A former Hillsborough police officer has pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent liberties with a minor, following an internal investigation conducted by the Hillsborough Police Department in 2013.
James Riley Jr., 62, of 708 Phelps Road in Hillsborough, was fired by the department days after its internal investigation—which included nine nights of surveillance—found "potential criminal conduct" in July 2013, the town said in a release. The Orange County District Attorney's Office filed charges against Riley in April 2014.
Riley, who had worked for the department since January 2004, received a 20- to 33-month suspended jail sentence and was ordered to surrender his law enforcement certification and perform community service. He is currently on probation and was required to register as a sex offender with the state.
According to the registry, Riley was convicted for separate offenses in December 2011 and July 2013. Both victims were 13 years old at the time.
The investigation stemmed from a complaint the town received in April 2013. Even though Riley was off duty at the time of the offenses, the court cited his use of his position as an officer as an aggravating circumstance, the town said.
It's early, but what's expected to be a busy campaign season in Chapel Hill is underway.
On Tuesday, incumbent Chapel Hill Town Councilman Lee Storrow announced the launch of his re-election campaign. At the age of 22, Storrow was the youngest person on the Council (and still is) upon his election in 2011.
“Serving this community for the past four years has been an enormous privilege,” Storrow said in a statement. “While we’ve accomplished a lot, I hear from residents every day about how we can improve our town. I look forward to working with folks from across Orange County in a second term to help us build a more vibrant, livable community in Chapel Hill.”
Also up for election year this year is the mayor's post held by Mark Kleinschmidt, as well as the seats of council members Donna Bell, Jim Ward and Matt Czajkowski. Czajkowski will not be seeking re-election because he is stepping down at the end of March due to a work move.
Affordable housing is on our minds for many reasons, not the least of which being the ongoing planning for Durham and Chapel Hill's 17-mile light-rail system. The light rail is expected to bring massive hikes in land values along the track, forcing local government leaders to make housing preservation plans now.
Next week is your latest chance to weigh in on the subject in Orange County. County commissioners will hold a public hearing Tuesday regarding housing needs in the county, Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough.
Commissioners are prepping a five-year strategic plan for addressing the county's housing problem. The plan is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which supplies federal housing funds to the county. Orange County must submit its plan by May 14 to qualify for federal grant funds.
Tuesday's meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Southern Human Services Center at 2501 Homestead Road in Chapel Hill. For more information, the meeting's agenda can be found here.
Thanks to a change in town guidelines, obtaining permission to install some solar panels in Hillsborough could now take about three days and $10, town officials say.
Members of the town's Historic District Commission approved a change classifying solar panel installations as "minor work" if they cannot be seen from the street. The revision allows town staff to review and approve the applications, rather than requiring approval from the commission.
Commission approval could take one to two months to complete. Town staff can do it in about three days, along with a $10 fee.
“It is perfectly in keeping with the need to preserve the character of the Historic District while promoting alternative energy in the age of climate change,” said Hillsborough Town Commissioner Jenn Weaver in a release. “Streamlining the solar panel approval process is a way the town can support alternative energy, and I’m so grateful to our staff and HDC volunteers for having the wisdom to come up with this solution.”
Town leaders said the change followed more than two dozen requests to install solar panels in the town after last year's Solarize Hillsborough program, a local campaign aimed at incentivizing solar panels by offering group discounts on installations.
Orange County Schools has chosen former Wake County principal Jan Hargrove to serve as interim principal at A.L. Stanback Middle School. The Indy reported last month that the school's current principal, Gloria Jones, is stepping down following complaints from parents and staff who accused her of blocking the formation of a school Gay-Straight Alliance for more than two years.
Jones will remain as the school's administrator through November. She did not say why she is resigning, but members of the system's Board of Education publicly criticized the principal for her handling of the LGBT support group this year.
