by Joe Schwartz
Chapel Hill’s now infamous Yates raid won’t be subject to an independent investigation, the Town Council decided Monday in a 7-1 vote with Councilwoman Laurin Easthom dissenting in frustration.
Instead town officials will gather first-hand accounts via its website, seek specialized training for officers confronting political protesters and answer the questions posed by the council-appointed Community Policing Advisory Committee, which will take up the issue again at its Feb. 8 meeting.
Last week CPAC petitioned the Town Council to ask for funding for an independent investigator. Chairman Ron Bogle, a retired judge, said that the Yates incident was a special case that required outside eyes for a full and fair analysis that his volunteer committee lacked both the expertise and time to achieve.
The Town Council referred the petition to staff and to themselves and directed Town Manager Roger Stancil to provide a cost estimate and an outline of what an independent review would entail.
Stancil conferred with Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos, and both men deemed that because an investigator could not compel witnesses to speak that route likely would not provide the answers that the community is seeking.
Instead, Stancil offered this alternative.
That drew the ire of Alex Kotch, who along with former U.S. Senate candidate and Chapel Hill resident Jim Neal has been rallying support for an independent investigation.
Kotch said he knew he wasn’t likely to sway the council, but he wanted to register his objection and note that donors were willing to fund an outside review.
He called the timing of Stancil’s plan, which was only sent to council members two hours before the meeting, “quite negligent.”
The late hour of Stancil’s memo was Easthom’s reason for voting in opposition. She said she only had time to skim the documents prior to the vote.
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said Stancil sent the memo as soon as it was completed.
He added that hiring an investigator who can’t compel testimony “seems just foolish,” and that, “this to me is a step forward not a kick of the can.”
The vote came past 11 p.m. due to its placement at the rear of a hearty agenda, and 11 weeks since the Nov. 13 incident.
Five members of the public spoke. Three advocated for an outside review. Two wanted to move past the incident and heel.
David Maliken, one of eight people arrested in the raid, questioned the process.
“I'm tired, but I'm not going away. I'm going to continue to be here and engage with you,” Maliken said. “There really aren't words to express the sentiment that rises within me.”
Kleinschmidt chastised Maliken by saying he was sorry if he was tired and that senior citizens have attended council meeting that have worn on past midnight.
Earlier that day Maliken appeared in court and received deferred prosecution.
Maliken said that those inside the building had agreed to leave peacefully if asked by police and with his case now settled, and that he’s ready to share his full story with any committee that will listen.