Art Community Politics

There are two sides to every story

1 – Whereas the Hope Mills Town Board appreciates and supports the cultural arts within our community.

2 – Whereas the Hope Mills Town Board believes it is important for elected officials to act in an honest, ethical and transparent manner for the citizens we serve.

3 – Whereas it is important for our citizens to trust information that is shared by our town leaders.

4 – Whereas it is important for the elected to work together and share information that is important to the smooth operation of the town.

5 – Whereas Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner had knowledge of the time sensitive deadline of the art in the park agreement with a local university and did not immediately direct the matter to the town manager who is responsible for the daily operations of the town.

6 – Whereas Mayor Jackie Warner knowingly withheld the information concerning the time sensitive deadline of the art in the park agreement from the board of commissioners.

7 – Whereas Mayor Jackie Warner shared information about the art in the park agreement with the reporter from a local publication without ever bringing the matter before the board.

8 – Whereas the resulting article from the information shared by Mayor Jackie Warner cast aspersions upon our community and board and was unsettling to a local university, a local resident, and his students.

9 – Whereas on March 19, 2019 Mayor Jackie Warner shared the article to her official Mayor of Hope Mills Facebook page without any clarification to the readers.

10 – Whereas Mayor Jackie Warner has shown a pattern of withholding information from her fellow board members and knowingly sharing misinformation through both social media and in public forum.

11 – Whereas Mayor Jackie Warner has been counseled numerous times about such behavior as it misleads the public and is an abuse of her position.

Be it resolved that Mayor Jackie Warner knew about the time-sensitive deadline of the Art in the Park agreement.  Mayor Warner failed to immediately inform the town manager and never informed the Board which contributed in part to the loss in art.

Be it resolved that the Hope Mills town Board of Commissioners casts a vote of No Confidence in Mayor Jackie Warner and her ability to effectively work with the elected Board to serve in the capacity as Mayor of Hope Mills.

March 25th the Board of Commissioners held a Special Meeting to discuss the loss of sculptures around Municipal Park and an article in Up & Coming Weekly which discussed the sculptures.  Commissioner Legge began the discussion by reading a resolution against Mayor Warner.

Commissioners Larson, Bellflowers, Mitchell and Legge claim they were blindsided by the article and were unaware the sculptures were being removed.   In fact Commissioner Larson shared the same article from Up & Coming Weekly which she condemned the Mayor for sharing, declaring to everyone that she was ‘totally shocked” and “The Board of Commissioners knew nothing about this.”

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But that isn’t true.

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Screen capture of official minutes from the March 19th, 2018 BOC meeting

According to the official minutes from the March 19, 2018 meeting, during which time THIS board was in office, they all voted to approve receiving the $2500 art grant to pay for the concrete bases to hold the sculptures.  And….

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Screen capture from the minutes of the may 19, 2018 official board meeting

Town manager Melissa Adams addressed the board during her manager’s report on May 19th 2018, letting the Board know the installation of the sculptures was complete and reminding them the contract was for ONE YEAR.

The allegations in this resolution are 100% false.  The entire board was present at the March and May meetings when the sculptures were discussed, including the fact that the program was for one year.  They knew every bit as much as Mayor Warner knew.  And since the first statement in their resolution claims the “Board appreciates and supports the cultural arts within our community” I’m shocked they weren’t making inquires of the staff to ensure we maintained the program.  Is it possible they don’t support art as much as they claim to???

Commissioner Legge, who read the resolution, was a member of the Board in 2017 and made the motion to move forward with the project.  He had more knowledge of it than the rest of the Board and could have educated his fellow board members on the terms…but he did not.

The Commissioners requested all correspondence between Walls and any member of the board or staff….

August 1 – Adam Walls, the UNCP professor who provided the student sculptures to the town, emailed a member of town staff who had resigned a short time earlier.

August 19 – Walls contacted four staff members indicating the new semester had begun and inquired if they wanted to renew the program.

August 22 – Walls didn’t receive a response from staff so he contacted Mayor Warner.  Warner responded to Walls and forwarded his email to Melissa Adams. 

Mayor Warner failed to immediately inform the town manager and never informed the Board which contributed in part to the loss in art.”

This is a lie.  Again, the Commissioners had all of the email correspondence between Walls and the town.  There’s an email from Mayor Warner to Walls dated August 22 indicating she’d forwarded his email to Melissa Adams, and Melissa Adams references that email in her own message to Walls…also on August 22nd….

‘Yes the sculptures were a big hit.  As Mayor Warner indicated Hector Cruz is no longer with the town.  I have included interim PW Director Don Sisko in this email.  We are currently reviewing our options for the next grant award from the Arts Council and as soon as we determine what we would like to do, we will be in touch with you. ” Melissa Adams

Walls would message the staff again in October, but he received no further responses.  On February 7 he wrote one more email to inform staff the contract was nearing its end and he’d have all of the sculptures removed by the end of April.

