Durham Police Officer Alesha Robinson-Taylor was fired Wednesday, the City of Durham announced this morning.
A recent audit found that Robinson-Taylor, who worked in an administrative job managing towing issues, ABC liquor permits and tracking the off-duty work of Durham officers, took home more than $62,000 worth of overtime from September 2008 to September 2009. Robinson-Taylor also earned a base salary of more than $52,000, and had worked with the police department for 12 years as a patrol officer and investigator.
Robinson-Taylor has been on administrative leave with pay since the audit report was released on Sept. 30.
The audit was initiated at the beginning of last month by City Manager Tom Bonfield, and also found that Deputy Chief Beverly "B.J." Council had signed off on nearly all of the overtime Robinson-Taylor claimed, and that Police Chief Jose Lopez also learned of the excessive overtime in April. From the time Lopez was first notified, to the time Bonfield initiated an audit after an anonymous tip, Robinson-Taylor took home more than $24,000 of the overtime money. >> Read more details
As reported in our article and graphic last week, Council submitted her retirement papers with the release of the audit. She is on personal leave until her retirement kicks in at the end of December. Council, 52, spent her career climbing the ranks of the department, starting in street patrol. She has worked as an investigator, has managed an entire police district and finished her career overseeing operations. She is eligible for full retirement benefits, which includes city group health insurance for the next 13 years.
Matt Czajkowski has raised more than $21,000, triggering rescue funds for voter-owned candidate Mark Kleinschmidt. Czajkowski filed his 24-hour special report Friday, stating that he has accumulated $23,629.50 in private contributions. Among them are real estate leaders, developers and university professors.
Czajkowski's sum means Kleinschmidt can claim an additional $4,000 in public financing on top of the $9,000 he's earned already by gaining $4,505 from individuals and a political committee, according to his September report.
Competitor Augustus Cho's latest report, filed Friday, shows only one private contribution for $200 from his treasurer. He's loaned himself $547.50 for the campaign. Kevin Wolff's most recent filing shows $10,210 raised including a $10,000 loan to himself.
A member of the Durham Planning Commission, a citizen board that advises city and county leaders, sent a letter late last night resigning her post. LaDawnna Summers, whose term was set to expire next June, sent the letter to the City Council, County Commissioners, fellow Commission members and Steve Medlin, planning director.
Summers cited two controversial cases on which city and county leaders went against the Planning Commission's recommendations -- Brightleaf Commons, a shopping center planned for U.S. 70 near Falls Lake, and the rezoning of Jordan Lake's protective boundaries, which the county approved Monday.
In both cases, the 12-member Planning Commission recommended that elected officials deny the rezoning.
From Summers' letter:
Cases like these create a tremendous financial burden which the tax payers will have to fund in order to clean up the environmental impact. Further, our neighboring counties rely upon these drinking water sources, as will our children one day soon. We are stewards of the land and water, and these are precious resources. In light of these cases, it has become clear to me that our development process is broken in Durham. This process resulted in an outcome which did not serve the people of Durham, and disregarded the wellbeing of our neighboring counties. I feel strongly that I can no longer be a part of this process, and so I am resigning from the Planning Commission.
In case any portion of the four percent of Durham's voters who turned out for the municipal primaries was holding its breath … it's official: Matt Drew finished in second place in the Ward II primaries, meaning that he'll face off against incumbent -- and 26-year-veteran -- Howard Clement in the Nov. 3 general election.
The Durham County Board of Elections posted its official results this morning. Most of the votes were counted a week ago and Drew was in second place, separated from third-place finisher Sylvester Williams by 91 votes. But there were still about 100 provisional ballots left to count.
The 109 provisional ballots submitted narrowed the margin between Drew and Williams even further, to a mere 80 votes. A skinny margin, but a clear win.
Orange County Commissioner Mike Nelson will not run for re-election next spring. The former Carrboro mayor is completing his first term on the county board, having been elected in 2006.
In a post on his blog, he says he's making his intentions known now to give others a chance to ready their campaigns.
Candidates can organize a special interest group to start a campaign at any time, but the filing period for this office begins Feb. 8 and runs through Feb. 26.
Nelson previously had filed to run for N.C. General Assembly in 2007 and withdrew with Ellie Kinnaird decided to run to keep her seat, but he says he doesn't have his eyes on any office now.
