The chairman of Raleigh’s sprawling group of citizens advisory panels has resigned, citing undisclosed personal reasons.
Joe Corey, head of the Raleigh Citizens Advisory Council, announced his resignation following a contentious meeting of the group, which oversees the city’s system of 19 smaller advisory groups.
He had just launched a plan to reconsider the structure and purpose of the councils, which serve as sounding boards and information sources for various parts of the city.
In addition to leading the Raleigh CAC, Corey also chaired one of the smaller groups, the North CAC, covering central North Raleigh above Millbrook Road. He is leaving both positions.
“I have too much going on in my life that I can’t deal with this anymore,” he wrote in an email to The News & Observer. He did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
Corey’s departure follows a convergence of complaints and issues surrounding the citizens councils, fueled in part by debates about new development.
Last month, Councilman John Odom asked for an investigation of a meeting of the Central CAC at which Jeanne Tedrow, the leader of the nonprofit social services agency Passage Home, claimed she had been disrespected. The council’s chairwoman, Lonette Williams, said that it was Tedrow who was disrespectful.
The mothership Raleigh CAC, meanwhile, fell into debate at its March meeting about whether to allow David Cox, a polarizing neighborhood organizer, to speak alongside the city’s planning director.
Those tensions seemed to come to a head on Wednesday.
“In the past few months, some obvious differences in philosophy have emerged,” Corey told the rest of the Raleigh CAC at its meeting Wednesday night.
He used his power as chairman to create a new committee that is meant to improve the council system. It will include leaders of eight of the 19 small-area councils, drawing criticism from some of the citizen leaders who said the conversation should be more inclusive.
The committee will make recommendations about how to redefine the roles of the citizen councils and create new protocols.
The councils are somewhat unusual political structures. Anyone who lives in a council’s territory is a voting member. The groups often are asked to give their approval to various development projects, or offer input on city programs, though their votes usually amount to suggestions.
“I’d like to know why you think a special committee is necessary, as opposed to an open discussion,” said Carole Meyre, chair of the Five Points CAC and vice-chair of the master CAC.
“The committee will have open discussions,” Corey said.
“Why not right here, right now?” Meyre replied.
“Because I feel it’s necessary,” Corey said.
He later said that the committee meetings would be open to anyone who would attend and that the members would accept input from their colleagues. Kim Gazella, a vice-chair of the Raleigh CAC, said that it would be inefficient to make everyone a committee member.
The new committee was not popular among those at Wednesday’s meeting. They voted 7-5 to express their disapproval, but could not prevent its creation.
Wednesday’s meeting also included terse exchanges between Corey and two Central and Southeast Raleigh leaders.
Octavia Rainey said that the citywide citizen council was starting to act like a “dictatorship.” Lonette Williams said there should be room for different approaches among the smaller councils.
Corey asked both about their attendance records at Raleigh CAC meetings. Williams said her late mother had been ill, and Rainey said her North Central co-chair attended instead.
Gazella said it would be healthy to take a look at the CACs, which have been around for about 40 years.
“Are we really operating in a way that best serves our citizens?” she said.
Corey’s departure will hasten a change, at least in the councils’ leadership. His replacement will be chosen by a vote of the 19 CACs’ leaders.
“We really appreciate his service and admire him for what he’s done,” Will Allen, the Hillsborough CAC chair, said of Corey. “He’s been a great chair, and we’re going to miss him.”
The Raleigh CAC next meets on May 20 at 7 p.m. in City Hall.