By Peyton Majors
Christian Action League
October 27, 2023
Opponents of a potential casino in Rockingham County are criticizing the replacement of two members of the planning board who previously voted against rezoning land that could have been used as a casino site.
Jim Fink and Cyndy Hayworth, two members of the Rockingham County planning board, were replaced during an Oct. 16 meeting of the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners by H. Keith Duncan and Benjamin “Bernie” Parnell, according to the Rhino Times of Greensboro.
Both Fink and Hayworth previously voted against rezoning 192 acres on U.S. 220 to “commercial,” which would have allowed construction of a casino. The Board of Commissioners, in an August meeting, overturned the planning board on the rezoning. The issue became moot — at least this year — when Republican state leaders in Raleigh said they would not vote on casino expansion this session.
Still, the issue could become significant again in 2024.
Doug Isley, a member of Citizens for Good Growth in Rockingham County, addressed the replacement of Fink and Hayworth during a public comment period of the Oct. 16 meeting.
“This board has taken upon itself to talk down to its appointed members that you all voted for,” Isley said, according to the Rhino Times. “You basically said they weren’t qualified. I think Ms. Hayworth has got like 42 years of experience and now she has been pushed off the board. Did anyone on staff or any commissioner call them and tell them that they were going to be removed?”
A Rockingham County attorney subsequently claimed the terms of Fink and Hayworth had expired.
Significantly, the agenda for the Oct 16 meeting did not mention who Duncan and Parnell would be replacing.
“Items on the consent agenda are supposed to be ‘noncontroversial,’ but in this case, replacing two members of the Rockingham County Planning Board raised controversy,” the Rhino Times reported.
In the end, the consent agenda was approved, placing Duncan and Parnell on the planning board.
“In a blatant display of political maneuvering, the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners has shamelessly replaced two dedicated members of the planning board who had the integrity to stand against a controversial casino initiative,” said Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “This thinly veiled retaliation against Jim Fink and Cyndy Hayworth, who valiantly opposed the ill-conceived rezoning for a casino, reeks of an abuse of power. Their combined years of experience and principled stance were dismissed with callous disregard. It’s disheartening to witness such disregard for the voice of the people and the principles of democracy in action.
“The actions of these county commissioners are a stark reminder that power, when unchecked, can become a dangerous force,” Creech added. “It’s a disconcerting irony that, in the name of democracy, they exhibit behavior reminiscent of authoritarian regimes. Who needs communism or despotism when elected leaders act no differently, concealing their ulterior motives under the guise of public service? This calculated deception is more insidious than overt tyranny because it undermines the very essence of representative governance.”