Log in Newsletter

The Kirby File: Resident wants ‘full disclosure’ on what led to ex-police chief grievances


Some city residents want to know why Mayor Mitch Colvin, Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Keefe Jensen and Fayetteville City Council members Malik Davis, D.J. Haire, Lynne Bissette Greene, Derrick Thompson, Brenda McNair and Courtney Banks-McLaughlin voted for City Manager Douglas Hewett to negotiate an out-of-court financial settlement with Gina Hawkins, the former city police chief, who threatened legal action via her Raleigh lawyer over what Hawkins described as a hostile working environment during her five and a half years as the city’s top cop. 

“It appears the former police chief will get the last laugh after retiring from the FPD,” Chuck Livingston writes in an email to City View Today. “200k is a lot of money for this city to lose at this time. I hope that the city leaders will be very transparent in providing the circumstances that led to this lawsuit. Citizens have a right to full disclosure of the facts. If not, maybe Chief Hawkins will share that information in great detail.” 

With the exception of Mayor Colvin, Councilman Derrick Thompson and Councilman D.J. Haire, council members told CityView Today their reasoning in our Dec. 13 column, most of them saying it was better than taking on Hawkins in court. A lot of caveats and conditions, Mr. Livingston, about any criticisms of both parties in the settlement. Some believe those eight council members bought the former chief’s bluff and folded like a cheap umbrella in a windstorm.


Truth is, Hawkins created some of that hostility beginning on May 30, 2020, when she directed officers to stand down as protesters and provocateurs rioted around the Market House in the wake of the George Floyd murder by a Minneapolis police officer. Other issues would include the Jan. 8, 2022, shooting death of 37-year-old Jason Walker by an off-duty Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy, where the deputy was not detained by city police officers at the shooting scene in west Fayetteville; ethical violations later in January of 2022 when a Wake County lawyer filed complaints against Hawkins on behalf of 13 police officers; and don’t forget the 2020 termination of Lisa Jane, who was coordinator of Operation Ceasefire that addresses gun trafficking, or the 2019 civil lawsuit when Michael Petti, as assistant police chief, was demoted to lieutenant. Hawkins may be right to say there was a hostile working environment in her second-floor office with a view of Segra Stadium. But the hostile working environment, some within the Police Department quietly whisper under their breath, reportedly cut both ways.


In defense of Hawkins, she always stood by her decision not to disperse police to the Market House protest, saying it was better to risk property than lives.


Among complaints Raleigh lawyer James Hairston Jr. wrote in his letter to the city on behalf of Hawkins is that Mayor Mitch Colvin continuously screamed at Hawkins during much of the civil unrest in 2022. If we all had a dollar for every time someone raised their voice at us, we’d all be rich.


Efrain “Freddie” de la Cruz lost both of his bids to become mayor of this city, and de la Cruz said in a 2022 Fayetteville NCAAP candidates’ forum that Hawkins’s decision about holding back city police at the Market House protest prompted his first run for the mayor’s gavel.

“I would have to hear the facts about her case,” the 61-year-old de la Cruz responded Thursday to how, if mayor, he would have voted regarding the Hawkins’ claims of a hostile working situation. “If the facts, in my mind, would have supported her case, I would have voted to settle. If the facts warranted explanation as to why she was treated how she claimed, I would have voted not to settle, and pursue the case in court.” 

Still, de la Cruz said, he disagreed with Hawkins’s decision to hold police officers back during the Market House protests.


Speaking of Freddie de la Cruz, he said Thursday that’s he’ll be filing for the N.C. Dist. House 44 seat against incumbent Rep. Charles Smith. And his wife, Venus de la Cruz, is filing for a seat on the Board of Cumberland County Commissioners. And, they did just that. Someone else, you may be surprised who could file today for commissioner. If he does, he’ll be a good commissioner. Stay tuned.


Suffice it to say that, in retrospect, city residents may not be applauding City Manager Douglas Hewett for hiring Hawkins on June 17, 2017, but you can’t say Hewett didn’t select the best in his decision to hire Toney Coleman as director of the Fayetteville Regional Airport.

“All I ever needed to do was nudge the steering wheel, and people like Patricia Campbell, Raymond Jordan Andre Walton, Deontae Watson and others, as well as the firefighters and police officers under my purview would take it from there,” Coleman, 67, told the City Council on Monday ahead of his retirement on Jan. 1. “Not only did I have great airport team members to work with, but the best airlines TSA (Transportation Security Administration), FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and FBO (Fixed-Based Operators) tenant managers in the world. I was also blessed during my tenure as airport director to have what I feel has been overwhelming support from City Council, city management and the Airport Commission. Without your support, it would have been impossible to move forward with terminal renovations and other capital improvement projects in the middle of a global pandemic.”

Coleman worked 27 years with the city airport, the last three as director. This city could not have asked for a better manager than Toney Coleman.


Mike Hill is taking his leave as chief of the Fayetteville Fire Department after 31 years of service with the city, five as chief.

“I’ll miss the people,” Hill, 51, says about his fellow firefighters. “Just the comradery and the brotherhood. I’ll still stay active. I’ll do some training and teaching.” He plans to continue supporting firefighting funding, working “summer camps with kids” and taking part in the department’s firefighter retirement ceremonies. Hill retires Jan. 1, with plans to do “a lot of fishing and hunting.”

Hill has 36 years in firefighting, including 16 years as chief of the Wade Volunteer Fire Department.


“Bill, wonderful column on Goldy’s final broadcast,” Drew Ziegler writes in an email about our Dec. 2 column on Jeff Goldberg, the 65-year-old voice of “Good Morning Fayetteville” for the past 18 years at WFNC 640 AM radio. “You hit all the right notes. I love the local radio hall of fame you listed. I actually know or remember most of them. Goldy will be missed. Will the station keep the show with a new host?” Goldberg’s final radio cast was Dec. 1. His successor is Bill Murphy.


To know Marty Sternlicht was to know one of the more complete and well-rounded men in this community.

“He would tell you things,” son Mark Sternlicht told those who came Sunday to Beth Israel Synagogue to remember Marty Sternlicht. “He showed you what to do. He told you what not to do. He was kind and interested in people and their families, their children and their spouses. Education was important to him. He was involved with the community at Kiwanis and he loved reading to children and giving them books. He was involved in the Cumberland Community Foundation. He was charitable.”

Marty Sternlicht was the kid from the Bronx and later called Fayetteville home from 1964 and for the ensuing 60 years. Martin William Sternlicht was 91 when he died Dec. 6.


“Mr. Kirby, thank you very much for your article about Janice Melton,” Lt. Col. (Ret.) Terry Williams of Garland writes in an email about our Nov. 18 column. “She was a wonderful lady that enjoyed riding through the countryside looking for deer and other animals. She wanted me to stop and help any animal we saw by the side of the highway. She really enjoyed eating a hamburger at Cain’s Grill in White Oak. She really enriched my life, and I loved her very much. I really miss her. Thanks, again, for your article.”

I know, Mr. Williams, how much you loved her, and she you. She was beautiful and elegant, with a heart for all. Janice Horner Melton was 77 when she died Nov. 1.


Another honor in the future of Col. (Ret.) Willie F. Wright, 86, who is scheduled for induction into the Liberty Ambassador program on Fort Liberty.

“We are so excited to honor Mr. Wright for all he has done and continues to do for our military community,” says Col. Mary Ricks, director of Public Affairs, XVIII Airborne Corps. Wright’s induction is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 9, 2024, at the Iron Mike Conference Center, 2858 Rock Merritt Ave., Fort Liberty.

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.