NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) — WWAY uncovered emails showing a potential run-in between New Hanover County and Carolina Beach officials when it comes to the Paradise Cove fire investigation.
These events took place over the course of two days: Tuesday, April 6, and Wednesday, April 7.
According to the emails, the night of April 6, Carolina Beach’s mayor, Leann Pierce received a call from Julia Olson-Boseman, New Hanover County Commissioners’ Chairperson.
Olson-Boseman informed the mayor she’d be legally representing several Paradise Cove homeowners.
The next morning, Darrel Johnson, a Carolina Beach employee got a call from New Hanover County. The caller informed him within the hour, New Hanover County’s Building Safety Director, Commissioner Boseman, and a group of inspectors would knock on doors at the Paradise Cove complex and inspect the building during an active investigation.
“My understanding was that she was representing people on that property,” said Alan Griffin, Carolina Beach’s fire chief.
“And to me it’d be a little inappropriate for her to come down and walk the property with the building inspectors… because there might be some insight that nobody else would have details to at this point.”
“There was no prior coordination with our staff about the visit from county inspectors,” said Carolina Beach Town Manager, Bruce Oakley.
“Staff was concerned about it interfering with ongoing fire investigations. Our fire chief and building inspectors reached out to state fire and building officials, and they seemed to share the sheriff’s similar concerns.”
Carolina Beach officials like Griffin said it was outside of New Hanover County’s jurisdiction.
“So, it’s not an outreach to say that they overstepped their bounds,” Griffin continued.
Monday afternoon, Boseman commented to the media in part, “I’m sorry if their feelings were hurt, but if they’d been doing their jobs, I wouldn’t have to go down there and respond to a fire alarm for friends who live in the complex.”
“And I think a statement was made by Mrs. Boseman that if we were doing our job, and I’m a little bit confused,” Griffin responded. “Because there’s a lot of rumors we’ve already discredited through press releases.”
According to Griffin, Carolina Beach Fire confirmed alarms were up to code.
Griffin believed the way the New Hanover County inspection was handled was unprofessional, and he worried it would undermine the public’s belief in Carolina Beach Fire’s ability to do its job.
“It’s so ironic to me it went all the way to Wednesday before there was even contact with us. And then the contact was almost like we weren’t doing our job,” Griffin said.
We received a statement from New Hanover County on the matter, which read:
New Hanover County performs trades inspections in Carolina Beach, and a small team of our Building Safety inspectors was sent at the request of the Board of Commissioners chair. They were able to help educate residents about fire code and the trades, refer them to the Carolina Beach Building Inspector in cases where fire damage on exterior walls was present, and answer questions that residents had. It was not intended to be an overstep jurisdictionally; it was merely a way to support and educate residents.
Our Building Safety team spoke with the Office of the State Fire Marshal at the North Carolina Department of Insurance (NCDOI) and they have affirmed that because the county performs trades inspections and the county inspections team was there to inform people of who to contact with questions or concerns and to educate them, they did not act outside of their scope of responsibilities.