‘The Telegram E-Mail Reveal’ Supports My Position

Paul Wolf is an attorney that writes about local government. He lists seven signs that indicate when a local government is dysfunctional with polarizing leadership. Rocky Mount City Council and attending leadership tick off every sign that is listed. Until this investigation ends, we cannot go forward allowing additional opportunities for the same people to keep on doing the wrong thing. Leading that list is the Tarboro Street site for low-income housing, which is the wrong solution built on the wrong site. When the investigation proves that grants and matters with HUD  and all the other skullduggery actually happened, there will be reprisals. There is also the matter that the Council and Mayor and others have been complicit; they’ve either been a part of it or have known what has been going on. There’ll be new leadership in the fall. When those responsible for graft and mismanagement are removed we will no longer be distracted from giving our attention to the fascinating job of preserving Main Street and our neighborhoods and promoting and encouraging the economic drivers coming our way. Affordable housing can be determined when it is no longer under the guise of bait and switch with ECC and put forward by those who have ‘done us wrong.’ We are expecting new arrivals that we must get ready for and who will need welcoming. We’ll get on with the invigorated preservation of our architectural assets. It is an exciting time, let’s get back to enjoying it and celebrating all our blessings. This is one of the many thresholds moments in our lives, right now, to step across into what the future holds that can be positive and beneficial for everyone. I believe this! If you believe, you must clap your hands. (according to Peter Pan and Stepheny)

Ivory tower effect. When self-important elected officials make decisions in a vacuum or otherwise barricade themselves in their offices, that creates a nasty cultural divide between management and employees. Not enough elected officials understand or listen to employees as part of their decision making process.

Warring Factions. In some communities feuds along with the political party, lines are commonplace and accepted as just the way government works. Warring factions are dysfunctional, divisive and they foster rivalry instead of cooperation.

Strategy du jour. When dysfunctional elected officials consistently overreact to a single data point and take the entire organization in a new direction. Often the result of the hallway or ad-hoc meetings in obscure places and making decisions in the absence of those who are actually responsible for that sort of thing.

Analysis paralysis. When elected officials, especially from warring factions, chronically debate issues to death, going down one rat hole or knock-down, drag-out fight after another without actually making decisions because there’s no clear leadership to drive consensus.

Walk on water behavior. When leaders either consciously or subconsciously hoist certain groups up on pedestals while denigrating others. Besides being divisive, that also creates “walk on water” behavior where exalted groups aren’t subject to standard processes like budgeting, for example.

Silo mentality. When teams, departments or entire divisions act as if they’re independent of the rest, usually in a defensive “it’s us against them” sort of way when fighting for resources. Often the result of being denigrated by dysfunctional and divisive elected officials. A.k.a. “bunker mentality.”

Pet Project. Usually supported by an elected official — that’s immune to criticism and the government’s standard processes. In other words, it continues to be funded long after it shouldn’t.


12 thoughts on “‘The Telegram E-Mail Reveal’ Supports My Position

  1. Stepheny, this is a fascinating article. I agree with most of it, however, I disagree with the comment on low income housing. It would not be “the wrong solution built on the wrong site”. It would be the right solution, as we need more affordable housing, but downtown Tarboro Street is definitely the wrong site. Most of the low income and affordable housing in our city is concentrated in poorer communities. In many northern states, affordable housing and low income housing is incorporated in middle income communities and because of the tight restrictions, one would never know “if they didn’t know.” This reduces crime, helps keep the city beautified, gives people a sense of pride and has numerous other benefits because it doesn’t lump a large group into one isolated area where everyone is in the same barrell; a proven bad solution that makes it hard to keep faith and hope alive and to ever get out. That is the reason we have people in those low income communities for 20-30 years or more. They become irrelevant and forgotten in a city that is not looking for permanent solutions to the housing issue. Issues that beget crime, division, hopelessness and more poverty. When a person no longer cares because they have nothing worth anything to lose, watch out! Problem #2 that comes with incorporating small amounts of affordable housing throughout the city is that there are influential people that move mountains and walk through hell to keep “those kind of people” out of ‘their’ neighborhoods. It’s never about a hand up in our quaint little Bible Belt like town. It’s always about division and separation. “You stay on your side and I will stay on mind”. The line in the sand needs to be erased, not made bolder. The mindset of the rich and influential needs to be broadened so that they realize if you keep doing what you are doing you will keep getting what you are getting. While that make work wonderfully in business, it is a pathway to hell for the devout saved and/or sanctified Christians (and even those that are non believers) that are shunning others because of what they don’t have and unwilling to help those they down on. God help us all. Sorry for the long rant…


