Local News

Fayetteville City Council Votes in Favor of 'Ticketgate' Probe

Posted November 14, 2007 12:40 a.m. EST
Updated January 10, 2008 5:32 p.m. EST

— The mayor and city manager of Fayetteville appeared before the public Tuesday night to answer questions about how they handled a traffic ticket.

Mayor Tony Chavonne and City Manager Dale Iman stand accused of giving special treatment to the wife of a former Fort Bragg commander.

The Oct. 25 accident at the intersection of Stoney Point and Gillis Hill roads involved three cars. Officer Jennifer Rodriguez, of the Fayetteville Police Department, cited Diana Knight for running a red light.

Knight's husband, Gary Knight, the deputy garrison commander at Fort Bragg before he retired, called Chavonne that evening to complain, saying he thought police were rushing to judgment. After Chavonne and Iman visited Diana Knight in Cape Fear Valley Medical Center – she was injured in the accident – the ticket was voided and police reopened the investigation.

Another driver, Jamell Rashad Jones, 21, was later charged with running the red light.

At a City Council meeting Tuesday night, Iman said "given the circumstances, I feel my actions were completely appropriate." He said Rodriguez told him there were conflicting accounts of who was at fault in the accident.

"Had I walked in there and Officer Rodriguez said, 'I interviewed the witnesses. There were no conflicting statements. They all stated that Mrs. Knight ran the red light', I would have turned around and walked out there, and said, 'Mr. Knight, your wife is going to get a ticket,'" Iman said.

Chavonne stood by his claim that he did not offer Iman any guidance with regards to the ticket.

"Mr. Iman and I did not discuss any details of the complaint. I did not instruct Mr. Iman to go to the hospital. I did not give Mr. Iman any guidance on the situation. I did not go to any traffic accident scene," Chavonne said.

The City Council voted to have an independent agency investigate the incident that has become known as "Ticketgate."

"I think there was real poor judgment used here," Fayetteville City Councilwoman Lois Kirby said.

“When you are in a position where everybody you talk to, from the patrolman up, is your subordinate, everything you say is official to them,” resident Leslie Griffith said. “You’re not just some average citizen out there taking care of a friend. You are the mayor and city manager.”

Diana Knight did not attend the City Council meeting.

The city attorney will look into whether the State Bureau of Investigation should conduct the "Ticketgate" probe.