Rocky Mount NC – It’s Time that We Get Some Real Answers About This Latest Audit

It’s Time that We Get Some Real Answers About This Latest Audit

State Auditor Beth Wood, in justifying why she launched her expensive, anticlimactic investigation into the goings on in Rocky Mount, said she was prompted to do so after being bombarded by citizen complaints about alleged improprieties. But I, along with a growing number of citizens across the region, are questioning Ms. Wood’s judgment and her motives.

No matter where you stand on the politics, citizen should be yelling at the top of their lungs demanding to know why there was such an egregious waste of taxpayers’ money and resources. To be clear, Ms. Wood authorized spending nearly a half-million dollars ($421,282.00) and a year’s worth of manpower hours (4,058 hours) to come to her most dramatic findings, that: 1.) A city councilman was able to evade $47,000 in utility bills; and 2.) City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney overspent her expense account to the tune of $500 a year for three years. Let that sink in, and forget for a moment that Ms. Wood’s alleged objective is to ensure governmental fiscal accountability.

Now, I ask every thoughtful, honest person to take a closer look at these charges. In the case of the councilman, whom Ms. Wood later identified as Andre Knight, there are several things that are quite troubling. Firstly, the North Carolina Utilities Commission as well as federal data privacy laws prohibit the release of personal information about utility account holders. Ms. Wood certainly knew that, because her audit never identified Mr. Knight by name. Yet, when she was interviewed by television and print reporters, she quickly threw the councilman’s name to the wind.

Since Mr. Knight has denied the charges, the public has a right to know what proof she has to the contrary and why she was not obliged to follow the law. Let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that reporters had gathered all of Rocky Mount’s utility bills and matched them to certain properties belonging to Mr. Knight. Those reporters would still have to determine whether all of the utility bills were his responsibility – and not that of a tenant or sub-tenant – during, in this particular case, the entire twenty (20)-year period. That’s right, the period in question traverses two decades!

Responding to the auditor, the city wrote, “The write-off amount the City reported … did not have supporting documentation in the form of printable billings that verified the total amount. A true or even proximate value could never be reconciled to the amount that was reported to the [auditor]. A total of $47,000 has never been substantiated by the City Staff or the [auditor] but was gleaned from a data dump performed by the City’s Finance Department. …In addition, many of the balances referenced by the [auditor] dating back to 1999 were much higher than normal residential accounts and defied logic as to how the calculations of those were made, much less confirmed. It is not clear whether the [auditor] investigated, when informed, that the account in question was subject to possible manipulation by unauthorized City staff for a good portion of the time that the write-offs covered.”

What’s even more disturbing is the auditor’s comment that, “Other City residents had to pay their bills timely to continue to receive services.” Thus, even if Mr. Knight’s bills had been written off, as she claims, her statement clearly suggests that Mr. Knight is the only person during this 20-year period who was given such a benefit. Is there anyone who believes this? Of course not. In fact, there were about $20 million in utility bills that were written off by the city during this same period. Why aren’t those names bantered about in public discourse?

Now, let’s delve into Ms. Wood’s other major finding, that Ms. Small-Toney lavished herself with lobster and shrimp dinners at the public’s expense. I have been outspoken about my belief that this audit –like the previous one that fizzled in a pool of racial animus – is an outright assault on the city’s Black leadership. First of all, it is absolutely outrageous to suggest that this city’s chief executive should’ve stuck to the cheap side of the menu. Who believes for a moment that the public outrage would be just as intense if it had gotten out that Mayor Sandy Roberson’s or a white city manager had chosen seafood over chicken or spaghetti? It harkens to the old racist trope of the “welfare queen” spending her food stamps on luxury dinners, instead of more modest fare.

Ms. Small-Toney provided receipts for a full $1,416.12 of the $1,575 in question, and she noted that the expenditures were for city staff dinners at conferences for the National League of Cities in Charlotte in 2017 ($858.62) and the ElectriCities in Ashville in 2018 ($557.50). A balance of $158 was unaccounted for. Sorry Ms. Woods, but this is hardly a finding that can be justified by such an expensive, yearlong investigation.

