Holy Smoke! The last few weeks have kept us crazy busy regarding news and events explicitly focused on our local government and city officials. First was the Island Flava incident, Oct. 13, where one man was shot and killed and another injured. A local news blog has alleged the Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins and Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin were at that location socializing and celebrating Fayetteville State University’s Homecoming that evening. The blog further accuses Hawkins of misuse of police resources and abuse of power. On Tuesday, Nov. 9, former Councilwoman Tisha Waddell resigned abruptly from her District 3 seat, alleging corruption on the part of Colvin, and accusing the mayor and city council members of self-serving misconduct, mismanagement and conflicts of interest. Then last week, at a special meeting to appoint citizens to city committees and commissions, Councilmembers Johnny Dawkins and Yvonne Kinston engaged in a shouting brouhaha that resulted in an impromptu recess and cooling-off period. These are indications that a day of reckoning is approaching for our city, which has allowed the lives and livelihoods of over 200,000 citizens to be entrusted to incompetent and unqualified leadership.
No doubt we can do better. Much better. Out of the ten members that make up our council very few have adequate business, government or political experience. Four are ordained ministers and all of them are being led by a mayor with a dubious and criminal past. One might ask, what possibly could go wrong? The answer, everything. After years of turning a blind eye to inept governance, contradictions in policy, corruption and conflicts of interest, it is coming to light that Fayetteville’s City Hall is being ravished by scandals and scallywags. As a local news source, we haven't written or commented much about these issues because, in many cases, accusations of criminal misconduct are difficult to substantiate without ample resources. However, what has always proven likely in this community is that where there is smoke, there is fire. Here at Up & Coming Weekly, we tend to believe in what we see and not what we hear. We did not comment on the Island Flava incident because we could not, and have not, substantiated or been able to contact someone who would come forward to substantiate the allegations. We concluded it is likely the story is an embellishment of the facts and is intended to target Hawkins, who is highly unpopular within the Fayetteville Police Department. Because it came from a source inside the FPD, the story was afforded credibility, and this fueled the attention it garnered. We immediately requested a comment or clarification directly from the Police Chief and City Hall concerning the incident and were told that a statement from the chief’s office would be forthcoming. It never came. Now, we're told City Attorney Karen McDonald is slow-walking an official request to have the incident investigated. One must ask, why the delay?
I admire Waddell's moxie in articulating all the unsavory allegations in her recent resignation letter. Anyone on the inside who cares about the welfare of the Fayetteville community knows there is substance to every one of her accusations. Many citizens not privy to the local government's goings-on do not have access to all of the information. After all, Fayetteville and Cumberland County lack adequate local news media coverage. This allows for little or no public oversight regarding what is taking place in our local government. And, like Waddell made clear in her letter, the only body capable of monitoring the conduct of the Fayetteville City Council is the City Council themselves. Yes. The fox is guarding the henhouse. No doubt this has made everyone's tempers short, and their nerves are on edge. This could be why Councilmembers Johnny Dawkins and Yvonne Kinston squared off at an Appointments Committee meeting.
Bad behavior has been rewarded for way too long: now it's time to pay the piper. We know there is currently an official complaint filed against Hawkins in the Superior Court. We have also recorded past corrupt, improper and questionable conduct by city staff and City Council members. (i.e. Ted Voorhees/Tyron Williams.) Now, Waddell has laid out at least a dozen accusations of mismanagement and misconduct directly at the feet of the City Council and all of Fayetteville. It is a bold and courageous move by a local official who refused to "go along to get along." It will be interesting to see how city officials react or if they react at all.
I would be remiss if I did not again point out that all of these issues stem from a lack of media or news journalism to provide oversight to ask hard questions. These events and actions evolved without transparency, following the same corrupt plan the Town of Spring Lake followed for over a decade before being taken over by the state for misuse and mismanagement of over $1.8 million of taxpayer's money. We cannot let that happen in our city.
A special thanks to Waddell, regardless of what her motives were. The Fayetteville City Council has now been confronted with serious allegations. The warning signs of corruption are obvious. Let's see how they handle it. Yes. It's time to peel back the onion, take action and hold people accountable.
Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.