Board votes to seek help in investigating racial claims

February 25, 2020 GMT

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina county board of commissioners has voted to begin investigating whether a white commission member made racist remarks to a black county manager.

In a Feb. 11 letter, Durham County Manager Wendell M. Davis said Commissioner Heidi Carter harbors “an inherent bias” toward him and “people of color in general.” Davis accused Carter of directing racist remarks toward him earlier this month.

The Durham County Board of Commissioners held a public meeting Monday on the incident and voted to ask the state Association of County Commissioners for advice on how to proceed with an investigation, The Herald-Sun reported.

Davis wrote in his letter that Carter made denigrating comments toward him and insinuated he wasn’t qualified for his position unless he followed her lead.

“Since 2016, (Carter has) demonstrated a consistent pattern of disparate treatment towards me and employees of color,” Davis wrote.

During the public portion of the hearing, more than 10 people criticized Carter and called for an investigation.

Former Durham Public Schools board member Jackie Wagstaff who served with Carter on that board previously said she empathized with Davis’ letter.

“I understand exactly what Mr. Davis wrote, and I wish I wrote it,” Wagstaff said.

Chairwoman Wendy Jacobs closed the session for about 45 minutes and later announced the decision to investigate. The board will also consult with the UNC School of Government and the International City-County Management Association.

Carter said she never intended to be disrespectful toward Davis nor were her actions racially motivated. She also said Davis’ letter misquoted her several times.

Jacobs said she didn’t believe Carter meant to make any racist statements but acknowledged “that our manager has had his feelings hurt.”

Carter and Jacobs’ statements were met with boos and shushes from the crowd.

Jacobs said she expects to have investigation recommendations by the next meeting on March 2.