Thank you all for serving on the Fayetteville Ethics Committee and doing your civic duty. We have proudly published the Up & Coming Weekly community newspaper for over 25 years and have never swayed from our mission and mandate to promote, accentuate and uplift the Fayetteville community while serving its residents. Those who know me personally know I am as passionate about this newspaper as the community. Consequently, I can be highly opinionated and sometimes brutally honest when it comes to the Fayetteville/Cumberland County community. Up & Coming Weekly has a reputation for always striving to be forthright and honest and never a purveyor of misinformation, gossip or drama. As a community publication, we aim to bring clarification, insight and opinion to policies, issues and matters affecting the local quality of life. Again, I love this community, and it saddens me to see our City's direction under its present leadership. This love of community is why I am writing this letter and voicing my opinion. I offer my advice and recommendations as the Ethics Committee moves forward in evaluating former City Council member Tisha Waddell's allegations of potential mismanagement and corruption, as stated in her November resignation letter.
My biggest concern is that you at the Ethics Commission may not have the full context as volunteers and Council-appointed members. You may not know what is happening at City Hall and who the people are making the decisions that raised Waddell's concerns and prompted her resignation. This lack of context could put the entire Commission at a significant disadvantage. The recently reversed and unanimous decision made by the City Council to send Waddell's allegations to the Ethics Commission has only increased citizens' suspicions that a cover-up is in the making. The reality is that the Council appoints the Ethics Committee. The assumption is that the Mayor and Council will not investigate themselves and intend to use members of the Ethics Committee as pawns to exonerate themselves and dismiss the allegations out of hand. Public opinion seems to echo that, if there is no substance to Waddell's claims of mismanagement and corruption, as the Council claims, then why not call for an independent external investigation and be done with it? If "there is nothing to see here," why not have a thorough external investigation? The Ethics Commission's previous decision to dismiss the eight charges against Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins has created even more mistrust and skepticism among citizens. It again confirmed that City Council would not investigate itself.
Most people would agree, "Where there is smoke, there's fire." We know every member of the Ethics Commission is an upstanding, law-abiding and honest community member. Still, the fact remains they are far removed from the realities of what is taking place in our city government. Undoubtedly, the Commission wants to do its best for the residents and the community. I ask that the Ethics Commission listen intently to all the concerns and allegations brought before you. If the circumstances warrant it, call for an independent external investigation of all allegations. Once the independent analysis is complete, the chips will fall where they may. If there is substance to some or all the complaints, they can be addressed individually. At least, once an independent investigation is conducted, it really will be over and done, and Fayetteville residents will be satisfied knowing that fairness and justice have prevailed. This external investigation is the only way the truth will ultimately come out, and confidence can be restored in our City government leadership.
Suppose the Commission finds no legitimacy to the Waddell allegations and dismisses the case like they did with Hawkins. In that case, I fear it will only cast dispersions on the Committee and cause more skepticism and mistrust among the Fayetteville residents proving the City Council will not investigate itself.
Calling for an external, independent investigation into Waddell's allegations is the only way to put these issues behind us and restore citizens' confidence and trust in the integrity of the City government and the Ethics Commission process.
There is much to learn from talking to residents out in the community. The unsolicited comments from city residents, city employees, downtown businesses, Fayetteville police officers and first responders speak of significant concerns with city leadership as well as concerns over escalating homicide and crime rates, the suspicious dealings surrounding the Prince Charles project and the parking deck fiasco, the halfway house Dismiss Project on Cain Rd. and the Barnhard Capital Partner's clandestine bid for Public Works Commission.
Again, I thank you for your service to our City and community. I write this as a friend and concerned citizen. You are not obligated to heed any of the advice. However, keep in mind that the City of Fayetteville today is nothing like when most of us started building our businesses and raising our families. We must do everything possible to maintain the integrity of our local government for the sake of those who will come after us.
A call for an independent external investigation will assure this.
Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.