City official scrambled to establish residency
BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Monday, February 11, 2019
City emails show a department head's recent mad dash to find a local residence after living in Virginia for a year.
City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney, who began her tenure in July 2017, hired her friend Landis Faulcon at a $120,000 annual salary to head a newly created Community and Business Development Department.
Faulcon started in January 2018. A year later — despite city requirements — Faulcon still lived in Virginia Beach, Va.
Emails obtained by the Telegram via a public records request shed light on Faulcon's efforts to find local shelter. The Telegram submitted a public records request for emails to or from Faulcon about a house on Tarboro Street.
"I don't have any emails on that matter," Faulcon replied to city communications officials asking about the emails. After persistent questions from the Telegram, city officials conducted a server search and found Faulcon’s emails about the subject.
At 4:16 p.m. on Dec. 31, Faulcon sent an email with the subject line "1145 Tarboro Street" to City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney and Assistant City Manager Natasha Hampton-Clayton.
"My Rocky Mount home," Faulcon told Small-Toney and Hampton-Clayton.
That house is owned by Kevin Harris, who works for Faulcon as the business development manager in the Community and Business Development Department.
Attached to the email is a template lease between Harris and Faulcon for 1145 Tarboro St. for $700 a month.
Either Small-Toney or Hampton-Clayton told Faulcon she couldn't rent from a subordinate, according to an employee privy to the email chain.
Using her city email account on Jan. 22, Faulcon sent the residency information to an attorney in Virginia.
"This is the property I was prepared to lease beginning the first week of January," Faulcon told Don Scott of the Scott Law Firm, which offers help with employee contracts and discrimination, according to the firm's website.
The Telegram asked city officials: “Dr. Faulcon consulted with a Virginia-based employment lawyer via her city email. Is it standard practice?”
"This is not related to city business, and therefore we will not be able to provide any additional information," was the answer.
The Telegram requested a copy of their responses last week and was told the emails wouldn't be provided until this week.
When Faulcon couldn't rent from Harris — and as public scrutiny increased over her residency — she had him set up a deal to rent a house across the street from his rental house at 1136 Tarboro St.
At 12:47 p.m. on Jan. 25, Harris emailed Faulcon with the subject line "1136 Tarboro St."
In the email, Harris states he "Marked up old lease." Attached to the email is the same lease for 1145 Tarboro St. That information had been whited-out with information on 1136 Tarboro St. written over it for $650 a month on a month-to-month basis.
The house is owned by St. Mark A.M.E. Church, pastored by Robert Yarbrough.
"Sent to Pastor for review and hopefully signature," Harris states in the email to Faulcon. "Can you use this?"
Messages left at the church office seeking comment weren't returned.
After visiting 1136 Tarboro St. last week, the Telegram emailed to city officials to ask: “Does Dr. Faulcon contend that the empty house at 1136 Tarboro St. is her local legal residence?”
"Yes, that is correct," was the answer.
Faulcon's Acura RDX, which has had Virginia tags for the past year, now has North Carolina plates.
Other than an apparent attempt to skirt the requirement that city department heads live within the corporate limits of Rocky Mount, such distractions appear to detract from city business.
While Faulcon and Harris were trying to secure a residency for her in Rocky Mount, they apparently weren't preparing for a Thursday meeting of the Central City Revitalization Panel that was filled with frustrated downtown business owners and investors.
Panel Chairman Garland Jones told Harris that talking to him was like looking into the blank screen of a broken cellphone.
Panel member Tarrick Pittman told Faulcon that she hasn't done anything in a year.
During Faulcon's tenure, downtown development has come to a screeching halt. In one instance, city taxpayers had to cover a $182,000 mistake and grant paperwork for a hotel project has sat unsigned on her desk since October.
Faulcon previously worked with Small-Toney in Savannah, Ga., where they drew the ire of the city council there for high-dollar contractor payouts.
Rocky Mount is under the microscope of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development due to Faulcon's reputation of mismanagement elsewhere, including Norlfolk, Va., where HUD questioned her reporting practices.