Local Politics

Raleigh council now facing third crisis in three months

Posted July 1, 2020 6:51 p.m. EDT
Updated July 2, 2020 12:04 p.m. EDT

— First came the coronavirus pandemic. Then the Black Lives Matter protests that became violent. Now, the Raleigh City Council is confronting allegations of sexual misconduct against a former member.

Saige Martin, who represented District D in southwest Raleigh on the council, resigned from his position Friday after four current or former North Carolina State University students accused him of sexual assault. Martin worked as a teaching assistant at the university before he was elected last fall.

"Friday was a very difficult day for all of us on the council. It was very emotional and really heartbreaking on so many fronts," Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said Wednesday. "Saige is a very intelligent young man who came on council with a lot of promise. Now, we have to move on to the next chapter."

The City Council began accepting applications for a new District D representative on Wednesday. The application period closes at 4 p.m. July 10, and council members could pick a successor at their July 14 meeting.

"Serving on City Council is difficult when times are good. Right now, times are tough," Baldwin said, citing the string of major issues now facing Raleigh.

"This is a moment in history where I feel like we are really shifting the way we do things and thinking about things differently, so it’s a really huge opportunity," she said. "Somebody said you could go through an entire career and not face one of these, and we are facing all of this in three months."

Noah Riley, a friend and advocate for Martin’s four accusers, called his resignation from the council "a good first step."

"It’s not like it was a one-time incident," said Riley, a recent N.C. State graduate. "I feel like it’s my duty as a friend of these victims to hold him accountable for his actions."

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the allegations against Martin. She said she hopes the accusers will cooperate with investigators.

"I think restorative justice is in the hands of the survivors in whatever they see fit, and if there is a criminal charge going forward and they want to pursue that, then I will support that," Riley said. "I also know that some of the survivors may not want to go forward. They are just happy that he stepped down and that this public knowledge now. Whatever the survivors want, I will support."

Baldwin said she and other city leaders also are trying to support the accusers, but her focus is moving Raleigh forward.

"I need to make the best decisions I can with my heart, with my gut and with data and lead us to where I’m going, and where I see us going is to a better community," she said. "The person who comes on board [from District D] will make an impact. We have a lot of work to do."

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