"There's nothing on the horizon that I know of as of today," he said. "My plans are just to play more bridge, read more books and spend more time with family and friends."
In addition to Nelson's seat, the terms of longtime commissioners Alice Gordon and Barry Jacobs expire next year. Neither has said if they plan to run again.
Prior to serving as a commissioner, Nelson was the first openly gay mayor of a North Carolina municipality and served five terms in Carrboro.
He says he wants to address the need for a county library in Carrboro before he leaves office.
"That's been on the agenda for really 15 years, and it's time to bring that issue home," he said.
He hopes people remember his work on social justice and making county government more transparent.
Durham's Board of County Commissioners voted 3 to 2 Monday night to move a protected area around Jordan Lake on county maps, opening the door for a dense development being drafted for 164 acres in the southwest part of the county. Commissioners Ellen Reckhow and Becky Heron cast the opposing votes.
Though the vote approved just the zoning of Jordan Lake's protective buffer -- not an actual development plan -- the change cleared a major hurdle for the much-contested development, 751 Assemblage, which would contain 1,300 residences and 600,000 square feet of office and retail space. (Read more about the proposed development and its history here.) Monday night's change takes the land to be developed from protected and virtually unable to be developed to a less-protected designation that allows for the mixed-use vision of the developer, Southern Durham Development.
More than 70 people signed up to speak on the proposed shift of the critical and protected buffers around Jordan Lake, which is a drinking water reservoir for Cary and Chatham County, and could soon provide water to Durham's residents, too. Most who spoke opposed the rezoning, saying it would allow development too close to the water source and would further pollute already tainted waters. Opposers included members of the Haw River Assembly, who attempted to petition the change (read more here) and residents of neighboring developments.
Supporters of the zoning change mostly were also supporters of 751 Assemblage who wanted this obstacle, which has loomed for three years, out of the way. They said the new development could bring jobs, possibly a land donation for new schools and a larger tax base for the county. Supporters included members of the developer's cadre of lawyers and architects, city council candidate Donald Hughes and Lavonia Allison of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.
A nonprofit group’s attempt to hinder a controversial rezoning case near Jordan Lake fell flat Friday, as Durham officials denied the validity of a petition filed by the organization. The petitioner, the Haw River Assembly, did not include signatures of enough landowners around the area to be rezoned, said Durham City-County Planning Director Steve Medlin.
With its petition, the group was hoping to influence the outcome of a vote by Durham County Commissioners, who on Monday will decide whether to redraw boundaries protecting Jordan Lake and its watershed. Shifting the boundaries would allow Southern Durham Development to build a 164-acre mixed-use development, 751 Assemblage, in an area many say should remain undeveloped. (View Monday's agenda here.)
On Monday night, Commissioners need just a simple majority – three affirmative votes – to redraw the boundaries. Had the petition been valid, the rezoning would have required a supermajority, or four affirmative votes, to pass.
The petition is a small piece of a circuitous, four-year-old issue surrounding the rezoning of land around Jordan Lake, a drinking water reservoir that spans Durham and Chatham counties. Most of the disagreement among public officials, developers and other stakeholders is where exactly the critical watershed should be, and which methodology is best to evaluate factors that determine those boundaries. (Read more about the history of this issue here.)
State Alcohol Law Enforcement agents busted a Wilkesboro man and seized 929 gallons of moonshine, plus a large amount of sugar and other items. Roger Lee Nance, 1117 Shew Ridge Mission Road, been charged with possession of non-tax paid liquor.
This is one of the biggest seizures of white liquor I’ve seen come out of the mountains in my career,” ALE Director John Ledford said in a press release. “I commend the agents who were able to make this arrest. While tax-paid liquor is regulated and inspected, illegal distilleries are typically made in unhealthy conditions that could possibly cause exposure to lead and other problems.”
Another former North Carolina moonshiner, ex-NASCAR driver Junior Johnson, has since gone legit with his distilled liquor, Midnight Moon. It'll put hair on your chest.
The Durham Community Media Center's meeting on creating an advisory board has been postponed until Thursday, Oct. 15, from 5-9pm. It was originally slated to take place today at 5. It will be held at the Holton Center, 401 N. Driver St.