Local News

Citation Reinstated in 'Ticketgate' Controversy

Posted November 30, 2007 6:02 a.m. EST
Updated January 10, 2008 5:28 p.m. EST

— The Fayetteville City Council voted Friday to reinstate a traffic ticket that has sparked a political controversy in recent weeks.

The council also voted 7-3 to ask the state Attorney General's Office to investigate the actions of Mayor Tony Chavonne, City Manager Dale Iman and Police Chief Tom Bergamine in the case. Chavonne was one of the three who voted against it.

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 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.

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.

Diana Knight refused to sign the ticket when it was initially issued, Fayetteville Police Department attorney Tiffanie Snead told council members Friday, so the case should have gone through the court system.

But Snead said miscommunication between Bergamine and the investigating officer led to the ticket being voided.

"Unfortunately, Chief Bergamine didn't have that information (about Knight's refusal to sign the ticket)," she said. "It was his impression that, although the ticket had been written out, it had not been issued to Ms. Knight, (and) it was still in (the officer's) book. That's why he said, 'Just write void.' It's like writing a check."

But City Councilwoman Juanita Gonzalez said she doesn't believe that version of events.

"That's what the whole thing is about is the issuance of a ticket. So, to say that nobody knew there was a ticket issued is baloney to me," Gonzalez said.

The council voted 6-4 to reinstate the ticket. Chavonne was among those voting against the measure.

The City Council voted two weeks ago for an outside investigation of the accident and the issuance of the ticket, and Councilman Charles Evans pushed for the probe of Chavonne's and Iman's actions.

The State Bureau of Investigation and the state Highway Patrol have already declined to investigate the incident. The Attorney General's Office would review only the actions of the three officials in the case, if authorities agreed to do so.