The Fayetteville City Council voted 5-4 at a Monday night work session not to pursue an independent investigation into allegations made by a former councilwoman regarding Mayor Mitch Colvin and others.
Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Keefe Jensen and council members Johnny Dawkins, D.J. Haire, Larry Wright and Christopher Davis voted against an investigation.
Voting to move forward with the probe were Yvonne Kinston, Shakeyla Ingram, Antonio Jones and Courtney Banks-McLaughlin.
Following the work session, Colvin said he had no comment on the possibility of an investigation.
“I’m ready for the council to move on,” he said. “It’s nothing to be relieved about. There’s nothing there.”
When the agenda turned to the item that involved allegations made by former Councilwoman Tisha Waddell in her November resignation letter, Colvin recused himself and Jensen took charge of the meeting.
In her resignation letter, Waddell accused Colvin and others of a lack of transparency over Bernhard Capital Partners’ now-defunct bid to take over the city-owned Public Works Commission.
She also alleged that some council members may have improperly discussed a special use permit for a halfway house on Cain Road and questioned whether building permits were handled properly for a downtown property the mayor has a financial interest in.
Colvin has called the allegations baseless.
Overall, Waddell named a half-dozen members of the City Council in her letter, Jensen said.
Ingram noted how Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins had been investigated “on two different fronts” for alleged suspect conduct and violations of department policies. The Fayetteville Ethics Commission on Jan. 13 dismissed eight allegations police employees made against Hawkins that it had agreed to hear.
“We can’t say we investigated that one and not this one,” Ingram told the council.
“During my term,” Waddell said in her resignation letter, “I kept getting calls about a ‘private equity firm’ that may be looking into an arrangement with the City regarding the fund transfer dollars from PWC. Eventually, it came out that the Mayor had been in communication with BCP (Bernhard Capital Partners) without the involvement of the City Council and without direction to engage them.”
The latest request to look into the allegations came from the Fayetteville Audit Committee meeting on Jan. 27. Committee members discussed whether to investigate the allegations independently or recommend an investigation by an outside agency.
In November, the Audit Committee had recommended a motion with a 4-0 vote to have the City Council discuss the matter. But Kinston said Monday night that the discussion never reached the full council.
“The members present made a recommendation to move the decision to the City Council," Kinston said. "That request was not executed because it was prematurely withdrawn by Council member (Johnny) Dawkins ... At the next available meeting of the Audit and Finance Committee, it was added to the agenda.
“This item was not voted on by the council in December, disposed of or requested to be moved by the committee members,” Kinston said.
Kinston emphasized to fellow council members that it was not the fact that she was asking for an independent probe, but that the Audit and Finance Committee had requested it.
Dawkins is chairman of the Audit and Finance Committee, of which Kinston is a member.
Dawkins said Monday it was his recommendation during the committee meeting that the council have a discussion on the matter and maybe there would be some type of investigation to follow.
“There was not an audit vote by the committee” to investigate, Dawkins said.
Wright said several news agencies, which included CityView TODAY, had looked into the allegations and determined there was no corruption.
“The allegations that were made came out to be unwarranted,” he said. “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. There was transparency when it comes to those investigations.
“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,” Wright said before the vote. “I think we need to move forward and be about the people’s business.”
Soon after, the City Council took a consensus and voted not to pursue an investigation.
“I kind of knew the way it was going,” Kinston said after the work session. “I’m for transparency and following policy and procedures.”
Dawkins said afterward that the allegations could surface again should the attorney general investigate the mayor.
“This does not stop anybody,” Dawkins said of pursuing an external investigation. "This means the council is not going to spend any money to investigate the mayor.”
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.