There will be no sunshine on City Hall.
Not in this community when it comes to our mayor and other Fayetteville City Council members who have been under a cloud of suspicion since allegations were made regarding a now-defunct bid by a private equity firm to operate and manage the city-owned Public Works Commission.
Not when it comes to a proposed halfway house for minimal security federal inmates near established neighborhoods along Cain Road and not when it comes to allegations of special treatment of building permits for Mayor Mitch Colvin’s downtown business property on Hay Street.
Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Keefe Jensen and council members D.J. Haire, Johnny Dawkins, Chris Davis and Larry Wright saw to this municipal government’s solar eclipse Monday night during a council work session at the FAST Transit Center.
“The allegations that were made came out to be unwarranted,” Wright said of the allegations that former Councilwoman Tisha Waddell made in her November resignation letter to City Manager Doug Hewett, City Attorney Karen McDonald and her fellow council members. “You know, it’s important to know that these allegations, these unwarranted allegations, found out there was no corruption and they were done above board.”
Wright said there have been media investigations into Waddell’s charges. And no published report more detailed and exhaustive than the stories by Greg Barnes, the veteran investigative reporter for CityViewTODAY.
“There was transparency when it comes to those investigations,” Wright said. “For us, as a council, to come back and say, ‘Go further, spend more money,’ I feel at this time I can’t support it. It’s just like we’re chasing the rabbit down the hole for whatever reason. I think we need to move forward and be about the people’s business.”
Davis was right there with Wright.
“I’m ready to be done with this, move on and work for the people of Fayetteville,” Davis said. “This is just a distraction. Other media have done the research.”
Both councilmen are right that CityViewTODAY didn’t find corruption. But Barnes sure found a lack of candidness when it came to discussions and meetings with Bernhard Capital Partners out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Just like the company’s efforts to buy the city utility in Jacksonville, Florida, and where the Jacksonville City Council, unlike the Fayetteville City Council, did investigate and found “a purposeful lack of transparency” because Jacksonville officials knew it would not be well-received by residents in Duval County.
Let’s wrap it up
Jensen, the mayor pro tem, presided Monday after the mayor recused himself from participating in the vote.
Let’s wrap it up, Jensen said.
When Jenson, Haire, Dawkins, Davis and Wright prevailed over Yvonne Kinston, Shakeyla Ingram, Courtney Banks-McLaughlin and Antonio Jones, the Fayetteville Audit Commission’s request for a deeper look was at an end.
“I did the will of the Audit and Finance Commission,” Kinston said after the vote.
Ingram stood nearby.
“I’m highly disappointed,” she said.
As for the mayor, he was steadfast in what has been his position all along – baseless claims on the part of Waddell.
“I’m ready for the council to move on,” he told CityViewTODAY reporter Michael Futch. “It’s nothing to be relieved about. There’s nothing there.”
Waddell, 42, said late Monday she was not surprised by the vote.
“I’m disappointed on behalf of all of our citizens,” she said. “Our citizens want to know the truth. I don’t think the community is going to just accept that this board feels nothing has been done wrong. I think this community wants to see some answers. And it deserves some answers.”
Ingram stands with Waddell.
“Our police chief was investigated, which was pushed along by members of this board,” she said in trying to persuade Keefe, Haire, Dawkins, Davis and Wright before the vote. “We can’t say we’ll investigate this one, not this one. That’s concerning. We have to go answer to our citizens. Chief Hawkins took it on the chin and went through the process.”
Ingram’s plea fell on the deaf ears of five council members.
That’s a snug little group of council members who voted to turn deaf ears and blind eyes to what many city residents want to know but may never know. And there is irony in that all five were mentioned in Waddell’s resignation letter.
“The community should question the seeming allegiance to Mayor Colvin’s agenda,” Waddell wrote in November, “by Mayor Pro Tem Jensen, Councilman Haire, Councilman Dawkins, Councilman Davis and Councilman Wright.”
That wasn’t lost on Jensen.
“In her letter there were six of us she mentioned by name,” she said after the mayor recused himself. “So does that mean we all should recuse ourselves?”
None of them did.
For now, the mayor is off the hook, and too bad for Kinston, Ingram, Banks-McLaughlin, Jones, the Fayetteville Audit Commission and concerned city residents.
A mayor pro tem and four council members decided for all.
There’s no sunshine on City Hall these days because no matter Monday’s vote, City Hall continues to be shrouded in a hovering cloud of suspicion. And that, council, is the long and short of it.
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-624-1961.