There are some distinct differences between the article I wrote and the one published by Up & Coming Weekly. All references to Goldy were added in post-editing. Goldy didn’t know this and assumed I’d launched a full-frontal attack on him when he read the paper Wednesday morning.
Which is why he launched an attack on me. I sent Goldy a message with my original article attached so he’d know. He read my message and the article at 11:44 am. It’s timestamped in the message below. His post to me is still on his page, along with a promise to continue the attack Tuesday morning on air. I’ll address this later.
Hope Mills had a banner summer.
Our dam won a second prestigious award, our military recruiters were recognized as the best in the nation, four Dixie Youth ball teams won state championships and competed in the World Series, our food truck rodeo and farmers markets continue to grow, our staff played an integral role in the Cut My City campaign, Grandson’s was recognized in Our State Magazine, three sculptures were purchased and donated to the town, we formed an art council, the lake is once again open and our fire department achieved an ISO rating of 2 which is practically unheard of in a municipality this small.
But when Commissioner Meg Larson appeared on a local talk radio program August 19th, she didn’t mention any of this. The beater of dead horses chose instead to promote her latest conspiracy theory. This go-round she’s convinced Mayor Jackie Warner is guilty of colluding with publisher Bill Bowman to…ironically…make the town look bad.
For more than a week Larson and her followers have been posting the same emails, showing a relationship between Warner and Bowman. One email indicates Bowman sent Warner an advance copy of ‘The mouse that roared’ in February 2018. He did. She didn’t write it. She didn’t contribute to it. She simply read it and said ‘wow, good article’. In July he sent her an advance copy of his article about the notorious July 23 meeting. In response, she sent corrections to errors he’d made.
Now…decide whether or not Mayor Jackie Warner is guilty of doing anything immoral…
Because Mike Mitchell did the same thing.
The article, ‘Private Hope Mills Facebook group raises concerns’ was the result of a collaboration between Up & Coming Weekly staff writer Jeff Thompson and our current Mayor Pro Tem, and Mayoral candidate, Mike Mitchell. The emails between Mitchell, Bowman, and Thompson begin on May 10 and conclude three days after the article is published on May 17. You can view the entire conversation HERE.
Larson used the radio interview to explain she received a large number of emails between Board members and the Up & Coming Weekly staff. In those emails she discovers two indicating Warner and Bowman communicated about specific articles. The articles don’t include lies, just information Larson didn’t want the public privy to.
Larson took the emails to the radio station the day before the interview so Goldy (his name is out there now…there’s no avoiding it) can preview them and prep for the interview.
Neither Larson or Goldy mention Mitchell during the interview. Neither mentions he communicated with Bowman, collaborated with Thompson on an article and had a phone conference with Amanda Martin…the attorney for the North Carolina Press Association and an authority on North Carolina’s open meeting laws. And they don’t mention he received an advance copy of the article…just like Mayor Warner did.
Larson is no stranger to conspiracy theories. In 2015, long before her stint in politics, her penchant for research led her to believe former Commissioner Bryan Marley was guilty of a conflict of interest. Larson gathered what she thought was relevant ordinances and general statutes and handed them off to the District Attorney. Unfortunately, for Larson, the experts didn’t agree, and Marley was exonerated.
How do I know? Because Larson sent the investigator to my house! Captain Roberto Reyes showed up at my house, sat at my dining room table for an hour and asked me why I thought Marley had a conflict of interest. I didn’t do the research so I was just a pit stop on his way to Larson’s house. To this day I’m not sure why she sent him to me. And for the ‘fake news’ crowd…you don’t have to take my word for it. Call Reyes. Call the District Attorney. They have records of their formal investigations.
Not long after, she repeated the process when she accused former Commissioner Edwin Deaver of having a conflict of interest. Like Marley, Deaver was cleared.
In 2018, the newly elected Larson began to privately investigate long-time Mayor Jackie Warner. Larson was convinced the Mayor colluded with her son and members of Lone Survivor Foundation to grease the wheels and sell a piece of municipally owned land to the veterans organization. By January it was evident she wasn’t going to stop, and the board voted to hire a formal investigator.
Larson presented the independent investigator with a 3-ring binder of the printed ordinances and general statutes she wanted him to use in framing the investigation. The investigation concluded four months later at a cost of nearly $30,000 and the full exoneration of Mayor Warner. The investigator delivered his results to the Board in late May and concluded by saying he felt it was the result of ‘rookie mistakes’.
One might think Larson would be deterred from playing attorney and stay in her lane. But by July she was posting ordinances and statutes again, this time declaring one of the candidates for the Board of Commissioners couldn’t hold an official campaign kickoff on municipal property. Again…Larson was wrong. Despite Larson’s protests, town attorney Dan Hartzog gave his seal of approval and the campaign kickoff took place as planned.
