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Rocky Mount dealing with state audit's aftermath: Councilman rebuffs report in TV interview

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ROCKY MOUNT — The city council is set to have dueling meetings Tuesday with two top city officials calling for special sessions to discuss a state audit report that revealed one of them had write-offs of nearly $50,000 in unpaid utility bills.

Mayor Sandy Roberson postponed his Thursday meeting until 2 p.m. Tuesday while Mayor Pro-tem Andre Knight set for a special meeting to begin at 3 p.m., an hour before the regular council workshop is scheduled to start.

Roberson called for Knight to step down after State Auditor Beth Wood released a report revealing Knight has received $47,704 in unpaid utility bill write-offs over a two-decade period.

Roberson also said City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney should reimburse taxpayers for city money she spent on lavish meals including steak and lobster.

Knight told WTVD that black people can eat lobster too.

“Miss Small-Toney didn’t eat $1,600 of food by herself,” Knight said. “If she’s guilty, the city attorney is guilty, the other white council people are guilty and I’m guilty because I sat at the table and ate a meal. What that infers is that black people cannot eat steak and lobster. (Wood) wants us to eat souse and pig’s feet and potted meat in our room. We can eat whatever we want to eat, according to the policy.”

When WTVD reporter Gloria Rodriguez asked Knight whether Small-Toney exceed city policy by spending more than the allowed per diem, Knight responded that the city conducted an internal audit with findings totally different than those of the state audit.

“You can put any kind of statement in a report and make it sound however you want it to,” Knight said, speaking about Wood’s report, but by axiom, the statement applies to the city’s internal audit as well.

Knight said he’s not going to resign.

“I have never stolen,” Knight said. “I have never taken. I never asked for preferential treatment. I have always fought and worked hard.”

Knight claimed Wood is involved in a racially motivated conspiracy to attack black leadership in Rocky Mount and delay the downtown development of a high-end hotel and parking garage at the site of the Rocky Mount Event Center.

Wood said that as a member of the Local Government Commission, she voted in favor of approving loans for the event center.

Knight said any assertion that he hasn’t paid his bills is unfounded.

“That’s a lie. And I challenge that. I have proof, just like she do,” Knight said.

Wood said she has proof Knight didn’t pay utilities. The evidence was uncovered by her auditors going through records at City Hall. The investigation lasted almost a year.

Wood and her team of auditors began looking at City Hall in response to 213 resident complaints claiming misconduct by elected officials and employees.

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