But Ms. Woods is not the only public figure whose motivation must be questioned. The mayor – yes, the same one who campaigned on his ability and desire to bring this racially fractured city together – has accelerated the longstanding attacks on the duly elected council majority and city manager, both of whom happen to be African American. He really revealed himself when he stepped up his political gamesmanship and asked Mr. Knight to resign. He knew that was throwing raw meat to an angry white contingency in this city who contend that Mr. Knight’s position on the City Council is in direct conflict with his role as the leader of the local chapter of the NAACP. (That white rage is clear to anyone paying attention to several local social media pages.) This is a telling indication of this city’s racial climate. The NAACP’s mission is to ensure that everyone, regardless of race, has an equal opportunity to succeed in society. And the truth is, that mission should be in perfect harmony with anyone seeking to hold a council seat or sit in the mayor’s seat. Many African Americans worked for Mr. Roberson’s campaign, sincerely believing he would live up to his promise.

I’m in agreement with State Rep. Shelly Willingham (D-Edgecombe), who in recent days is asking from accountability from the state auditor and the mayor. Like many residents, he is asking why such a minute sliver of the city’s population (less than 4 tenths of one percent) was able to trigger such an expensive, protracted investigation. We want to know:

· Who were the complainants?

· What is her proof against Councilman Knight, and how, with protections afforded by law, was the auditor able to publicize his name as the utility account holder?

· Was Knight the only account holder who received write-offs during that 20-year period, as she intimated in the audit?

· If not, why was that information on other account holders withheld?

· How many others received write-offs; what are their names; and for how much were the entitlements?

· Why did Ms. Small-Toney receive such notable mention in the audit report when she was not employed until 2017 and many of the allegations date back to 1999?

It’s no secret that the audit was triggered by the usual crowd of disgruntled citizens who can find no comfort in the progressive agenda for downtown Rocky Mount developed and supported by the current city administration and City Council.

To those detractors, I say stop attempting to do an end-around a local government that was elected by the residents of this city, and allow the will of the majority to move forward.

Ms. Woods, stop allowing yourself to be a puppet of the recalcitrant obstructionists in our city and work to regain your reputation as an impartial state auditor. And, Mr. Roberson, be a change-maker – that person you promised during your campaign – not the one plotting against those making our city better for everyone.

Curmilus Butch Dancy II 

Pinetops NC

Rocky Mount City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney Respond To Mayor Sandy Claus Roberson Directing City Police Sgt. R. Rogers To Deliver Special Meeting Notice To All Council Members

imageGreetings Mayor Roberson,

I am sure that you are aware that the Chief of Police reports directly to me, the City Manager.  Why then are you directing the Chief to be prepared for something that you have not spoken to me about?

What are you asking Chief Robinson to do? I am unclear on the role of the Chief if any, in “compelling” the attendance of members of Council to a meeting by taking them into custody.

I have read  Article I Section 34a of the Code of Ordinances on Quorums that speaks to taking members into custody and this section does not state who is to take Council members who are not attending a meeting into custody and where do they take them once they are in custody and for how long do they remain in custody?image

I am requesting that Jep provides legal guidance to me and the members of Council as to this process, and in particular that the direction of the Police Chief is vested in the City Manager per the Code of Ordinances Chapter IV Police Department Section 140 a,b,c and d.

What role then does the Police Chief play in this and why are you reaching out to him directly?

As you will note below according to Clerk Casey, Council members Knight, Walker, Joyner and Miller thus far have informed that they will not be in attendance at the Thursday, Special Call Meeting and an alternative meeting date and time has been offered by one Council member and agreed upon by another.

I look forward to further direction from Mayor and Council and the City Attorney.

imageRochelle Small-Toney

The Political Agitator’s response: All I am asking is for everyone on both sides to allow the process to work itself out. There is a Regular Committee of the Whole Meeting and Regular City Council Meeting next Tuesday so again this validates that Mayor Sandy Claus Roberson is trying to use his political power to create division instead of the unity that he continues to lie about. How in the hell do you create unity by not allowing the process to work itself out? Folk y’all better wake the hell up because the only way to bring closure to this is to let the process work itself out. But that is not on the Ignant Racist Special Cs and Ignant Safe Negro Black Folk agenda.

Rocky Mount Special Cs Requested Audit To Be Done On Targeted Black Elected Officials Because They Want To Take Back The City

The Special Cs in Rocky Mount has been mad every since the city council became a Black Majority and then when more Blacks were put in leadership roles. Rocky Mount has a Black majority council, Black city manager, Black police chief, Black fire chief and Black department heads. But there are some Ignant Safe Black Folk who team up with the Special Cs as well.

Special Cs mission since 2003 has been to take back the city. Take back the city is actually talking about taking back the POWER!

