An opinion piece in the Lincoln-Times News Public’s Business Belongs in Public they say this about violating public record law and the duty of city officials to be open and to follow the law:
North Carolina law and common sense regarding the function of a democratic society require that discussions by our elected officials, even the Lincolnton City Council, be conducted in open session.
A few exceptions — we would say too many — are allowed under North Carolina law. Even so, in no case do those exceptions ever include taking action in closed session. Yet the City Council erred twice in this regard during last week’s meeting.
Certain issues can be discussed in closed session. But statutes are clear in requiring that actions, even regarding matters that can be discussed away from the eyes and the ears of the people, be taken in open session for all to see. Board members must stand up and be counted. To do otherwise is an offense against the citizens who have a right to know what their government is up to, so that they can vote more intelligently.
The City Council acted inappropriately in voting on City Manager Jeff Emory’s contract during closed session, though it’s not clear that members had any improper intent. Regardless, we urge the city to redress this situation by issuing a statement to local news media explaining the breakdown of votes.
The second error in acting during closed session is far more serious because it also appears to be an effort to silence critics.
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The law requires that the members specify which exceptions to open meetings laws are being applied when they go into closed session. It’s not enough to close the meeting, saying they’re going to discuss Emory’s contract, and then do whatever else they want.
. . .
But whatever the council does, it needs to be done where everyone can see it. Let’s conduct the public’s business in public.
Charlotte has a problem with conducting the public’s business in public. If that weren’t the case, they would give records answering what the City and the CMPD are doing.
COUPLE MILLION DOLLARS OF MISSING POLICE CARSThe Mayor and Council members should be asking questions. Mayor Foxx was with the entire City Council on October 10th when Deputy Police Chief Katrina Graue stood before them and explained that they couldn’t find 50 brand new police cars. They proceeded to vote to approve another $5 million to buy more police cars, after Graue had finished explaining much of that money would go toward buying cars the Police Department didn’t want to buy.
If Graue was truthful about being unable to locate 50 police cars, that would be a huge security risk. Nobody seems to care, including City Manager Curt Walton and Police Chief Rodney Monroe. Monroe is charged with securing the city when Democrats and our President come to town in less than a year. At this point, the option that they are covering up where those cars really are would be preferable to “unaccounted for.” Based on history and information from other personnel, it seems more likely that those cars are being driven by people who shouldn’t be driving them. At the rates Graue stated, this would be about $1,000,000 base price for the cars (minimum) plus almost another million dollars or so to install police equipment.
PRIOR RELATIONSHIPS WITH VENDORSThis equipment would include a computer system that most patrol officers say isn’t useable or at least useful because it takes up to half an hour to boot up. So laptops in cars are primarily used for emails, checking warrants, and writing reports. The system was purchased after Chief Rodney Monroe spoke to City Council and explained that he believed the so-called predictive analysis would be the wave of the future and should be explored. He wanted to explore that as well as look for funding. But it turns out Monroe had already explored thoroughly in his last job. The contract for very complicated software to combine thirteen different data source systems and produce a utility for CMPD officers went to a company he did business with in Richmond, VA as Police Chief after only a few months of searching for vendors and processing RFP's. Monroe had a prior relationship with the contract winner.
The contract worth millions was given to Information Builders. Chief Monroe has participated in print ads, video promotions, and on-line promotions for this company—as CMPD Chief. He did the same as Richmond’s Police Chief, so there seems to be no viable reason he didn’t bring this up when he was asking Council for more of our money to go to a company he has done business with.
Again, Walton, Foxx, and City Council have done nothing publicly to investigate this troubling set of circumstances.
MONROE’S BACKGROUNDBack when he was planning to come here to be Police Chief, Monroe spokewith Tom Roussey.
Monroe says he believes strongly in not running a secretive police department. He wants to be transparent and build relationships with the public.
"The better you improve upon your ability to impart information, the greater your chances are of obtaining information," he explained.
But Monroe has used his staff (paid by Charlotte’s citizens) to insulate himself from answering questions and denied the public access to information that belongs to the public. And he continues to be supported in this by Walton and the rest.
Either Walton, Council, and the Mayor didn’t get our money’s worth on Monroe’s background check, or they knew everything and hired him anyway.
OFFICER MISCONDUCT, CRIMES, ANDSince then, the department has been in trouble for a long list of reasons, including hiring Marcus Jackson as police officer even though he had two prior restraining orders, one denoting he was not permitted to use a gun. He was retained as a police officer even though he had two reprimands for lying on reports. Some have asked whether Monroe intervened to keep him on the force. Monroe first stated he only knew about one disciplinary action. Then the documents showed up proving he had been notified of at least two, prior to his statement.
City taxpayers have had to pay millions already over the sexual assaults committed by this officer hired with a history of trouble against women. Jackson was convicted of his crimes, but got off with what many consider a light sentence for a uniformed police officer who tracked down susceptible people to assault, such as a teenager and Hispanic people whom he may have thought vulnerable.
RECORDS “LOST?”All of the bad information coming out of CMPD and the efforts to keep public information secret cause questions about what happened at the CMPD Training Academy. CMPD attorneys first denied, then partially admitted there was an investigation by the State agency within the Department of Justice to find out what happened to purportedly hundreds of officers’ records from the Academy. They have refused to say how many, but fingerprint cards, medical records, and other police records have been “discovered missing.” Monroe’s people and City politicians won’t tell when they were last known to be intact, either.
Monroe must be wishing all the records were “lost” before any number of lawsuits he has been named in.
In order to investigate his own department regarding this problem with missing police records, Monroe reportedly hired recently-retired CMPD officer Gary McFadden, his close associate for the job.
Everyone knows government agencies don’t have a good track record of investigating themselves. This should be done by personnel with NO association to Monroe or CMPD.
Again, City politicians seem to have zero interested in this security risk, this threat to officers’ certifications, and this display of incompetent record security.
TASER RECORDSFirst, the CMPD refused to explain the contract irregularities involved in the TASER deal.
Next, the $2 million worth of TASERS which were supposed to be “safer” because of a five-second time limit per shot were shipped to CMPD. The brand new TASERS don’t work properly, so they are still not being distributed. Deputy Chief Graue tried to put a good face on things, though, saying the new TASERS needed a “software upgrade” instead of admitting they don’t function as specified contract that came about with questionable timing.
City Council voted to approve the TASER purchase after TASER, Inc. threw a luncheon and all-day meeting for CMPD Brass to train them on legal issues, dealing with the press, and more.
Maybe they were preparing for this shipment of TASERS that doesn’t function properly.
TOTAL SUPPORTAll the while, Monroe has received unquestioned support from local politicos who often trumpet the drop in reported crime rates. This reported drop has happened since Monroe removed all public access to the real crime information and won’t reinstate it.