The Fayetteville Ethics Commission on Tuesday night officially upheld its decision to dismiss eight complaints that police employees had made against Police Chief Gina Hawkins.
The commission’s attorney, Bob Cogswell, released a one-sentence statement after the commission’s meeting. The statement was signed by commission Chairwoman Dymond Spain.
“The Ethics Commission concluded, on Jan. 13, 2022, that the complaint, based on the evidence presented on all of the allegations against Chief Hawkins, is dismissed,” the statement read.
In an email Wednesday, Cogswell told Mikael Gross, the Raleigh lawyer who filed the complaint on behalf of the police employees, that the complaint “was dismissed because there was no proof.”
Gross alleges that he provided evidence to support his clients’ claims, including pictures of emaciated police dogs and testimony from an officer who said she told Hawkins about the police dog trainers' abuse of animals, as well as Hawkins' admission under oath that she drove her city vehicle for personal use.
“I'm at a loss as to how they can say there was no proof therefore no findings,” Gross said Wednesday in an email to CityView TODAY. “Even to the extent that they feel there was insufficient evidence, they should have addressed each allegation, what evidence was presented, and how it failed to meet the standard.”
Hawkins has denied all of the allegations and in January accused Gross of spreading lies.
On Jan. 13, after three straight nights of hearing testimony, the Ethics Commission announced verbally that it was dismissing all eight of the complaints that it had agreed to hear. Under the commission’s bylaws, it had 30 days from that point “to issue and publish its decision to include findings, conclusions and recommendations.”
Gross maintains that while the commission provided a conclusion, it didn’t provide the findings, which he believes is a violation of the commission’s bylaws. Gross, who has pending lawsuits related to some of the same matters, said he is debating whether to fight the commission in court.
“I think it requires them to make findings based on the allegations,” Gross said about the bylaws. “As you can see Bob Cogswell basically said no proof no findings. I think the superior court would probably accept an appeal based on a lack of findings and a review of the evidence to determine whether or not the commission erred.”
Cogswell’s response: “There was no proof of the allegations to find.”
On Jan. 13, shortly after the commission agreed to dismiss all of the complaints against Hawkins, the police chief gave a short statement to CityView TODAY, including that Gross “did not provide one piece of evidence” that was factual.
“He has absolutely impacted my reputation,” Hawkins said as she left the commission meeting that night. “It’s not my reputation, it’s the community’s reputation. He presented nothing but lies.
“There are consequences for everything he did. He is an attorney that knows the law.”
The commission has given no reasons for dismissing the complaint, either on Jan. 13 or on Tuesday, when the dismissal was made official. The only reason offered has been from Cogswell, who said “there was no proof.”
The commission also dismissed another complaint without further comment Tuesday night. Cogswell declined to identify the nature of that complaint, who it was against and who filed it.
Hawkins maintains that Gross wrongfully – if not illegally – leaked evidence gathered from the employees who complained to the media. Gross contends that the evidence is a matter of public record.
CityView TODAY again asked for the minutes of the commission’s hearings on Jan. 11, 12 and 13, and was again denied. City officials say the minutes contain personnel records. CityView TODAY contends that the minutes are public records under state law and should be released.
Greg Barnes is an investigative reporter for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at email@example.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.