I was asked to participate in a Twitter forum about art-based destination travel in North Carolina in early February, so I called Town Hall on February 8th.  I left a message for Melissa Adams, but town clerk Jane Starling returned my call.  I was looking for information about the sculptures to share in the forum, but Jane told me the contract had expired and they were going to lose the sculptures.  They didn’t share that information with the Board of Commissioners until March 20th, the day after the article appeared in Up & Coming Weekly.

Mayor Warner responded to the accusations by saying she removed herself from the process in August and let the staff work with Mr. Walls to avoid hardship for both parties.

Walls initially contacted Warner in August, a month after the explosive July 23rd meeting at which Commissioner Larson accused the Mayor of knowing more about LSF’s offer than she told the board.  This accusation would grow to include allegations that Mayor Warner and her son colluded with LSF.  In fact, we’re waiting on the results of a $25,000 investigation based on those accusations.

Rules of procedure dictate all members of the Board use Melissa Adams to contact outside agencies.  Knowing this, and having just been accused of interference, Mayor Warner followed procedure and simply contacted the staff with a reminder.  With or without that reminder, it was the responsibility of the staff to contact Adams Walls and reapply for grants.  It’s also the responsibility of the staff to keep the Board informed.

I’ve always advocated for the staff and will continue to do so.  Melissa Adams has assumed responsibility for this situation, but I want to remind readers that between August when the Mayor sent that reminder, and February when Walls indicated he’d be removing the statues, our staff was bombarded with a bevy of extreme circumstances…

The town was hit by two hurricanes which brought a great deal of destruction to town property and left the Parks and Recreation building with severe damage.  The P&R staff were operating out of Town Hall for months, and the phone system in P&R was inoperative during that time.  They were also dealing with the sudden departures of two department heads who would have been directly involved in working with Mr. Walls.  And we had three major holidays.  Mr. Walls was attempting to contact the town but didn’t know his point of contact was gone or that our communication was limited to the phone system in Town Hall…which, coincidentally, broke the week he attempted to call there.  As town manager, Melissa Adam’s focus was on reestablishing operations.  Art is extremely important, I’ve been writing about it for weeks.  But even I will concede that during that time, it would have taken a backseat to the other issues our staff was dealing with.

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On March 21 Commissioner Larson shared the announcement for the special meeting and indicated it was to shed light and to clarify inaccurate reporting.  But none of the relevant parties were contacted or asked to attend.  Bill Bowman (the publisher of Up & Coming Weekly) did attended the meeting and sat in the audience for an hour while the Commissioners hurled accusations at him and his staff, but never asked him to speak and never gave him an opportunity to defend himself or his writers.

The meeting was never about discovering the truth.

While these commissioners were busy drafting a resolution to embarrass Mayor Warner, she was busy looking for a resolution to the problem.

By working with Adam Walls she was able to create an opportunity for the town to keep some of the sculptures.  Two are pending purchase and will be donated to the town and several more are available to purchase with the hope they will also be donated to the town.  Walls has also located additional pieces we can put up in place of the lost pieces and display until we can broker a new agreement with the student artists.

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Screen capture from Commissioner Mitchell’s Official Facebook page March 27, 2019. These were his comments when he shared an article by Lisa Waring, which is embarrassing to the town and to the mayor. His comments about the Mayor are prejudicial and inaccurate.

The resolution against Mayor Warner is simply another example of the Commissioners levying ridiculous accusations, most of which they’re guilty of themselves.  Commissioners Larson and Mitchell are guilty of sharing many articles on their official Facebook page, which have proven to be embarrassing for the town, specifically anything written by Lisa Waring.  Mitchell shared a Lisa Waring article today!  And Larson is quoted in the article…”Larson told Warner the interview about the loss of the student artwork without sharing it with the board just shows “the extent you will go to for political traction.”

Larson, Mitchell, and Legge seem to be unclear about what constitutes ‘political traction’ which isn’t surprising since they were all together unclear on whether or not they’d been told about the sculptures and the timeline.  Sadly, 15 months into their tenure, they’re still unclear about what role they play in the community.  Larson admitted to having contacted Adam Walls without going through Melissa Adams.  In fact, she’s admitted to contacting people so often no one bothers to remind her anymore that she’s not allowed to reach out to outside agencies, members of the community or members of the staff!

While these commissioners struggle to understand their role and manipulate the circumstances ‘for political traction’, the day-to-day issues of running Hope Mills fall to Melissa Adams and Mayor Warner, to include fixing the Board’s many mistakes.  These are important issues to remember when you vote in November.

I want to mention Earl Vaughan Jr. has nearly 50 years experience as a journalist and an impressive list of awards for his professionalism.  Bill Bowman his nearly 30 years experience and an equally impressive list of awards.   Both of these men have stellar reputations within the community and the world of journalism.

Be sure to read Up & Coming Weekly available on line Tuesday at 4p and available in news stands Wednesday morning for more updates on this story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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