matheny said he wished the town had done more to discipline Hardin after the first DWI.

“Do I wish we had (intervened)? Sure,” Matheny said. “Because maybe that would have prevented this one from happening.”

Staff writer Thomasi McDonald contributed to this report.