LUMBERTON — The face of the We the People movement is once more free to attend Robeson County Board of Commissioners meetings and question individual members on the street — at least for now.
During a meeting Monday in her chambers, Chief District Court Judge Judith Milsap Daniels told him that, after reviewing the case file, she did not believe the complaints against Gerome Chavis would hold up to scrutiny in court, said Gary Locklear, interim county attorney. Facing the prospect of losing the case, the county conceded.
But the county can amend the complaint and have it placed back on the court calendar, Locklear said.
“That depends on what my clients want to do,” he said.
Locklear’s clients are the county manager and the county Board of Commissioners.
It was at the direction of then-County Manager Ricky Harris that Locklear on Dec. 3 filed for and received a temporary restraining order against Chavis. The order barred Chavis from Board of Commissioners meetings, prohibited Chavis from publishing inaccurate information about the board as a body and about individual commissioners, and prohibited Chavis from being closer than 100 feet from the board as a whole or individual board members.
Locklear has said the restraining order request was made because of what happened during the Nov. 19 board meeting, when Chavis basically “took over the meeting.” Locklear also said Chavis threatened a security guard once they were outside the meeting’s chambers. Chavis denies that.
Locklear said he intends to amend the complaint.
In the meantime, Chavis is free to attend Board of Commissioners meetings, Locklear said.
“I told her (Judge Daniels) in his (Chavis’) presence that the commissioners will not allow him to take over a meeting,” Locklear said.
Chavis said he was not in the closed-door meeting at the Robeson County Courthouse between Judge Daniels, Locklear and his attorney, Dale Godfrey. Other county leaders who attended the hearing but were not in the closed meeting include Harris; County Manager Kellie Blue; Commissioners Raymond Cummings, Roger Oxendine and board Chairman Jerry Stephens; board clerk Tammy Freeman; and county Board of Elections member Tiffany Peguise-Powers.
“What they were trying to do was intimidate the judge with their star power,” Chavis said. “That’s my opinion.”
Daniels made it clear that the commissioners have the right to hold meetings and conduct the business they were elected to conduct, he said.
“And I am in agreement with that,” Chavis said.
He said he understands the county can amend the complaint, but that he and his attorney are ready.
“We’ve got five witnesses who will say the so-called threat to the security guard did not happen,” he said.
Regardless of what happens with the complaint, Chavis does not plan to stop watching and questioning the actions of county leaders.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “Matter of fact, we will turn the heat up.”
Shortly after the decision, Chavis went on Facebook and declared victory, but also said he would not speak out of order or disrupt county meetings.
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at [email protected]