The Fayetteville Ethics Commission met for a second straight night Wednesday to consider eight allegations police employees have made against Police Chief Gina Hawkins.
The commission met for about 3 ½ hours in another closed-door hearing in a room at City Hall before announcing publicly that it would extend the hearing to a third consecutive day, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The commission, which is an advisory board, has not announced whether it has made any recommendations. Hawkins denies all of the allegations.
Hawkins was among those who testified at the hearing on Wednesday. As she left City Hall about 9:30 p.m, she said, “You know I can’t comment” and “you know I follow the law.”
Former Fayetteville police Officer Dianne Bettis, who is among those who filed a complaint against Hawkins, left the building about a half hour before the chief.
Bettis, now a staff sergeant with the Hoke County Sheriff’s Department, said she testified that she was removed from the police K-9 unit because she and another dog handler refused to “starve our dogs,” which she said would have been the result had they followed the K-9 trainer’s orders. She also said the trainer told members of the unit to wear leashes around their necks as part of the training, which is among the eight allegations listed in the complaint.
Bettis, who had been with the Police Department for more than 24 years, alleged that Hawkins knew what was happening and “basically just shrugged it off.”
“I hope she gets released from her position and that the trainer never comes back,” Bettis said. “That’s all I want. She needs to be held responsible for her actions.”
City officials again refused to allow anyone into City Hall unless they were on an approved list. Officials have cited building renovations and COVID protocol as the reasons for not allowing public admittance.
As was the case Tuesday, the Ethics Commission met briefly in open session before announcing that it would go into executive session. The brief open parts of the hearing were broadcast live on Zoom.
Raleigh lawyer Mikeal Gross filed 14 allegations against Hawkins on behalf of the police employees. The commission agreed to hear eight of them.
In her required response to the allegations, Hawkins called them “extremely slanderous to my personal integrity.”
The allegations include:
In her response, Hawkins addressed each of the allegations, calling them false or untrue, or saying she had no knowledge of them.
Concerning the allegation that she fired police officers for using city property for personal use, Hawkins said she has “terminated employees for lying,” including those Gross has represented.
She said the allegation that she had her personal dog trained by the department’s K-9 trainer has been investigated internally. She also said she had no knowledge of the K-9 trainer placing choke collars on Fayetteville K-9 officers. She called the allegation false.
Hawkins said that she never hired the K-9 trainer as a police officer and that her expectations of the trainer riding with K-9 officers was to assist with field training. She said any police stops during that time were made by police officers.
“I would never condone anyone who is not certified to conduct illegal police stops,” Hawkins said in her response.
She called the allegation that she had on-duty officers search for her dog false, and wrote that, to her knowledge, no call was removed from the dispatch system. She said she had called the communications systems supervisor that day to see if anyone had reported a lost dog.
“I never requested assistance or asked for officers to respond,” Hawkins wrote.
The City Council appoints the five-member Ethics Commission, an advisory board that investigates alleged violations of the city’s ethics policy and reports its findings to the council.
The commission is made up of one member of the Cumberland County Bar Association, one from the Sandhills Chapter of Certified Public Accountants, one from a college or university and two from the public at large. The board meets “as needed.”
Current board members are Dale Knowles, Tracey Henderson, Dr. Stephen Rochman, Thomas Donnelly Jr. and Chairman Dymond Spain.
In the City Hall parking lot before the hearings began, Gross said he wasn’t sure when he would receive a copy of the Ethics Commission’s recommendations, if they decide to make any. The commission is an advisory board. It can make recommendations to the City Council or to the city manager, Gross said.
Greg Barnes is an investigative reporter for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.