The Political Agitator’s response: Thank you Rep. Willingham for responding to the audit and the Special Cs White Supremacy Movement. I have been actively engaged in Rocky Mount Politics and I know the whole truths behind all of this. This has nothing to do with audit findings and the recommendations because if it did Beth, Mayor Sandy Claus Roberson, Councilman Lige Daughtridge Community Council and other Special Cs would not be trying to use scare tactics.
The headlines in a recent edition of the Rocky Mount Telegram read “Local Leaders Lament the Results of the State Audit.” As a resident and NC State Representative who represents Rocky Mount, I consider myself a local leader; however, I was never contacted about the audit report. I too, am lamenting the audit report because it is supposed to be an independent, unbiased and professional assessment in the investigation of the City of Rocky Mount.
We are amidst a global pandemic, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 is impacting racial and ethnic minority groups at a disproportional rate than others. As of the census of 2010, the racial makeup of the City of Rocky Mount was 61.3% African American, 32.4% White, 0.6% Native American, 1.0% Asian, and 1.6% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 3.7% of the population.
Now more than ever before, it is important that elected officials and government staff continue to work with all stakeholders in addressing the coronavirus crisis, by continuing every measure possible to ensure the well-being and safety of all citizens. Instead, after State Auditor Beth A. Wood put out her Investigative Report on the City of Rocky Mount, citizens are focusing on and have a number of questions as to why two black elected officials and a black female City Manager are being attacked, without merit.
One of the primary concerns is the possible collusion between Wood and City of Rocky Mount Mayor Sandy Roberson, who according to an on-line article posted by WRAL on May 15, 2020, “Roberson and Wood are meeting on Monday…” Also, on the same day, without validating, Roberson issued a press release misguiding the public by saying:
1) “There exists a tremendous mistrust of the City government by a large segment of our population that complained at levels to generate a State Audit.
2) The City has failed to provide adequate internal audit processes that would allow it to defend its position with confidence and factual evidence.
3) Governance in Rocky Mount has far too long dealt in a perceived secrecy and behind closed doors process.”
This in turn, raised additional questions. In the spirit of full transparency, constituents want answers to the following:
▪ What complaints were made?
▪ Who are the 213 complainants identified in the Investigative Report (which represents approximately .39 % of the total population)?
▪ If the complaints made led to an audit and no arrest has been made, why is there ongoing discussions between Wood and Roberson?
▪ How were the individuals,’ disclosed in the document, names made public?
▪ Why was only one account holder who received write-offs investigated and not others?
▪ Who are the other account holders who received write-offs and what were their amounts?
▪ Why is the current City Manager being implicated when she was not employed until 2017 and many of the allegations date back to 1999?
There appears to be a pattern of individual assassination of black individuals’ character and a personal attack made on black leadership who were duly elected by the citizens and justifiably appointed by the City Council. The City agreed to and has already begun to implement recommendations of the Investigative Report. After reading the State Auditor’s Final Investigative Report, including the City’s Response to the Auditor’s finding and the City of Rocky Mount pre-audit press release, one can only ascertain that there is a single reason behind this audit – to attack and discredit people of color.
Economic progress and development is occurring at an unprecedented rate in Rocky Mount. All sectors of our City are growing and prospering, even in a COVID-19 pandemic environment. While persisting inequities and disparities cannot be changed in a few years, downtown is seeing more diverse small businesses open, on both Edgecombe and Nash sides of Rocky Mount. Life is being brought back to buildings built in the late 1800s and early 1900s that have not been fully operational since the 1960s. Retail sales are up double digits in Edgecombe County and east Rocky Mount. New and renovated housing developments are evident throughout the entire City. Private and public developers are investing in Downtown Rocky Mount and building new housing for all citizens to enjoy. This is good news and much of the development is a result of collaboration with all people for the benefit of everyone in our entire region.
This audit process and report has been a major distraction from moving our City forward when people are contracting a disease that has killed tens of thousands of people in America and even more across the world. The Audit has been finalized and we would like the questions answered and request that the State Auditor’s Office bring a speedy end to their interference with Rocky Mount’s economic, social and political well-being. Further, we request that the $60 million hotel and parking garage development project be placed for consideration on the next Local Government Commission’s agenda so that we can continue to grow our City.
As a member of The House State and Local Government Committee, I will seek advice on my concerns about the State Auditor’s Office might be addressed.