The club, which met for the first time last spring, fit in four meetings before Jones announced a new policy banning non-academic clubs such as the GSA during school hours. School staff said Jones indicated the new policy was ordered by Orange County Schools' central office staff, but Interim Superintendent Del Burns told the Indy that was untrue.
Hargrove is currently the interim principal at Grady A. Brown Elementary in Hillsborough. “It’s all about relationships and communication,” Hargrove said in a statement. “Honoring the teachers and families here is important to me."
In Orange County's lone contested race for the Board of Commissioners, former school board member Mia Burroughs easily dispatched Republican Gary Kahn in District 1, collecting 76 percent of the vote.
Early results in Congress races showed mixed results for both parties Tuesday night.
As expected, longtime U.S. Rep. David Price was on course to easily best his opponent Tuesday, picking up 75 percent of the vote in heavily left-leaning U.S. House District 4 with most precincts reporting. His underdog opponent, Republican Paul Wright, had mustered just 24 percent of the vote.
Incumbent Democrat G.K. Butterfield, a voting rights attorney from Wilson, appeared bound for victory against his GOP challenger, Sampson County accountant Arthur Rich, in the race for U.S. House District 1. With more than half of precincts reporting, Butterfield holds 75 percent of the vote and he seems bound for a sixth term in Congress.
And in U.S. House 6, Greensboro minister and Republican candidate Mark Walker was likely to beat Laura Fjeld, a strong pro-public schools Democrat running in a right-leaning district. With more than half of precincts reporting, Walker tallied 58 percent of the vote to Fjeld's 41 percent.
This is an easy call early on. Democrats may be bound for hard times in Tuesday's midterm, but in Orange County, the bubble remains.
There were no close races between N.C. Senate District 23 and N.C. House 56, where Democratic incumbents Valerie Foushee and Verla Insko hold apparently insurmountable leads in their bid for re-election. Foushee and Insko will beat Republican challengers Mary Lopez-Carter and Dave Carter, respectively.
In N.C. House 50, which includes portions of Orange and Durham counties, Democrat Graig Meyer also appears bound for victory, earning a 28-percentage point lead at press time over Republican Rod Chaney.
No surprises here.
Gloria Jones, the A.L. Stanback Middle School principal stepping down after staff accused her of blocking the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance, will leave behind a four-year contract worth $86,240 in annual compensation.
Jones, whose last day will be Nov. 30, signed a contract with Orange County Schools in April that included $7,186 in monthly salary and supplements. The contract was approved by the system's Board of Education prior to an Indy report in June detailing students' and staff's complaints that she hindered the LGBT support group's startup for more than two years.
School board members publicly criticized Jones for her handling of the group, particularly after she started a new policy this school year barring non-academic clubs such as the GSA from meeting during school hours, a move that essentially nixed the group after just four meetings last spring.
Orange County Schools spokesman Seth Stephens said the system will not be forced to pay Jones for the remainder of her contract.
The Hillsborough middle school principal accused of hindering the formation of a Gay Straight Alliance for more than two years is stepping down.
Jones did not return Indy messages, so it’s unclear why the principal is stepping down. But she has been criticized by leadership on the system’s Board of Education for her handling of the GSA issue.
Students and staff at the school said she blocked creation of the GSA, which offers support and counseling for LGBT students, before finally allowing students to meet weeks before the end of the 2013-2014 school year.
In September, the Indy reported that Jones all but squashed the group by ordering a new policy barring non-academic clubs such as the GSA from meeting during school hours. Jones said the GSA can meet outside of school hours, but student and staff supporters said the move would make it more difficult to attend.
Multiple members of the school’s staff said Jones told them the policy change came from Orange County Schools’ central office. But the system’s Interim Superintendent Del Burns said that was untrue, prompting criticism for the school principal.
"As a principal at the school, you have to be respectful of the needs of all your kids, not just the 98 percent majority," said Orange County Schools Board of Education Chairman Stephen Halkiotis in June. "You're responsible for the 2 percent too."
Full coverage of this in Wednesday's Indy.