Did Swain just imply Aneralla accepted a bribe over HFFA?

During the public comments portion of last night’s well attended Huntersville town board meeting, former mayor Jill Swain strongly implied bribery was a motivation for current mayor John Aneralla to place the HFFA management contract discussion on the agenda. It is a felony in NC [NCGS 14-217] for any person holding office to receive anything of value, including campaign contributions, for performing any official act.

You can listen to her comments for yourself here beginning at approx. the 25:35 mark. Mrs. Swain read from the minutes of the Oct. 19, 2015 town board meeting – which took place less than a month before the election that Swain lost to Aneralla – wherein Mr. Aneralla, commenting on the HFFA contract renewal discussion that night, stated in part, “I believe there’s a citizen here that would like to bid for that contract.”

Mrs. Swain then commented that what Mr. Aneralla did not say was that the citizen in question who followed him in public comments at that meeting was a donor to his own campaign, Mr. Brian Sheehan. [Sheehan contributed $1,000 to the Aneralla campaign in August 2015.] She went on to state that she was curious about the reason this board is potentially interested in breaking a five year contract that would unnecessarily cost our taxpayers. She concluded by encouraging citizens to watch and see if Mr. Sheehan is first in line to bid on that contract.

If Mrs. Swain’s comments were not intended to imply the current mayor accepted a bribe in order to have the board vote on whether to bid out the HFFA management contract I would think she would want to publicly clarify her comments.

Mrs. Swain’s concern for the well being of the taxpayers is welcome, but I have to ask where that same concern was when the board she presided over decided against putting this $183,564 annual contract out for bid in October 2015? [see the contract in question below] As I stated in my own public comments last night, only in government could it be seen as a good thing to NOT consider bidding out a contract in 15 years.

HSW 2015

I reached out to Mr. Sheehan for a comment and asked if he contributed to the Aneralla campaign in order to ensure Aneralla would allow the HFFA management contract be put out for bid? Mr. Sheehan replied, “Absolutely not. I’ve known him for 15 years, have given to his other campaigns for office over the years. I haven’t spoken with, emailed with or otherwise been in contact with John in about a year. I never asked him to put this issue on the agenda. Glad he did and think it is the right thing to do, but I haven’t spoken with him in a year.”

Mrs. Swain closed her campaign account earlier this year according to Meck Board of Election filings. But, you have to wonder whether we just witnessed the opening salvo of the 2017 mayoral campaign after her comments last night.