So 213 complaints were filed against Black Elected Officials Rev. Andre Knight, Rev. Reuben Blackwell and Rochelle Small-Toney City Manager.

It is stated that, “In addition, several allegations outside of OSA’s authority were referred to the appropriate state agencies and legal authorities.” So I am going to see how the state agencies and legal authorities respond.

Why is the name of the council member not listed in the audit report? So why is Andre Knight name been attached to this? I am just asking because I don’t see it it the report but I have seen the Special Cs talk about this over the years. I have no proof so I can only go by what is in the report and what Knight says.

Who are the downtown managers?

I can tell who the city manager is.

KEY FINDINGS

• Multiple City officials prevented the Business Services Center from attempting to collect $47,704 in utility bills owed by a City council member.
• Multiple Downtown Development Managers failed to follow program guidelines resulting in $32,452 of uncollected loans and $28,000 of improperly awarded funds.
• The Engineering Division’s non-compliance with the City’s Code of Ordinances could cost the City $31,000.
• The City Manager failed to comply with the City’s travel policy resulting in $1,575 in unallowable travel expenses.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS
• The Business Services Center should be permitted to follow its Customer Service Policy without intervention from other City officials.
• The Assistant City Manager should enhance program oversight and monitoring activities to ensure recipients adhere to program guidelines.
• The Director of Engineering should ensure the City complies with its Code of Ordinances requirements regarding performance bonds and letters of credit.
• The City Manager should comply with the City’s established policies related to travel.

Key findings and recommendations are not inclusive of all findings and recommendations in the report.

Wow! This investigation required 4,058 hours at an approximate cost of $421,284.

I am so glad I can think, read and comprehend things for myself however I have no problem with asking questions when it is things that I do not understand.

I can only go by the facts presented before me in responding to the audit. How in the hell can someone accuse Andre Knight being the councilman when the audit does not name anyone?

What I see is findings from the City and the recommendations from the State Auditor’s office so if I am correct that is what happens findings and recommendations. I see where the City has put corrective actions in place.

Special Cs Keith Harris former Rocky Mount Fire Chief, Jerry Fisher who used to be on WHIG-TV Morning Show along with deceased Mark Bowling who attacked Knight daily years ago, Clint Williams formerly on WHIG-TV, Lige Daughtridge Rocky Mount Councilman & Founder Community Council, WHIG-TV, Robbie Davis Nash County Commissioners Chair, Fighting Crime, Tales of an Educated Debutante and the Special Cs that have attended the Rocky Mount City Council meetings trying to discredit these Black leaders. Oh somebody said the Feds were coming to lock up folk especially Keith Harris who took a photo that he was on Jones Street visiting Beth’s office. Definitely can’t leave out Lindell John Kay former Reporter Rocky Mount Telegram who was writing about the Black leaders almost daily after consulting with the Special Cs and making their voices heard. Lindell is now a Reporter for the Spring Hope Enterprise paper owned by the Wilson Daily Times.

It appears that Beth Woods is mad because the City released the response to the draft audit before they did. One would think that it was illegal for the City to put the audit out 1st but I do not believe it was illegal. She said no one has ever reported before the audit came out so does that make it illegal?

So why is the other millions of dollars in the audit not reported on such as folk living on the reservoir refusing to pay fees along with other write-offs? I understand there are others who have had payment arrangements but included.

I find it strange that the Nash County Republican Party is requesting the Edgecombe County Democratic Party to ask that Andre Knight and Reuben Blackwell to resign but why in the hell have they not asked that Senator Richard Burr Republican NC resign his post as it relates Burr’s alleged conflicts extend beyond his coronavirus-related stock trades. I don’t recall Edgecombe County Democratic Party asking them to ask Burr to resign.

I have been actively engaged in Rocky Mount Politics since the late 80’s before Blackwell was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Donald Armstrong who transitioned. Knight didn’t get elected until 2003.

I remember it so clearly that during a our group Common Ground meeting at a Caucasian church that a Caucasian member of our group said that the Caucasians said they were going to move out of the city limits.

Special Cs have been mad about the Event Center being located on the Edgecombe County side of Rocky Mount.

Knight sought to be elected to the council when he purchased the prestigious big house formerly owned by Wimberley Gregory house on Falls Road to make it an adult daycare center. The planning board voted against it. Knight was employed as the GED Teacher at Edgecombe Community College and he was given an evaluation twice in less than a year. I told him they were going to fire him because he was speaking out against the city and at that time he along with the NAACP spoke out against them becoming an All American City.

