City Hall probe nears end


Members of the Racial Justice Group staged a demonstration outside City Hall ahead of Monday's meeting of the Rocky Mount City Council. The group held signs and chanted about jobs and wages.


Staff Writer

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

An independent investigation into alleged malfeasance at City Hall is nearly complete with a report forthcoming, Mayor David Combs said during Monday’s City Council meeting.

To wrap up the inquiry, the law firm conducting the review needs to interview City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney, who has been unavailable for the past week due to a death in her family.

Combs also confirmed that the Office of the State Auditor is investigating City Hall as well. Combs said he spoke to state auditors last week.

During public comment, Rocky Mount Edgecombe Community Development Corp. President Joyce Dickens addressed an article in Sunday's Telegram about housing on Tarboro Street. Dickens said she didn't have insider knowledge about the project. She said she has a competing site — Crossing at 64 — and was aware of the Tarboro Street site via the site selection process.

Dickens said the article arranged selected details to make it appear as if the Community Development Corp. and even the state were involved in improprieties.

"RMECDC is both qualified and able to compete fairly and with integrity in the upcoming process for developing the Tarboro Street project," Dickens said. "Our 30-plus year history and continued commitment to the community should dictate our opportunities, not inadequate and inaccurate storytelling."

Lige Daughtridge, candidate for the Ward 5 council seat, took the three-minute comment period to make an official request for public records for documents between the city and Community Development Corp. Daughtridge also asked why the $100,000 Downtown Implementation Strategies Plan has been on the shelf for more than a year.

Councilwoman Lois Watkins said the plan was incomplete because it had no input from the community and now the council is waiting for staff to submit it.

A final draft of the plan was presented Oct. 23, 2017, to the council by Ratio, which created the plan, and former Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan Ford. The council pushed the decision until after community meetings were held with a goal of February 2018. The plan hasn't appeared for consideration since.

Resident Anna Lamb said the Telegram was editorializing news, presenting opinion as fact and attacking people of color.

Mayoral candidate Bronson Williams said the city's Development Services Department needs to cut red tape and fees and be more customer friendly.

Councilman Reuben Blackwell said people should be coming together to combat high unemployment and child hunger, not dividing Rocky Mount further.

Blackwell said there's always been a divide in Rocky Mount, just like in America.

Blackwell said no one has taken public comment time to thank the council for the DMV moving to Rocky Mount.

When Blackwell said that, Chamber President David Ferris, instrumental in the deal, got up from his seat and left the council chamber.