Local News

'Ticketgate' Controversy Lingers

Posted November 27, 2007 7:16 p.m. EST
Updated January 10, 2008 5:32 p.m. EST

— Voters won't let go of a ticket controversy that put the mayor and city manager on the hot seat for weeks, but some local officials said Tuesday that it's time to move on.

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 Mayor Tony 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.

The City Council voted two weeks ago to conduct an independent investigation of the incident, which local residents have dubbed "Ticketgate."

Iman explained his actions at a recent City Council meeting. Chavonne said he followed city policies in the incident, but he later issued a public apology for misjudging public perceptions of his involvement.

City Councilman Charles Evans said Tuesday that he would like Fayetteville to move past "Ticketgate," but his constituents don't want to let the matter slide.

"I don't think it's going to die," Evans said. "This is a matter that they want to see done right, and as their councilman, I want to see it done right."

At a Monday night council meeting, Evans tried to seek a broader investigation that would examine the conduct of Chavonne and Iman.

Council members Juanita Gonzalez, Paul Williams, D.J. Haire, Lois Kirby and Curtis Worthy backed the effort, but it fell short of the required number of votes. Chavonne joined council members Keith Bates, Robert Massey and Wesley Meredith in opposing the measure.

"When I found out how serious it was to our citizens, it had to be done, regardless of what time it had to be done," Evans said.

He said he might try to put the issue on the agenda again, but he might again lack the necessary votes. Gonzalez, Williams, Kirby and Worthy will be replaced by newly elected members next month.

It's also unclear whether the independent investigation of the wreck will occur.

The State Bureau of Investigation and the state Highway Patrol have declined to handle the matter.

“At this point, it appears that no outside law enforcement agency is willing to conduct the investigation," City Attorney Karen McDonald wrote in a memo Tuesday to Chavonne and council members. "It appears your options would be to allow this matter to continue through the court system or retain someone to conduct the investigation.”

The council wanted the SBI or Highway Patrol to do the inquiry so the city wouldn’t have to pay and could avoid the appearance that  the payment influenced the results.