Salisbury City Councilman Kenny Hardin Ponders the Mayor’s, the City Manager’s, and the Public Information Officer’s Latest Tempest in a Teapot

Posted on May 31, 2017

Kenny Hardin, Salisbury City Councilman (Reprinted with permission)

♦ Just when I thought I could not lose any more respect for the Mayor, City Manager and the City’s Public Information Officer, they upped the challenge. With the continual gun violence, multitude of unsolved murders and Fibrant costs decimating the City’s ability to provide adequate Services to citizens, they have again wasted resources to try to impugn my character. I wonder how much employee work hours were used to create this latest charade? I just wish they would devote as much time to ensuring the safety of our citizens as they do engaging in junior high school antics like today.

I’ve been vocal about my discontent with the way this alleged threat to safety around the release of the SBI report has been handled. Although I have strong ties to the Black community and have forged even stronger relationships therein, I was not consulted nor kept in the loop about the planning of the failed secret meetings or who would be invited to attend. I was not told of what alleged evidence they had that made it necessary to disrespectfully label an entire demographic of people as teetering on the edge of violent unrest at the release of the report. I was not given the courtesy of using my 30 years of community involvement experience, my 20 years of proven professional experience in conflict resolution, crisis management or the respect that should be afforded to me as an elected official.

I was contacted today by two news media outlets and finally provided a glimpse of what those three used as a basis for widening the racial rift in the City by painting the Black community as unruly and violence prone. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests were submitted by several news media outlets and all the privileged information on how the threats came about were shared with them. Unfortunately, I have yet to receive any of this information from the Mayor, City Manager or PIO. I reached out to the Mayor Pro Tem today and she had not received any of the information provided to the news media either. So, I am still in the dark about why we are engaging in all of this nonsense.

Two news outlets who were at the City Manager meeting today called me for a statement about the alleged evidence but I had to explain I had no idea what they were talking about. They shared that the PIO had used an email I sent back on January 24th as part of the evidence that a violent uprising was going to occur in our City. I asked the reporter if they would send me a copy as I wasn’t included on the FOIA distribution by the City. I have attached a copy of the email below but can’t seem to find anywhere in the text where I said the Black community would engage in violence. After reading the email, I re-contacted one of the citizens who called me nearly five months ago to ensure I wasn’t off base in my understanding. She confirmed the accuracy and the details of our conversation. As a side note, the three individuals I spoke with as mentioned in the beginning of my email were all White citizens.

After reading the email, I questioned how the PIO, City Manager and Mayor took anything I said five months ago as evidence to support their overreach and overreaction in the last two weeks? The email I sent to the Mayor, the City Manager and the Mayor Pro Tem is dated January 24, 2017. If the City was so alarmed and fearful of the content, why did it take five months to address what I shared? I received no response from the Mayor or City Manager, but now it was egregious enough to warrant raising threat levels. The intent of my email was an effort to alert the City of growing tension and frustration surrounding the City’s refusal to engage citizens in discussion about the no knock issue. Nowhere in the email did I mention violence or the intention of violence from any citizen. I shared that in my discussions with the three White citizens, they shared escalating CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE.

They mentioned three specific things they intended to do and asked me what the outcome would be. I said they would be arrested and they said they were fine with that. The acts included refusing to stop talking after their three minutes were up in public comments, protesting outside of City Hall without a permit and blocking traffic at the ramps to I-85. No where did I mention shooting anyone or burning down buildings.

So, I’m not sure how or why the PIO purposely and erroneously correlated my email to this false alleged threat of violence. If you read further in the email, I stated I was concerned about escalating gun violence and was unaware of what our crime control and safety plan was. I never tied it to a threat of violence that could occur five months later. I even said our lack of willingness is creating an antagonistic relationship with the community and five months later here we are. I closed out my message asking for a policy or mandate on why we couldn’t allow the citizens to present in City Council meeting.

It seems a bit disingenuous now to try and hold special secret meetings five months later and try to tie me to a failed racially divisive strategy when it was obvious I was focused on trying to avoid any communication breakdowns and further disharmony. I’m disappointed that again, I have proven false the lies and distortions of the Mayor, City Manager and the PIO in another failed attempt to smear my character. We continue to waste time on nonsensical distractions like this and further erode the trust and respect of citizens who elected us and are tired of these juvenile antics.

Instead of wasting time on this idiocy, how about spending that time running the affairs of the City, reduce the gun violence, find the murderer of the 7 year old child, stop the flow of illegal drugs, shore up Fibrant and reduce the $3million annual loss, and respond to citizen needs. If you can’t do that, resign.

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