    1. You are my new hero. THANK YOU for taking the time to write this thoughtful and well-stated view. I’m relieved that you agree, although you said it better than I, that low-income/affordable housing should not be plunked down in one spot but incorporated into our existing neighborhoods for all the reasons you mention. I will be sure that the candidates running in our fall elections see your post. I hope others who read your comments learn from it as much as I did. I’m grateful for the clarity of your intelligent approach to this and I will continue to do what I can to help get this right. Stay close to me on ‘Main Street’ and chime in when you think I could use your thoughts to strengthen my writing. Thanks.


      1. Stepheny, I would also like to give two cents worth on the growing “riff” in NRMS and the great divide our city is experiencing. I was terribly disappointed that the Rocky Mount Telegram decided to put the travel and vehicular usage of the superintendent of NRMS on the front page. They even included his salary which has nothing to do with his vehicle usage. This only adds to the division of the city. I feel this is an issue for the system or the designated authorities to explore. Obviously this amount of travel and expenses didn’t just come about in the last couple of weeks so somebody had to authorize it long before now. It also opens up a can of worms. Somebody will start looking into other divisions as a “clap back” to this article. Are they going to check all the police car odometers? The mayor’s odometer? The other city officials? The DSS? All of these entities have fleet cars. Are they going to list everyone’s salary? For what purposes? For the ‘Telegram’ to feel like this should be front page news also says a lot about how the paper is run, and how they truly will stay, a small town paper. Their political views and opinions of what is newsworthy has gotten under my skin in the last few months. I stopped taking the paper for this very reason. Perhaps, they, too need new management. At the very time when the city needs positive influence and unity, there is always questionable headlines front and center of our local paper; questioning their biases. Any front page article should begin with stating facts, giving opinions based on those facts, then positive resolution. This really is 2nd or 3rd page news at best, according to any other paper. I am so disappointed! We need to get our priorities in order.

        Monnique Taylor


      2. Have to add that the problem is as simple as the opening fact that he is using a fleet car putting a lot of miles on it as well as receiving $600.00 per month allowance in addition to his annual salary. His contract makes no mention of a car being assigned to him. I may agree with you on the placement of the story but every high official is under scrutiny now and will be until the investigation is concluded. A broad net is being cast and things like this caught. The school boards reaction was my big disappointment.


