Put It In Writing

August 17, 2019 Off By Jay Hubbard

On Friday afternoon, 17 August 2019, I attended a private meeting between myself and Commissioner Grant Cheek, along with two other men who do not live in Ramseur. The purpose of that meeting was an effort to find some sort of common ground and, I assume, bring about a truce between myself and Commissioner Cheek. The meeting lasted a little over an hour, and by all accounts amounted to a waste of time.

I respect the two men, officers in the local chapter of the NAACP, who facilitated this meeting, and their efforts at resolving what was represented to them as a dispute based upon alleged racism and bigotry on my part. As regular readers of this space will recall, a month or two ago Mr. Cheek filed a grievance against me with that organization, claiming that my work here focuses on him based only on his race and other personal characteristics that I have not ever written about. Anyone who has known me personally for more than a few days understands that such accusations are utterly without merit.

The entire conversation was recorded by myself and Mr. Cheek, and I have shared my copy with a handful of close friends and associates. I also asked each of them not to share the recording with anyone out of respect for the privacy of everyone involved. I may reconsider that decision at a later date, depending upon how Mr. Cheek and his supporters behave going forward.

I mention his supporters because overnight, between August 15 and 16, two local women joined a conversation in a Facebook group focused on local events. These two women accused me of two forms of bigotry, and one even threatened me. That comment has since been deleted, but I have images of it backed up in a secure location. I will refrain from including them here because, again, the reporting and opinions I write in this space are about the behavior of our local elected and appointed officials, not their personal lives or any traits they have no control over, such as race. Again, I reserve the right to revisit my decision to withhold those images in the future.

During the meeting I was asked to send Commissioner Cheek, and other public officials in Ramseur, a courtesy email and the opportunity to respond to anything I plan to publish before I make it public. I emphatically refuse to do that, and made it abundantly clear to all in attendance that I will continue doing this work as I see fit.

One of the biggest problems I’m trying to combat in this town is dishonesty among some of our elected leaders. Some of these people have earned  reputations for telling different stories depending upon who they are addressing at any given time or place. Giving them a heads up before I publish something about their behavior would only allow them an opportunity to formulate a better lie, and to agree on how to respond and undermine what I’ve written. In other words it would only make the problems I’m addressing worse.

Yes, there are many in this town who are easily manipulated and confused, and that’s how some of these elected officials have managed to get re-elected over and over again. I’m here to break that cycle, and if certain people can’t figure out how to join a Facebook group in order to comment, or tell the difference between a blog on a website and a conversation on social media, or are unwilling to put their side of an issue in writing, that’s not my problem.

During the conversation yesterday Mr. Cheek emphatically denied ever having an email account, grantcheek@gmail.com, and insisted that the only account he uses for town business is cheekgrant@gmail.com. I stated that for more than six months I had received emails sent to the former account. Upon making a search of my records this morning I appear to have been mistaken about that, I cannot find any emails sent to grantcheek@gmail.com. I apologize for that error.

That does not change the fact that Mr. Cheek and other board members should all be using their townoframseur.org email accounts for all business relating to their elected/appointed positions in our local government. Our hosts agreed, stating that it should be mandatory for all public officials to use the email addresses supplied to them by the town. Commissioner Caudle asked them all, for the sake of transparency, to do this months ago. She was right!

I will continue to demand, and expect to receive, copies of all electronic communications, to or from town officials,,regarding public business, including text messages, and I will continue to rake those who do not comply with that legal request over the coals. Call me a troublemaker if you wish, but the trouble I make is brought on by behavior that is either inept and shows a need for professional management, or appears less than transparent.

I stand behind every word I have written on this blog, and yes, I have made a few errors, and in some cases published retractions or corrections when warranted, but I will not back off. I will not be silenced or intimidated.

Now, on to the original post I intended to write this morning.

The two videos you see below come from the regular Board of Commissioners meeting held on August 5. In the first clip, Commissioner Cheek presents his monthly report about our water, sewer, and public works departments. As often happens, Mr. Cheek is ill prepared to present his information. This is not new and cannot be blamed on overwork due to the absence of our recently departed town clerk, Bobbie Hatley.

As he and other board members have often done in the past, Mr. Cheek asked Mark Groce, representing Suez, to speak on his behalf and explain a few items. This is not unusual. Many of us have witnessed commissioners call upon our police chief, fire chief, and others in the past to speak about issues that they were better equipped to explain.

Later in the meeting, Commissioner Vicki Caudle presented her report on parks and recreation activities to the board. Although she was prepared, there were a few questions about a jon boats at the lake which she had been advised are worn out and irreparable. When Mrs. Caudle asked a member of her advisory committee, Sandra Bullin, to approach the podium and elaborate on the subject, Mayor Shaw and Commissioner Cheek tried to impose a double standard and refused to allow Ms. Bullin to speak.

I’ve been watching these two grown men behave like schoolyard bullies toward Commissioner Caudle for months now, questioning every effort she’s made to manage and improve the department she was assigned two years ago, and I’ve had enough. If you listen carefully you’ll hear me speak out of turn, saying, “You let others speak for Grant.” Soon afterward Commissioner Overman spoke up and successfully argued that Mrs. Caudle’s speaker should be heard.

After the meeting that night I confronted Commissioner Cheek because he accused me of spreading false information about a project that isn’t necessary, and which I believe was passed by the board without enough consideration or public input. At that time Mayor Shaw advised Captain Presley that, “If we have another meeting like this I want him (me) barred from the building.”

When I confronted Mr. Cheek that night the meeting had been adjourned and everyone in the room was free to speak. If the mayor was referring to the six words I spoke when he tried to apply a double standard to Commissioner Caudle, he needs to rethink that position as well, since he allowed our former director of public works, Jim McIntosh, to speak out of turn repeatedly during the same meeting. That’s part of the problem with Mayor Shaw; he wants to selectively apply rules when it furthers his agenda, and those who pay attention know it.

As for Mr. cheek’s complaint about my alleged one-sided reporting, I told him then, and said so again in our meeting yesterday, if he wants to respond to anything written here he is always welcome to email me his remarks and I will publish them unedited exactly as I receive them.

I demand statements in writing because written communication can be preserved and verified. My offer applies to any elected official or candidate for office in Ramseur, as well as to citizens, but you will be required to supply your real identity and contact information to be taken seriously.

Send your remarks to ramseurwatchdog@yahoo.com and I will publish them, verbatim, in a stand alone post in this space, and link them to the article(s) being responded to.

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