Attorney removed from city commission
BY WILLIAM F, WEST
Sunday, October 20, 2019
A local attorney who had been on the Rocky Mount Human Relations Commission for a dozen years — and who recently became a center of controversy because of a comment on social media — has been replaced on the panel.
Steve Stevenson will be out and Lorenzo Ellis is going to be in. The City Council only needs Ellis’ personal history form to complete the process.
Stevenson on Friday told the Telegram of what happened earlier in the week.
“I was surprised, disappointed — and had no notice whatsoever,” he said. “And the last that I heard, my application for reappointment had been received and there was no issue with it.
“I would further say if the council wants to have an echo chamber, that is not the purpose of the Human Relations Commission,” Stevenson said. “It is to hear different voices and different opinions and be able to come together, not to chase off the people that you don’t want to hear.
“Due process has been thrown out the window,” he said.
The commission, which was created in 1968, seeks to promote harmony, respect and understanding. Commissioners serve staggered four-year terms and Stevenson’s term ended in June.
Stevenson had been serving as an appointee from Ward 4, which is represented by Councilwoman Lois Watkins.
Attempts by the Telegram via email and phone to reach Watkins for comment were unsuccessful. Watkins did not seek re-election in the Oct. 8 municipal election.
Stevenson first was appointed to the commission in August 2007 and municipal records show Stevenson had said he would like to be reappointed.
Near the end of Monday’s City Council work session, with two council members absent, the council majority, with assistance from City Clerk Pam Casey, briefly took up appointments to local boards and commissions.
Watkins nominated Ellis to serve on the Human Relations Commission, while Mayor David Combs nominated Carlos Urill Licona Villa to serve on the commission.
Councilman Tom Rogers, who chaired the work session, said the appointments would be made subject to Ellis providing his personal history form.
Ellis has been referred to in past news accounts as the significant other of Angela Bryant, a Democrat who represented Nash County in the state Senate. Bryant stepped aside after Gov. Roy Cooper, also a Democrat and a Nash County native, appointed her to serve on the state Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission.
Villas is an investigator with the Kellum Law Firm. Villas replaced Sue Battle Moore, who had been appointed to the Human Relations Commission last year but did not wish to continue serving.
Stevenson made news when commissioners present for a Sept. 11 commission meeting voted to recommend the City Council remove him as a voting member.
Commissioner Curmilus Dancy, who is a blogger and a videographer, recorded the commission meeting and posted the video on YouTube.
The video showed Commissioner Nehemiah Smith taking issue with a comment Rocky Mount native and local businessman Randy Adcox had posted on Facebook.
The posting by Adcox attached remarks from Booker T. