Mocksville board members says lawsuit against police justified

Published 1:47 pm Tuesday, August 11, 2020

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A Mocksville Town Board member last week said a fired police officer had every right to sue the town.

Amy Vaughan-Jones also spent several minutes detailing problems in the Mocksville Police Department that she said are falling on deaf ears.

Brian Hill, who was fired earlier this year, filed a federal lawsuit claiming the town, Police Chief Pat Reagan and Town Manager Matt Settlemyer had violated his First Amendment rights.

“Officer Hill had every right to file that lawsuit,” she said, adding the she and fellow board member Eric Southern had talked to Settlemyer about police department employees being intimidated by administration.

“It’s a shame. Our people deserve better. We have tried and it seems like we are talking to deaf ears,” she said.

Vaughan-Jones also talked about strained relationships between Mocksville police and other law enforcement agencies.

She said she had a 45-minute conversation with Trooper Matt Howell, who told her local troopers have been told to keep their distance from Mocksville police, and will only assist if an officer’s life is in immenent danger.

Another N.C. Highway Patrol trooper, Andrew Doss, spoke during the citizen’s comments portion of the meeting. He said he was interviewed as part of an internal affairs investigation at the Mocksville Police Department, and requests for a report on his remarks haven’t been met by Reagan, Settlemyer or Major Koula Black.

“It’s embarassing and intimidating what I’ve been through … next it’s going to be an attorney,” Doss said. “I hate what’s going on. The last couple of weeks have been rough … and I’m ready to get this behind me. If people need to resign, they need to resign. I’m done talking about it. I want that report now.”

Magistrates, Vaughan-Jones said, are upset with policies and procedures at the police department. “Magistrates are concerned about all kinds of issues, about Fourth Amendment rights they may be breaking.”

She talked about a Facebook post from more than a year ago she deemed insensitive, about an “appalling” TikTok video officers put online while in uniform and about Doss feeling intimidated while being interrogated.

“I’m here to try to do what the people have elected me to do,” Vaughan-Jones said. “We have a police department we cannot get right. I implore you to stand up and do what’s right.”

She said she was “floored” after talking to Trooper Howell.

Vaughan-Jones was reined in by Mayor Will Marklin after she started talking about Alan Bagshaw, a Mt. Airy resident who had spoken earlier in the meeting. When Bagshaw asked her if she was attacking him personally and publicly, Marklin asked her to finish and not engage people in the audience.

Bagshaw, also speaking during the citizen’s comment portion of the meeting, said the online attempt to smear the police department includes snippets of truth and false representations. “It’s juvenile,” he said. “Show all of the video, not just seven seconds. People are angry for being held accountable. Everyone in this room should be ashamed of themselves. Quit using social media to slam the police department. Be leaders, not someone who stands by for another round of chaos.”

Police records clerk Ashley Lambeth said the past year has been hostile and traumatizing. “Let me be absolutely clear, this is not caused by Chief Reagan and Major Black. This fake social media account is not sharing full, truthful information. They are out for one thing and that is destroying the Mocksville Police Department. They hide behind a keyboard.”

Lambeth asked board members to stand up for employees suffering daily because of public, never-ending attacks.

Three of the board members -Vaughan-Jones, Southern and Brian Williams – apologized to Doss for the way he was treated.

Board member Rob Taylor, also an assistant district attorney, said he deals with facts. “I have a damn lot of questions and need answers,” he said. “We need to get to the bottom of this and find out the truth. Can we get it? I don’t know.”

“Hopefully, we’ll get on top of this and we’ll be better off for it,” said Mayor Will Marklin.