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Council rejects Banks-McLaughlin’s attempt to censure Colvin, Benavente 


Members of the Fayetteville City Council collectively shut down an attempt to censure Mayor Mitch Colvin and Council Member Mario Benavente brought forth by Council Member Courtney Banks-McLaughlin at the council’s Tuesday meeting. 

Banks-McLaughlin didn’t provide specific examples in advance of the meeting regarding why she wanted to censure her two colleagues. Her meeting agenda item request form referred to “disrespectful and discourteous treatment” of colleagues and city staff, but had no further details.

But during Tuesday night’s meeting, Banks-McLaughlin cited allegations against Colvin and Benavente by former Police Chief Gina Hawkins, who threatened a lawsuit against the city in August claiming that she experienced a hostile work environment and discrimination as police chief. 

Banks-McLaughlin said her colleagues needed to answer for their alleged behavior toward Hawkins and the $200,000 settlement that resulted from those and other accusations. 

“Someone needs to be held accountable to ensure that this never happens again to any of our city employees,” Banks-McLaughlin said. “My hope is that this board agrees and that we take these allegations seriously, and this is something that we don’t condone.” 

Benavente and Colvin were not allowed to vote on their own censure. None of their colleagues voted for Banks-McLaughlin’s measure.

Colvin called the censure attempt a “waste of our time and resources.” Benavente said he didn’t support the censure request but hoped it would not impair his working relationship with Banks-McLaughlin. 

The city agreed to a $200,000 settlement with Hawkins during a Dec. 11 council meeting, voting 8-2 to authorize it; Benavente and Council Member Deno Hondros voted against the measure. 

The allegations Hawkins made included

  • At a city council meeting in early 2022, Benavente yelled at Hawkins and told her, “My objective is to take you down, I am going to get you.” (The meeting in question occurred before Benavente was elected and took office in summer 2022.) 
  • In summer 2020 during a meeting of the mayor and several city leaders about civil unrest coinciding with the George Floyd protests, Colvin “continuously screamed at the Chief regarding police operations and the safe deployment of personnel…”

Benavente and Colvin have each dismissed the allegations against them. Colvin said the city — in agreeing to the settlement — did not admit to any wrongdoing or mistreatment of Hawkins. He added that the council in August hired attorneys to determine the accuracy of the allegations and conduct investigations into the claims. 

“And they were unsubstantiated,” Colvin said at Tuesday’s meeting. “And they [the council] made a decision at the time that the cost of litigation would exceed defending this — and so they made a decision as a board to close this.” 

Colvin mentioned Banks-McLaughlin’s campaign for the N.C. House of Representatives’ Dist. 42 seat, where she’ll face his brother, Michael Colvin. He suggested that the censure attempt was related to Bank-McLaughlin’s campaign announcement, because it coincided with her recent filing announcement. 

“I am disappointed that my colleague, certainly within her rights to do so, didn’t say anything about this in August or September or October or November,” Colvin said. “But until she starts to run for office, here we are.”

Benavente said a censure was not the “worst outcome” that could occur between council members. Rather, he said it would be a problem if Banks-McLaughlin was not willing to work with him on areas where they’re “on the same page,” pointing to issues of homelessness, youth gun violence and fully funding an Office of Community Safety. 

“So regardless of my feelings, I want to be intentional about repairing any harm, actual or otherwise, that you may feel like has occurred, so that we can do the necessary work for our city,” Benavente said during the censure discussion. 

Despite putting forward the motion to authorize the settlement at the council’s Dec. 11 meeting, Banks-McLaughlin was critical of the settlement Tuesday, calling it a “wasted” use of taxpayer funds. In comments to CityView after the meeting Tuesday, she said she had voted for the settlement because she felt the “allegations were accurate.” 

“I know [because] I’ve been on council long enough to see,” she said, “and some of the other council members, it’s sad to see that they don’t speak up. It’s very unfortunate. They don’t speak up because they’re scared. They don’t need to be. In politics, you’re supposed to do what’s right.” 

Banks-McLaughlin and Benavente spoke briefly after the meeting ended, during which Benavente reiterated his desire to continue working together on common interest areas. 

He extended a handshake to Banks-McLaughlin, which she didn’t reciprocate. She called his gesture “disingenuous,” though she again said she would continue working with her colleagues through the remainder of her term.

“If I didn’t work with them, I wouldn’t be here at the meetings,” Banks-McLaughlin said. “I have no problem working with the council to get things done right.” 

After the exchange, Benavente said he would take Banks-McLaughlin’s word that she would continue working with him. 

“What I don’t want is for those hard feelings about this matter from 2023 to impact our ability to reach out and make a phone call, to go in together on a council member request that actually serves these major issues that the community expects us to work on,” Benavente said.

Here’s what else the council voted on at Tuesday’s meeting: 

  • Yard waste: The council voted to 9-1 to continue using the current rules for yard waste, which includes up to 10 containerized items per household in approved receptacles of either green or brown 96-gallon rollout carts; 32-gallon metal or plastic cans with lids; plastic bags; and twig or trimmings tied or bundled. Reusable bags and biodegradable bags are not allowed because the facility that Fayetteville brings its yard waste to doesn’t accept them, the city’s solid waste director said. There have only been four complaints from residents since the new rules were implemented in July, the solid waste director said. 
  • Council meeting times: The council voted 6-4 to change meeting times for regular council meetings from 7 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and for work sessions from 5 p.m. to 2 p.m. The council’s dinner meetings, usually set for 6 p.m., have also been moved from 6 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Council Members Benavente, Brenda McNair, Banks-McLaughlin and Lynne Greene voted against the motion, citing concerns that the 2 p.m. meeting time would conflict with council members’ and residents’ regular working schedules. 

Contact Evey Weisblat at eweisblat@cityviewnc.com or 216-527-3608.

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Courtney Banks-McLaughlin, Mitch Colvin, Mario Benavente, censure, city council