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Thursday, September 22, 2011

City Manager Ignores Potential Problems

Several months ago, Rodney Monroe gave an interview on WSOC TV saying he had spearheaded the security for the Million man march and two presidential inaugurations.  Extensive checking by citynewswatch has so far been unable provide independent confirmation of those suggestions.  Searching newspapers has turned up nothing as well.  Finding several older resumes/self-submitted intros by Monroe on Police Chief newsletters and on-line magazines in past years only yielded mention of his involvement with the Million Man March and a single Inaugural Event, in some capacity.  Somehow, that self-reported involvement has grown.
As Charlotte prepares for the upcoming DNC 2012 Convention, Mayor Foxx had expressed that he has great confidence in the Chief’s history of taking charge of security for these types of events.  But has Monroe been in charge as he said or is that confidence misplaced?  Or are the details just lost at this time? After the first mention of this possible issue September 2nd by citynewswatch, (read here) more recent expressions from Mayor Foxx in the Charlotte Observer no longer include mention of the Inaugurations.
Some clear, verifiable answers in several areas would be appropriate and reassuring directly from the Police Chief.
Many are still waiting and expecting release of the public records regarding all the money that has been pumped into the CMPD Blue Hornets baseball team—information Mayor Foxx, Curt Walton, and the City Council have so far inexplicably supported keeping secret for months. (see here)  Many are also waiting for answers about grant money expenditures and other financial issues within the department.

The same City Manager Walton started out the process on rough footing, knowing of “difficulties” with Monroe’s degree, and the known, reported previous problems with handling of Federal Grants when he was Police Chief in Macon, Georgia just before Richmond.
If they didn’t know about the Federal lawsuit from Monroe himself, they should have known from a background check—which we paid for.  Or they could have read it in the Charlotte Observer during the selection period.  Or they could have asked anyone in the last place he had worked.    

The issue now is that Charlotte officials continue to battle release of public documents regarding financial issues and the running of the police department.  They refuse to investigate issues of apparent bullying and intimidation for those attempting to illuminate potential problems in the
Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department. 

They have stated a refusal to investigate and their “full confidence” in Chief Monroe as a reason for ignoring issues brought to their attention—that is if any reply is given at all. 
And what was their response to these known issues during the interview process for Police Chief to begin with?

What type of oversight and controls are acceptable in personnel files when it comes to law enforcement in Charlotte?  Between what happened with Marcus Jackson, and Curt Walton’s admitted refusal to look at promotion practices in CMPD, it’s disconcerting…  And what about the financial files they STILL won’t release?

When Chief Monroe was in the finalists’ pool of three possible chiefs for Charlotte, there was information at that time of the Federal Lawsuit underway over misuse of federal funds administered as police chief in Macon Georgia.  Criminal charges were filed in the finance department, although they were dropped in favor of handling the issue with civil settlement. 

It was a Safe Schools Initiative Grant intended to serve at-risk youth in the community, but seems that much of the money didn’t go where it was supposed to, or for the types of items and work it was supposed to fund.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars were in contention out of a grant of approximately $1,000,000.

The Macon Telegraph has numerous articles on the subject of federal funds intended to go directly to help troubled and at-risk youth.  However, much of the money was allegedly used for unapproved purchases and to pay salaries for people, despite that it was not a permitted use.  Other money was just plain unaccounted for. Here are excerpts with references to the full articles:

Former mayor (Ellis)'s administration accused of misusing money, making false statements; civil penalties, payback of grants could reach $1M
(by Travis Fain and Matt Barnwell)

Former Macon Mayor Jack Ellis' … administration told the federal government that "the city had spent the funds in accordance with the terms of the grant."   

"All those certifications were false," the letter states.

Of the $900,000 the city received, about $350,000 was lost to "false claims being submitted to an agency of the United States," the letter states.

A councilman, and former attorney, said his interpretation of Wood's letter is that the Justice Department has the ability to seek the full amount under the law but is willing to negotiate "in an effort to get a quick resolution of the issue."

The article goes on to say Rodney Monroe headed the department while it administered the grant by doling out money to various church groups.

Tuesday, May. 06, 2008
Travis Fain, Matt Barnwell, and Jennifer Burk - Telegraph Staff Writers

Federal law allows the government to reclaim three times the amount owed, plus penalties, according to the letter. Reichert said he still is trying to gather information on the matter and does not know whether any criminal charges could be forthcoming.

But the program was operated by the police department under then-Police Chief Rodney Monroe, who left Macon to become chief of police in Richmond, Va.  Monroe did not return Telegraph calls Monday, and he has not returned Telegraph calls seeking comment about this grant and the subsequent investigations since he moved to Richmond.

He is now a finalist to be Charlotte, N.C.'s police chief, according to a report on the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Web site Monday.

Kelly High-Foster, a police department finance officer under Monroe, and Albert Stokes, who was the department's point man for the Safe Schools Initiative, also did not return calls Monday. Both Foster and Stokes went with Monroe to Richmond.

One final reference excerpt:
It seems Rodney has been practicing his game for a long time.

Macon Telegraph     July 27, 2008   Sec: A Ed: HOME P: 1  By Matt Barnwell

From time to time, former Macon Police Chief Rodney Monroe would grab a golf club and head to the basement of the City Hall annex to work on his short game.

Sometimes he made his shot. Sometimes he missed. Either way, it didn't matter too much because he had a good backdrop: On repeated occasions, the ball rebounded off boxes labeled "Safe Schools Grant."

Macon officials say they could have used these boxes --- stuffed with receipts and other financial documents --- to show federal investigators exactly how they spent the U.S. Department of Justice money.

But those boxes have now disappeared, say city attorneys who offer that detail of the chief's down time in a 22-page letter to U.S. Attorney Max Wood. And missing with them is crucial evidence that might counter Wood's accusation that $350,000 of the $1 million grant was not used properly.

It’s past time for Charlotte’s City Manager to open up the public records and be sure all the finances and operations are running the way they should be.  That is the purpose of the open records law.  Mayor Foxx and the City Council ought to be out front supporting that effort for public figures and public money.

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