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Council taps Joyner to fill vacant seat

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The Rev. Richard Joyner

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Over the objection of several residents, the Rocky Mount City Council on Monday selected a replacement for the empty Ward 3 seat.

The Rev. Richard Joyner will soon join the City Council after a 4-2 vote during Monday's regularly-scheduled meeting.

Councilman Andre Knight said he was sick to his stomach at the process. Knight said Joyner was cheating during his interview by having a copy of the questions.

Councilwoman Lois Watkins made the motion to select Joyner, which was seconded by Councilman Tom Rogers.

Joyner said he will strongly support the residents of Ward 3.

"I will continue as a public servant," Joyner said, adding that he was “very involved” in renovating Clark Street and other projects in Ward 3.

Councilman Reuben Blackwell said he couldn't support Joyner for the office because it appears unethical that he moved into the ward just a few weeks ago and the decision seemed predetermined.

Blackwell said Joyner has given his life to help poor people, but he's been drawn into an unethical situation.

"I don't have to go with the crowd if the crowd isn't right," Blackwell said. "And this isn't right."

Knight said white people in power are trying to place an “Uncle Tom” on the council. He begged the people of Ward 3 to rise up and reject the vote.

The consternation on the council is really about a shift in power away from Knight and Blackwell, said a source within City Hall who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The Ward 3 replacement was the last item on the meeting agenda, but that didn't stop residents, who at the top of the meeting, presented scathing opinions of the council's predicted desicion.

The main complaints centered on Joyner's residency. He can't be sworn into office yet due to a voter registration snafu stemming from his move into the ward in mid-April. His voter registration won't catch up until next week.

There were five candidates for the seat, each of whom have lived in Ward 3 for several years.

Bronson Williams, one of the candidates, said Joyner isn't qualified to take the seat.

"If I tried to get a house or car, they wouldn't give me the keys until I was fully qualified," Williams said.

Gwen Wilkins, another candidate for the seat, said Joyner shouldn't even have been considered. She said she knew the decision already was made behind closed doors. She withdrew her name for consideration and left the meeting to the shock of the packed audience.

Nellene Richardson, another candidate, said she's disapponted in all of the politics involved. She said she will run for the office — and win — next year.

Ward 3 resident Samuel Battle said he is upset that an outsider from Tarboro has moved into the ward to take the seat. Battle said good candidates that really live in Ward 3 were overlooked.

"If you all make that decision and he can't be sworn in tonight, then you should all be fired," Battle said.

In answer to a question by Knight, City Attorney Jep Rose said Joyner couldn't be sworn in until after May 21.

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