Hope Mills town commissioner Tonzie Collins is suing the very council on which he sits.
HOPE MILLS, N.C. -
A town commissioner in Hope Mills, accused of instigating workplace harassment and abuse, is fighting for his job and suing his fellow commissioners.
This is the latest twist in a bizarre story involving Hope Mills town commissioner Tonzie Collins. Earlier this month, fellow commissioners voted to ban Collins from accessing "non-public" areas of the town hall, in order to avoid having him come in contact with town employees who have filed formal complaints against him. In response, Collins announced he's suing the board. On Wednesday, June 26, a Cumberland County judge is scheduled to review a restraining order, filed by Collins, with the aim of reversing the decision to restrict him from certain parts of Town Hall.
Town records show employees have filed more than a dozen formal complaints against Collins since he took office in 2005, alleging verbal and physical abuse, threats, racist language and sexual harassment. Now, Collins' fellow commissioners are looking at ways to have him removed from the council. On Tuesday, commissioners called an emergency council meeting to discuss the restraining order Collins filed against them. They also went into closed session to talk personnel matters. Collins was not invited to attend that closed session.
"The intimidation, the harassment that's ongoing, and that's what we're trying to do something about is to stop that," Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner said.
Collins addressed the allegations against him during the meeting.
"The employees of the town of Hope Mills have not been harassed, intimidated or threatened by Tonzie Collins," he said.
We caught up with Collins after the meeting.
"I will say this and this is all I'm going to say. Anything else, contact my attorney Cory Brewer. I love this town. I love the people in this town and I love the employees of this town. That's what I stand for," Collins told WNCN. We asked him repeatedly to directly address some of the allegations made against him and to address his re-election chances. He would only reply, "Talk to my lawyer."
WNCN reached out to Brewer earlier in the afternoon, but we have not yet been called back.
Mayor Warner calls the ongoing drama a distraction from other town business.
"It has taken a toll on the town," Warner said. "Our employees, our town manager. They're spending a greater part of their day dealing with the concerns."
Actually removing Collins from the council could be costly. The town attorney told commissioners on Tuesday that Collins could only be removed "for cause." He said finding that cause would require a legal proceeding. Collins is up for re-election in the fall.
Derick is a reporter for WNCN covering crime, education, politics and just about everything in between. He has a knack for adapting to any story and consistently delivers information quickly across multiple platforms.More>>