      3. Something we may have forgotten amidst this turmoil, is that somebody with a higher pay grade or status, knew the Superintendent of NRMS was using a fleet car. Someone had to issue him keys to this car, somebody serviced that car, somebody authorized his allowance and somebody cut the check to pay those expense bills for that car. In my estimate that is at least 5 people fully aware of what was going on with this vehicular usage and mileage. It is difficult to travel over 100,000 miles and still manage a school system. Perhaps because this car was not officially “on the books”, I don’t know, maybe everybody used this car when they needed to, hence the crazy mileage. If the Sup had driven to his family owned home (anywhere) in NC and back once a monthas insinuated, he probably would still not exceed 100,000 miles. The other ‘stop and pause’ moment that has been forgotten is how this gentleman got into the position of superintendent in the first place. After disputes and departures and payouts with several previous Sups, the board felt a need to get someone they could mold (so as to be able to run things as they saw fit). During the interview process, several well qualified, well experienced candidates were overlooked for this assumed nice man that I have never met, that had never been a Sup (although he served as a assistant I think) and that was not as degreed as some others. Salaries and bonuses could have been negotiatedfor the others if it was money issues, but this was the ultimate plan; get someone that would be moldable and just serve as the face of the system. Someone who can be rewarded for their obedience. The board will actually make all the decisions. This is politics; power, money and clout. It’s nothing new and happens in every city, big or small, in the world. There is no stopping it. We can only vote to change some things at the top and pray for a trickle down affect, but this will never go away. We are a society that relishes in the competition, the grappling, the ‘let me show you who’s gun is bigger’ or the ‘if you can’t run with the big dogs, get off the porch’ mentality. The moral compass is mainly pointing away from two generations; the one that remembers how things were and wants to keep it that way and who are generally over 60 (the big dogs) and the generation of techies and gamers that want to be unapologetically uninterrupted all the time and that can project us light years ahead in a matter of minutes, indulge in cutting edge technology and that consider all experiences to be “the coolest thing ever”. Generally they are around 20 something years of age and have no intentions of remaining in this town. Somewhere in the middle is suppose to be those with learned integrity, a listening ear and the voice of reason and compassion that comes from having lived through the good and bad of our city. They have raised children and perhaps grand children here. They should remember the grandeur. Those late 30’s to early 50’s is who we need in charge. Some young enough to advance us with modern technology and some old enough to have experience and wisdom and remember a time when Rocky Mount was the City on the Rise, when people moved her just to have their children attend the school’s in nash and edgecombe counties. A time when we locked our doors but left our windows open. When our PTO’s actually raised money for the school playground because teachers had plenty of supplies. A time when people stayed in jobs long enough for you to know their first and last name. A time before the realization set in that we are one of only a handful of counties that still have a school board. (Most have been eliminated for obvious reasons.) A time when cover ups were minimal and nobody was scared of having their skeletons dug up, everybody worked together for the good of the city. Everybody got a piece of the pie. A time before we had to worry about policing mileage of fleet cars and it being front page and newsworthy. The city on the rise…touché


      4. Another THANK YOU for taking the time to leave this reasoned and sensitive view of where we are in this world just now, our world being Rocky Mount and surroundings. I repeat I can’t understand why someone like yourself has not been in charge of making sense around here. We don’t all have to agree on every jot and tittle, but we do have to have reasoned discussions which you are providing. I am now graduating from a thank you to a hug and I hope a cup of tea together before long. SFH


      5. We must get together soon. Tea would be lovely. Perhaps my rants won’t seem so long and incoherent if they are coming out of mouth instead of being a host of errors and grammatically incorrect thoughts put in writing! 😏

        Monnique Taylor


      6. Your comments have been nothing but careful observations, borne of thought and experience. Everyone doesn’t have to agree with every word we write, but everyone will appreciate that it does take a reasoned approach to find the best answers. Tea it is -soon!


    1. The cat is out of the bag now with attention drawn to the mismanagement and corruption. There is a vote of no confidence without a doubt though our system doesn’t call for that kind of action. It can’t come soon enough When justice is dealt out. Hold that thought, Kathryn with me.


  2. Great job Stepheny!

    The investigations and public outcry have been a long time coming. Thank you for keeping the ball rolling!

    If I were the City Manager, her puppets, the Mayor and the City Council I would begin looking for good attorneys–HUD is a formidable federal organization and they do not like thieves. The state of North Carolina will no doubt hold a similar view of the pack of thieves and liars—and want state funds back.

    However, in the end the TAXPAYERS of RM should be the angriest—they have had their money foolishly wasted, have been lied to repeatedly and have been painted out to be raciest.
    Elected officials who do this are the worst type of criminals. The actions of this group will have a long-lasting impact on the city and those who live there.

    Malfeasance is bad enough but to paint decent people as racist to cover up theft and lies—well, that is immoral.


  3. Someone PLEASE give the city council, city manager and city attorney a bus ticket 🎫 out of town and they need to leave by sundown!!!


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