Rocky Mount holds emergency meetings to address audit, communication issues

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ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WNCN) – Tensions between Rocky Mount’s mayor and city council were on display during two emergency meetings Tuesday.

Mayor Sandy Roberson called the first meeting to address the findings of a state auditor’s report. Councilmember Andre Knight called a second meeting to address communication issues between the mayor and council.

“The investigative report shows a deep divide and a mistrust among all of us. As the famous saying goes, ‘a house divided cannot stand,'” Roberson said.

The Rocky Mount City Council approved five corrective actions Tuesday based on the auditor’s report.

The actions include creating a single department for utility billing and collections, employing a new position to oversee loan programs, amending the travel policy to allow additional reimbursement for city employees on city business, and appointing two Americans with Disabilities Act coordinators.

“We were asked for process, improvement, and recommendation,” Knight said. “As far as I’m concerned, the audit is completed and the audit is done. We need to move forward.”

The audit found that tens of thousands of dollars were mishandled, including $47,000 in unpaid utility bills by Knight, according to Roberson.

“I have never sought nor received special treatment or privilege. The city challenges the findings in the report, and I stand with the city,” Knight said.

Last week, the mayor and citizens called for Knight to resign from city council.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman Reuben Blackwell said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove the $47,000 write-off was accurate.

“What I’m not good with is someone coming into our community and creating division by calling people corrupt with allegations that cannot be fully substantiated,” Blackwell said.

During the meeting, Councilman Lige Daughtridge made a motion to look back at 20 years of utility bill write-offs, but the motion was denied with other council members saying such a review would not be in the best interest of the city.

A second meeting was called by Knight, who also serves as the Mayor Pro-Tem. Knight outlined during that meeting concerns over communication between the mayor’s office and members of the city council.

Some city council members were upset Roberson scheduled an emergency meeting last week, then canceled it, saying several council members refused to attend.

Councilmembers T.J. Walker and Chris Miller said they did not refuse to attend. Rather, they preferred to meet on a day when a council meeting was already scheduled.

Blackwell and Knight also expressed frustration over Roberson’s request that all members of the council sign an ethics contract that includes taking an ethics course once a year, as well as his calls for Knight to step down.

“I have no problem working with you, but I will not be dictated to. I will not dictate to you and you will not dictate to me,” Blackwell said.

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