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Fayetteville Mayor Apologizes for 'Ticketgate'

Posted November 16, 2007
Updated January 10, 2008

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— Days after defending his actions in a ticket-fixing case, Mayor Tony Chavonne issued a public apology on Friday, saying the perception of wrongdoing damaged the public's trust in local government.

"The primary responsibility for the public trust rests on my desk as mayor. This trust was damaged in the handling of this matter, and that is my responsibility," Chavonne wrote in an e-mail sent to members of the Fayetteville City Council and published on the opinion page of The Fayetteville Observer. "I apologize to the citizens that took my actions to be wrong and to those that these actions may have caused mistrust in me or our city government."

Three cars were involved in an Oct. 25 wreck at the intersection of Stoney Point and Gillis Hill roads, and a Fayetteville police officer cited driver Diana Knight, who was injured in the wreck, for running a red light after receiving conflicting reports from witnesses.

Knight's husband, Gary Knight, who was deputy garrison commander at Fort Bragg before he retired, called Chavonne that evening to complain, saying he thought police were rushing to judgment. Police voided the ticket shortly after Chavonne and Fayetteville City Manager Dale Iman visited Diana Knight in the hospital.

Police later charged the driver of another car involved i the wreck, Jamell Rashad Jones, 21, with running the red light.

Local residents began calling the incident "Ticketgate," and the City Council unanimously agreed to call for an independent investigation of the matter.

Chavonne defended his actions Tuesday night during a City Council meeting at which area residents and council members criticized his involvement in the case. He said he followed city policy and never told Iman how to handle the situation.

The political firestorm over the case extended to Chavonne's vote against an effort by the council to censure him for his involvement in "Ticketgate."

By Friday, Chavonne said he had learned a lesson from the whole episode.

"I lost sight of the importance of the perceptions of my actions when faced with dealing with the accident and injury of a good friend. I did not fully consider that the actions I might take with a citizen could be viewed differently if they were for a friend," he wrote in his e-mail.

In an interview with WRAL, he said hindsight provided him a clearer view of where he went wrong.

"If there's one thing I were to do differently, I think in all probabability I would not have gone to the hospital to be with my friend and his wife in the emergency room," he said.

But he said he did nothing wrong in voting against the censure motion.

"It was my responsibility to vote, and I voted the way I feel it should have been voted, and I stand by that," he said, adding that he had no way of knowing the vote would end in a 5-5 tie, effectively killing it.

City Councilman Charles Evans said he had no issue with the mayor voting.

“I think if it was me, I probably would have voted as well,” Evans said, adding that he was "very proud" that Chavonne apologized.

Chavonne has asked Iman to review policies related to elected officials dealing with citizen complaints, especially those involving police investigations.

"When it's a police matter, is even going to the city manager the right policy? And that, the council has agreed to revisit, and we will," he said. “I think where we have the real risk would be if we started taking one phone call and handling it one way and taking another phone call and handling it a different way.”

City Councilwoman Lois Kirby called Chavonne's statement "a beautiful letter."

"I don't know why he waited so long, but I'm glad he did it," Kirby said. "I'm sure he knew he had to do some damage control."


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  • daisy Nov 18, 2007

    Sounds like the council is now going to coddle the mayor since he wrote that "beautiful" letter. A letter in which he tries to play to people's sympathy without admitting wrongdoing. Council people, you maybe easily fooled but the public isn’t. Or maybe the council people have their own agenda to forgive so quickly after such a nice letter. As far as the letter…It wasn't wrong to go to the hospital to visit an injured friend. Where it turned wrong was when he left the bedside to use his political power in a corrupt way to pressure the police in their investigation. That’s where these guys crossed the line. Then to vote in favor of himself, this was arrogance at its best. I hope the SBI gets involved and nails these guys to the wall. Fayetteville has come such a long way and deserves so much more than this.

  • Trublue in Wake County Nov 17, 2007

    As a former police officer for a Wake County agency and now an officer in a West Coast agency, if I were the officer's patrol supervisor, the first question I would have asked was "Rodriguez, why are you citing someone for an infraction that you were not there to witness when that infraction occurred?"

  • superman Nov 17, 2007

    The apology was certainly the right thing to do. However, Mr. Mayor you should have abstained with voting on the censure. Your made a big blunder and then you made it worse. Mr. Mayor -- you just need to go home. You have either poor judgment or no jugement and it just continues to get worse.

  • richard2 Nov 17, 2007

    Do as I say not as I do. I'm special and you aren't. Laws are for you to follow not me. Get the picture Mayor?

  • gnew46 Nov 16, 2007

    Police voided the ticket shortly after Chavonne and Fayetteville City Manager Dale Iman visited Diana Knight in the hospital.

    I am sorry that wreck occurred and regret that anyone got hurt. However, one has to wonder if it is City policy for the Mayor and City Manager to visit an accident victim together and subsequently have that person's ticket voided.

  • whatusay Nov 16, 2007

    holye...let the courts decide who was at fault. Even though a police officer makes a wrong charge it is not up to the Mayor and City Manager to decide who is at fault, it is up to the judge, and possibly a jury if a court hearing is required. Everyone makes mistakes, but sometimes pure stupidity and arrogance comes out (in this case).

  • hoyle Nov 16, 2007

    This is not the first time the Fayetteville City Police issued a wrong ticket charge in a traffic accident. Severvals years back I witnessed and was almost a part of an accident which occured on Ramsey Street. I told the officer very plainly that an individual from a side street pulled out in front of the vehicle in front of me,causing the lady to surve into the left land to avoid the car, the lady did not run a red light. Yet this lady received a ticket for running a "red light" which was green when she went under it. I know the light was green because I also went under the same green light. I did not know the lady received the ticket until her granddaughter contacted me and had me speak to her lawyer.

  • whatusay Nov 16, 2007

    Can we hold a mid-term election...and vote these clowns out of office. They are a joke and a disgrace to Cumberland County, or any county.

  • FE Nov 16, 2007

    Wow...totally shocking...a little political "tap-dance" around the law for a chosen few.

    The mayor now seems to be much more qualified to move up in the world and join his cronies in the state legislature in Raleigh. He would fit right in with those "What can I do for you today? - but first show me the $$$" civil servants. I seem to recall there already is a Fayetteville big-wig in the legislature who could probably show him the necessary ropes.

  • loudnoises Nov 16, 2007

    As is often said: "It is easier to ask forgiveness, than it is for permission"