Knight later became the President of the Rocky Mount NAACP and that made the Special Cs even madder saying it was a conflict of interest for him to serve as a councilmember and be President of the NAACP.

I want to end by saying anybody that know me know that I call out Black, Caucasians and other folk. I am for justice no matter who it is for or against. I have no permanent friends no permanent enemies only permanent interest.

Read Entire Audit Report

5/15/2020
City of Rocky Mount

Follow me on my blog The DCN News Blog Online TV and you will be glad that you did.

Curmilus Butch Dancy II 

Pinetops, NC

Steak, lobster, credit and free utilities: Audit says Rocky Mount misused taxpayer funds

By Lindell J. Kay | lkay@wilsontimes.com | 252-265-8117

ROCKY MOUNT — A scathing state audit report released Friday paints a picture of officials who used City Hall as their personal ATM while bilking taxpayers of thousands of dollars.

The report issued by N.C. State Auditor Beth Wood includes information on a councilman with nearly $50,000 in unpaid utility bills, a city manager who ate lobster and steak on the city’s dime, a former mayor who owes $30,000 in subdivision engineering costs and another councilman’s organization that received inappropriate grant funding and didn’t repay loans.

Rocky Mount City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney failed to comply with city travel policies. Unallowable expenses included meals for city council members’ spouses with the costs for each meal far exceeding the allowable per diem rate. Specifically, Small-Toney used the city’s credit card to charge an average of $95.40 per person for one meal and $50.69 per person for the other meal instead of the allowable $21 per diem dinner rate. (Read more)

Small-Toney’s meal expenses targeted by audit

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A report by State Auditor Beth Wood and her team took City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney to task for spending taxpayer funds on unallowable travel expenses, including in an extravagant manner in instances.

The report, which was made public on Friday, said Small-Toney, who has been the city’s chief day-to-day operations officer since July 2017, disregarded established city policy regulating spending while traveling.

2 councilmen, city manager, former mayor implicated in Rocky Mount financial probe

By Lindell J. Kay | lkay@wilsontimes.com | 252-265-8117

ROCKY MOUNT — City officials tried to mislead the public with a press release about an investigation into City Hall’s finances, State Auditor Beth Wood said Thursday.

“The actual report will refute quite a bit of what’s in the city response,” Wood said. “Much of the information in their press release is inaccurate.”

Wood said city officials don’t have the authority to release confidential information from a draft audit report.

The city’s statement, released at noon Thursday, lists five findings in the report along with mitigating explanations.

The press release also fails to name any city officials involved in nonpayment of utility bills, loans and other apparent malfeasance.

“The real story will be released tomorrow,” Wood said Thursday afternoon. The report will be uploaded to the state auditor’s website at 10 a.m. Friday.

According to the press release, the city wrote off a councilman’s unpaid utility bills. (Read More)

I Love Me Some Rochelle Small-Toney City Manager Rocky Mount NC

I love a strong educated God fearing Black Woman. Rocky Mount City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney has not disappointed me although I had some doubts about how she would endure the lynching that she began to receive day one after the announcement of her hiring.

When Small-Toney came to Rocky Mount the Special Cs lynched her from the start. But because she is the strong educated God fearing Black Woman that she is, she has come in promoted and hired some strong qualified candidates. If you listen to the Special Cs you would think that she only hires Black folk. I dare anyone to check the record to see what is the make up of the city staff and report back.

I understand that the Special Cs on the Rocky Mount Concerned Citizens Facebook page are having a lynching time because of the announcement Small-Toney most recent promotion and hiring of 2 strong educated professional Black Women.

It is sad that over the years when Caucasians were in charge of running things in Rocky Mount it was no problem. But now since there has been qualified Blacks in leadership roles within the city and on the council, Special Cs are really showing how racist they can be.

My question to Rocky Mount citizens is what the fuss?

It is time for the Special Cs to end the lynching and to get onboard and stop their distractions. It is time to allow the leadership in Rocky Mount to do their jobs without having to deal with the racist rhetoric that has no merit. It is obviously clear that even the audit that the Special Cs pushed has found no fault.

I want to challenge the citizens of Rocky Mount to look at what is going on for yourself as it relates to the leadership of Rocky Mount how the city is progressing in spite of the past almost 2 years that there has been a lynching of Black Leadership. But if you look at the total picture you will see all of the leadership is working together for the better of all the citizens.

Thank you Rochelle Small-Toney for a job well done.