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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Audit shows police deputy chief OK'd egregious overtime

Posted by on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 3:04 PM

An audit released this morning by the City of Durham revealed that a senior Durham Police Department official signed off on nearly $62,000 in overtime pay for one officer over just 11 months.

The audit found that Deputy Chief B.J. Council, a 31-year veteran of the Durham Police Department, approved the overtime payment of Alesha Robinson-Taylor, an officer who worked in an administrative position.

City Manager Tom Bonfield said in a press conference Wednesday that Council had submitted her retirement papers. Her retirement will begin Dec. 31, and beginning next week, she will be on personal leave for the remainder of the year, Bonfield said. Bonfield cited personnel privacy laws for not revealing the status of Robinson-Taylor. It is possible that criminal charges could be filed on Robinson-Taylor, Bonfield said, but that is the purview of Durham's district attorney.

"I want to take just a minute to publicly apologize to the citizens of Durham for this situation," Bonfield said. "I am personally embarrassed, but also I really am embarrassed for the Durham Police Department. ... When an incident happens like this, it unfortunately puts a cloud over all of the great work that they do."

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In Latest Chapel Hill Mayoral Twist, Wolff Calls on Czajkowski to Drop Out; Czajkowski Determined to Keep Campaign Issues Based

Posted by on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 3:00 PM

Chapel Hill mayoral hopeful Kevin Wolff is calling on competitor Matt Czajkowski to drop out of the race in a half-page ad in today's Chapel Hill News. Czajkowski isn't budging, but declined to fire back.

The 5A advertisement is a letter addressed to voters and asks them to, "keep Matt where he's at." Czajkowski, the lone moderate voice on the council, still has two years left in his term. 

Czajkowski did not want to respond to specific accusations.

"I've been saying from the very beginning of this campaign that as candidates, I at least believe that we have an obligation to focus on the challenges that we as Chapel Hill are facing," he said. "I'm determined to make this an issue based campaign."

The entire text of the ad can be found here at Wolff's Web site, which was unveiled as part of the advertisement. Wolff was coy when asked about creating a Web site by the Indy for a story that hit stands today. 

Wolff argues that Czajkowski has been ineffective in building allies and that citizens should elect him if they want to have two moderate voices working together.

The going rate for a half-page black-and-white political ad in The Chapel Hill News is $523.53

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NAACP Responds to Chapel Hill Police Charles Brown Report, Which Found No Wrongdoing

Posted by on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 9:12 PM

The local NAACP chapter has issued a response to an internal investigation by the Chapel Hill Police Department, which found officers had acting appropriately in detaining a black Chapel Hill barber because he looked similar to a suspect.

A statement from the chapter called the investigation " a strong argument for the immediate establishment of a Citizen Review Board." It also disputes key findings. You can read the full statement below:

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Chapel Hill Leaders Clear Officers in Charles Brown Complaint

Posted by on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 2:53 PM

Chapel Hill officials found no wrongdoing after investigating a complaint by Charles Brown, the black barber who was confused for another suspect and held by police.

After hearing a closed session report at last night's meeting, the Chapel Hill Town Council released a memorandum today saying that all officers involved should be exonerated.

"This investigation uncovered no evidence to support the claim by Mr. Brown that he was taunted by Chapel Hill Police Officers," it reads. "In all statements provided by officers, there was no indication that any of the officers mistreated Mr. Brown."

The full document, delivered by Chapel Hill Police Chief Brian Curran, may be found here.

Captain Jeff Clark, who completed the internal investigation, recommends that the department place cameras in all of its vehicles and develop a policy of creating written reports after taking anyone into investigative detention.

We'll bring you more details as they develop.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

A step in the green direction

Posted by on Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 4:59 PM

Patrons at the Durham County Library may have noticed a recent change -- the library has replaced the 15,000 plastic bags it uses each year with 2,000 sturdy navy blue reusable totes.

The tote bags may be checked out along with books, and may be renewed an unlimited number of times, said Gina Rozier, marketing and development manager. Customers seem to like them, she said. 

