In relation to the charges brought up against the vice chair of the Historic Zoning Commission, a hybrid citizen/city entity, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, on Tuesday, Dec. 4, faced a motion to ask the defendant to consider stepping down from this position.
City Attorney Gerald Ewell explained that commission members typically serve their terms unless they were ousted and board members typically do not have the power to remove them.
Alderman Ryan French made the motion at the end of the meeting, asking for BOMA to send a letter to Thomas Evans Baird and ask him to step down from his position on the Historical Zoning Commission. Baird was charged with one count of aggravated sexual battery against a 12-year-old, a class B felony on Wednesday, Nov. 28.
“Innocent until proven guilty,” Alderman Mark Messick said in response to the motion.
French responded, saying he thought it would be appropriate for him to resign due to the pending charges.
There was no other discussion.
The vote on the motion to send Baird a letter asking for his resignation ended in a tie, with Marilyn Howard, Bob Bellamy and Mark Messick voting against it and French, Vice Mayor Bill Nickels and Chris Elam voting for it.
Howard did pass on her first chance to vote and dissented when it came back to her.
The tie-breaker came down to Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman’s vote.
He voted no, thus stopping the motion from going forward.
“I’m not against this, but I think, he hasn’t been convicted,” Norman explained.
About Baird’s charges
Coffee County District Attorney General Craig Northcott explained that the alleged incident between Baird and the juvenile occurred recently. He added that he expects there have been more victims and urged anyone with information or knowledge of alleged incidents to come forward.
Baird, 79, posted his $10,000 bond after being indicted from the class B felony. Coffee County Judge Jere Ledsinger added a bond condition to Baird’s charge the Thursday following his arrest. The condition disallows him from having any contact with anyone under the age of 18 years old.
He will appear again in court on Jan.3.
Baird’s community involvement
Baird was Westwood Junior High School's band director for 30 years. Along with his role as vice chairman of the Manchester Historical Zoning Society, he is a member of the Downtown Manchester Movement Steering Committee.
The steering committee canceled its Dec. 7 meeting due to a light agenda. They will meet again on Jan. 4. The Times reached out to steering committee Chairman Steve West for comment on if he has plans to address Baird’s role in the committee, but has not heard back from him at this time.