As a rule I try not to name private citizens. Elected officials are subject to scrutiny but private citizens are not. Likewise, I don’t reference personal issues. But when private citizens use social media to accuse their fellow citizens and respected organizations of serious crimes, they forfeit that privacy. They become the news.
Last week i received several screen shots from a Facebook group called Hope Mills Chatter. It’s the same private group that Commissioner Mitchell railed against in June and the same group operated by local resident Lisa Carter Waring.
This particular conversation occurred a few days ago between Commissioner Meg Larson, Al, Ferri, Lisa Carter Waring and David Messer. I want to point out ‘the Chatter’ is a private group and only visible to its members. As of today, their audience is more than 330 members.
We’ll discuss all of it, but I want to draw your attention to Messer’s comment first…
“I have thought all along the whole thing was about Teddy getting a high paying job as the administrator of the new retreat center in exchange for a cheap land deal.”
Above his comment we see Lisa Waring stating the same thing. She makes a point to exclude the name of the individual, but adds the name of the company they believe is offering bribes for cheap land…LSF. This is of course…Lone Survivor Foundation.
I spoke with Tim Byrom, the President of the Board of Directors for Lone Survivor Foundation. Byrom is outraged that an elected official would be part of any conversation wherein LSF, a non-profit organization created to render healing to veterans with post traumatic stress disorder, and an organization with a stellar reputation nationwide, would be accused of offering bribes in exchange for discounts.
(Byrom asked me to omit the name of the local veteran they hired to run operations so I’ll refer to them as “Vet”)
“We already made a deal to hire an administrator before we’d even met Teddy Warner. We had a deal with Vet that as soon as they retired from service they would come work for us at LSF, they would take over as our executive director of the operations in North Carolina. They officially came on full-time in November 2018.”
Byrom also said Teddy Warner would not be qualified for any position at LSF. Warner is a highly educated individual and a tremendous asset to this community…but he’s not a veteran. In order to administer a local retreat or serve as an executive, any candidate must first have military experience.
Byrom also stated for the record that Warner never offered, suggested or implied he could secure any kind of discount on the land in Hope Mills.
Tim said, “We never discussed a price other than what they had on the tax rolls.” This was during the June 4th presentation to the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners. Mayor Warner doesn’t have a vote, but she asked the Board to consider donating the land to LSF. The land was neglected by the municipality for more than 50 years. In fact, it wasn’t even included in the initial inventory of assets given to McAdams Group to assess.
“Mayor Pro Tem came back and said ‘from an accounting standpoint we’ve been giving land away forever and we gave land away to the VFW’…later it came out they didn’t give that land away.” Byrom.
Al Ferri’s response to Commissioner Larson is at the top of the article so I’ll share it here again…
“Sorry for the delayed response. i remember it all too well. No proof of anything, but I remember those three individuals that were together discussing something. Funny how they scurried away when I pulled my truck up. It took several months but we waited for the other shoe to drop and the thud on the floor sounded like LSF to me…but again, no proof.”
It would seem they’re referring to election night 2017. Waring references that Commissioner Bellflowers asked for the investigation to go back ‘six months prior to the commissioners learning about it’ and they learned of LSF’s proposal in early June.
Byrom assured me the three individuals Ferri refers to seeing near the lake bed on election night… were absolutely not any member of LSF. “We didn’t know about this property in 2017.” Byrom also said the property was always locked and they had to contact town staff every single time they wanted to access the property.
Byrom went on to say “If that’s the case then why, later at the meeting did she (Larson) tell me she was going to make this deal work? If she thought there was collusion back in November 2017 why would she sit in a meeting with Teddy and myself and Terry (Jung) and not say anything about that?”
In fact, during the 7 1/2 months since the June presentation, Larson has used many reasons for not wanting to sell that land to LSF, but she’s never mentioned Teddy Warner or any member of LSF meeting at the lake-bed in November of 2017…or any other time.
“I don’t know why she would have ever been receptive to talking to us if she thought Teddy had some kind of collusion – that would have been the perfect time to bring that to bear, wouldn’t you think?” added Byrom. He and the Lone Survivor Foundation moved on when the board rejected their last offer in October. He had no idea any of the commissioners were still having conversations about this issue or that these accusations had been levied against the organization.
To be clear, this allegation against the Warner family is just the most recent in a long line of false accusations they’ve faced over a six month period. It’s not clear who’s been fabricating the allegations, but there’s evidence that several board members have worked tirelessly to research each one…without consent from the whole Board. Unfortunately, as each allegation proves false, the accusers simply move on to new conspiracy theories. The Warner’s have been put in a situation where they have to defend themselves against an invisible enemy and a never-ending list of accusations. And while our system is based on the premise that you’re innocent until proven guilty, the accusers have adopted the theory the Warner’s are guilty while the accusers figure out what they’re guilty of.
Questions you should be asking…
1. How much is the investigation going to cost? The Board voted to approve the investigation, without parameters. As of today, there’s no time line and no salary cap. The investigator gets $275/hour but we’re also paying his travel expenses and his assistant. They’re interviewing the entire board and several staff members, but also reviewing nearly a year’s worth of correspondence.
2. How will the results of the investigation be presented? The Board hasn’t discussed the results at all. Will we pay for a report to be generated…or will we pay for a presentation? Either way, we know the board can’t discuss this in closed session and the tax payers deserve to know what we paid for.
3. If the board doesn’t like the direction the investigation is going, if for instance, the investigator exonerated Mayor Warner quickly but finds ample evidence of wrongdoing by other board members, will they move to cancel the investigation before it’s conclusion?