"They're going so well, I need to order more," she said. The totes cost $3,000, about the same for the annual supply of 15,000 plastic bags, Rozier said. But as the library reuses the totes over the next few years, the library hopes to see a cost savings. 

Losing a bag will result in a $5 fee for the card holder, and late fees also apply at the regular 25-cents-a-day rate, but because the bags can be renewed repeatedly, few cardholders are likely to incur fines, Rozier said.

Patrons without library cards won't be able to check one out, so they'll either have to bring a bag or apply for a card. But anyone struggling with an armful of books, CDs, DVDs and other materials will happily find the totes hold a lot more stuff, in addition to being better for the environment in the long haul.

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State audit alleges violations at N.C. Indian Cultural Center

Posted by on Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 12:18 PM

The N.C. Indian Cultural Center in Robeson County allegedly has violated its lease agreement with the state Department of Administration by failing to maintain adequate insurance coverage and by subleasing property without permission from the state.

A state auditor’s report released today notes that the center does not carry coverage for fire, builder’s risk (which would take care of losses related to vandalism) or workers’ compensation.

In addition, the cultural center subleased the property with Iron Bear Visions, a nonprofit group based in Pembroke, from 2004 to 2007, also in violation with the center’s agreement with the state.

Iron Bear Visions, according to filings with the N.C. Secretary of State, promotes social and recreational activities to children with an emphasis on substance abuse prevention.

Read the auditor's report here: ncindiancultualcenter1

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Disorder in the court: Triangle lawyers suspended, disbarred

Posted by on Fri, Sep 25, 2009 at 12:52 PM

One lawyer sexually harassed his employees. Others “misappropriated funds.” Yet another referred to herself as Madame Justice, even though she has not been a judge—although she has run for state Supreme Court and described a black Republican congressional candidate as a slave.

A cloudy Friday afternoon is an excellent time to peruse the N.C. State Bar’s recent disciplinary reports. Here are the bad actors in the Triangle, according to the bar’s Web site:

  • The Bar’s Disciplinary Hearing Committee suspended Robert Brown Jr. of Durham for five years for sexually harassing several employees when he was Durham County Public Defender. After serving three years of active suspension, Brown may petition to have the remaining two years stayed upon compliance with numerous conditions.
  • Benita W. Gibbs of Cary surrendered her law license and was disbarred by the State Bar Council. Gibbs misappropriated entrusted funds. Her specialty, according to several online law directories, was business and real estate law.
  • Durham lawyer David Curtis Smith surrendered his law license and was disbarred by the State Bar Council. Smith misappropriated entrusted funds. He was an administrative attorney, which means he helped clients comply with or challenge rules, regulations, and orders of local, state, and federal government departments.
  • Kenyann B. Stanford of Raleigh was suspended for five years. Stanford misappropriated money from and lied to her law partners. She worked in civil litigation and defense.
  • Rachel Lea Hunter of Cary was reprimanded by the DHC for referring to herself as "Madame Justice" on her campaign website after the Grievance Committee issued a Letter of Warning telling her that the reference was misleading and a Rule violation. On her Web site, Hunter defends her choice of titles, noting that “the N.C. Chief of Protocol might be surprised to learn how many others are using that name and not in any kind of judicial capacity. The gay male vampire freak in the United Kingdom, the creme de la femme in the United Kingdom (http://madame-justice.blogspot.com) and the female Pakistani prostitute are just a few."

Hunter ran for N.C. Supreme Court in 2004 and 2006. According to the Fayetteville Observer blog, She has tried running as a Republican (and accused her own party of corruption) and as a Democrat (and got disavowed after describing her black opponent a black Republican candidate for Congress as a slave).

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Durhamvoice.org debuts, serves northeast-central part of the city

Posted by on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 6:15 PM

Congrats to local teens in northeast-central Durham, who have launched an online publication, Durhamvoice.org, with help from UNC and N.C. Central University. The first edition was posted this week with stories about the Durham Police Department's Operation Bulls-Ey, Samuels and Sons Barbershop and the new Union Independent School, run by Union Baptist Church on North Roxboro and Corporation streets.