Larson began her radio tirade by explaining she ran for office two years ago because she didn’t like the decisions the previous board was making and felt they were wasting taxpayers money. It’s ironic since the board just voted, at Larson’s urging, to move forward with a $25,000 survey for a temporary driveway and parking lot at the golf course.
Larson accused publisher Bill Bowman of writing an article ‘retaliating’ when the board chose to not renew the Hope Mills Initiative in February 2018. She said Bowman expected the town to pay $28,000 a year for ‘good news’ articles and wanted the board and the staff to write them. The agreement with Up & Coming Weekly was proposed because the town didn’t have the budget to hire a full time marketing expert.
But Bowman explained to Larson, and the rest of the board that he’d hired two additional staff writers to accomplish that. The $28,000 was to cover the cost of ink, paper and the extra dispensers they were placing around town. The staff and board members were NEVER asked to write.
This point was been made to Larson in person on two different occasions and in print on two different occasions. Additionally, the former town clerk sent an email to the board in spring 2018 clarifying the staff and board were NOT being asked to write articles. Larson received the email in February 2018. She also received a copy of it as part of a public record request in August 2018.
In response to Larson’s question Bill Bowman said “I need to clarify one thing -that the money was not paid to us to market your town. The money paid by the town was for paper and ink and to have a media source.”
When Larson says she’s confused about the board and staff having to write the articles Bowman continues, “That’s not mandatory at all! Like we have with our other municipalities and organizations, they can put whatever they want into that paper. It’s not mandatory! They don’t have to do it. That’s not part of the deal. That was never part of the deal.” Bowman went on to tell Larson “it’s not a requirement” of the partnership TWO more times during that discussion.
To be clear…Larson has been told SIX times over 18 months the staff and board were not expected to write articles for Up & Coming Weekly. But, she was on the radio a week ago saying they were???
The article Bowman wrote in February 2018 was explaining why the initiative wasn’t moving forward. While Larson continues to bemoan the $28,000, she’s overlooked the bigger part of the initiative. Hope Mills has two full time staff writers at their disposal…still. Since September, Up & Coming has published nearly 100 articles about Hope Mills businesses and organizations. At an average cost of $1000 per ad, they’ve saved our community close to $100,000 just since the initiative ended!
Larson has given a dozen interviews to local radio and papers during that same time, but she hasn’t promoted a single thing in Hope Mills. Every interview, without exception has been an attack on the Mayor.
Larson also accused Mayor Warner of soliciting me to start a blog for the singular purpose of discrediting the board. I posted a lengthy article on December 5th explaining why I started my blog.
Larson claimed Warner objected when this board wanted to make changes to the bulkhead plans the previous board had already agreed on and when they didn’t want to partner with outside agencies. Not true. I provided ample evidence that Mitchell delayed the board and Larson altered the plans for nearly a year.
Larson spent more than 20 minutes on air. She accused two private citizens of launching a smear campaign against her, with the Mayor’s help. But she didn’t say one nice thing about the town of Hope Mills or her people.
In mid-July Larson announced she wouldn’t seek re-election but instead was throwing her support behind Warner’s opponent, Mike Mitchell. Larson didn’t use the radio interview as an opportunity to expound on Mitchell’s accomplishments or announce his campaign platform. Maybe because she had the email between Mitchell and Bowman in her hand? Instead, she used it as another opportunity to discredit Warner, who has consistently beat Mitchell in all his bids for the Mayor’s seat.
Perhaps it’s best that Larson, who has mentioned on several occasions that she’s not a politician, chose not to run again. It would seem her dislike for the previous board didn’t make her more qualified for the job.
On August 27 Mayor Warner also appeared on Goldy’s radio program. While Goldy greeted Larson like an old friend, he immediately read a statement condemning Warner and asked her to defend her actions. For the next 27 minutes Goldy interrupted her THIRTY times. Mayor Warner admitted to receiving advance copies of editorials from Up & Coming and attempted to explain that other members of the board had also received advance copies…but Goldy wasn’t interested in letting her speak.
Goldy also repeatedly bashed the Hope Mills Initiative and the $28,000 investment…so I did some research. A marketing director in a municipality earns $96,500-$128,000/year. 28k doesn’t sound so bad in comparison. Goldy read a text he sent to the Mayor on May 7, in which he says her connection to the ‘Up & Coming vendetta situation’ was a detriment to her reputation and political career.
He didn’t mention he hosted Larson and Mitchell on his show in August 2018 and they spent the entire interview bashing her. That was also a detriment to her reputation, and every accusation hurled at her that day was proven false in the formal investigation.
To Goldy and Bill…I am not a pawn in your pissing contest. You don’t get to use me to hurt one another. Be objective and separate from the news…not a damn headline.