Expect a monthly print edition beginning in February 2010.

Here's the text of the press release:

The journalism programs at UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. Central University have partnered with Durham civic and church leaders, volunteers and residents to launch the Northeast Central Durham Community VOICE, a community news publication serving Northeast Central Durham.

The first edition went online Sept. 24 at durhamvoice.org with neighborhood news, information, photos, videos and features provided by NCCU and UNC journalism students and local teens mentored by students and faculty.

Jock Lauterer, director of the Carolina Community Media Project at the

UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is leading the effort

that began more than year ago as an idea from UNC Department of City and

Regional Planning students looking for ways to revitalize the 300-block

area known as "the bull's eye" to Durham police and community

development officials for its high incidence of crime.

Lauterer believes that strong community media help strengthen

communities by encouraging a vital civic life and a developing a

positive sense of place. VOICE will be published bi-weekly online

through November and will add a monthly 24-page tabloid print edition in

February 2010. The Daily Tar Heel, UNC's student newspaper, is covering

the costs of printing 2,000 copies monthly for the first year of

publication. VOICE will be distributed at neighborhood schools, churches

and businesses.

"We want to empower youth to create a single source for local news for

the Northeast Central Durham community," Lauterer said. "And we hope the

young people putting out the paper will develop the skills to use their

voices effectively in civic discussions while expanding their education

and career options."

VOICE recruited its youth staff primarily through a series of free,

on-site photography lessons taught at NECD's Salvation Army Boys’ and

Girls’ Club, Seesaw Studio and the Durham Inner-City Garden.

The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation provided early support with a $25,000

grant for computers, cameras and other equipment for the project.

Lauterer is negotiating space for a newsroom in the new Golden Belt

complex, and he is exploring partnership opportunities with the new

Union Independent School in the NECD neighborhood.

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Tech company to bring 397 jobs to Triangle

Posted by on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 5:09 PM

Gov. Bev Perdue announced today that a major tech company, EMC Corp., has plans to expand in the Triangle, bringing nearly 400 new, high-paying jobs to Durham and Wake counties - 292 jobs to Durham and 105 to Apex.

The jobs will have an average salary of more than $73,000 per year, not including benefits.

EMC Corp., a Massachusetts-based company specializing in data storage, security and management, could receive as much as $7.4 million during the next nine years through a Job Development Investment Grant from the state Economic Investment Committee. (Read the full details here.) The company already has a presence in Research Triangle Park and 900 employees in our state.

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Complaint filed against Cary's Jennifer Robinson

Posted by on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 3:47 PM

A Wake County voter has filed a complaint with the state board of elections regarding District A Cary Town Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson's campaign finance reports. Read the complaint here:

In his complaint, Van W. Kloempken formerly of DavisHighHouse.org , a citizens' group supporting Lori Bush, Robinson's challenger, raises questions about Robinson's seemingly feeble campaign finances--feeble, , until after the mandatory reporting period passes.

He uses the 2005 campaign as an example, when she reported that she received just $295 during the election cycle as of Sept. 1.Then after the mandatory reporting period, she raised more than $16,000. Kloempken alleges Robinson, a Republican, either accepted donations and held them until after the reporting deadline passed or her backers were told to wait until after the deadline to write checks. He contends that the delay helped Robinson, in that it kept the public from knowing her who backers are.

In an interview with the Indy, Robinson vigorously denied withholding financial information until after the reporting period. "To say they were held or manipulated to deceive people is completely false," Robinson said. "The way I run my campaign is I raise only what I need. I determine what my expenses are and I shoot out an e-mail saying, 'I have these expenses to pay.'"

As for her contributions from developers, Robinson said, "No contribution would influence me to make a decision."

In this election, Robinson reported raising $1,450 as of Sept. 1. Her latest report is online on the Indy's election page.

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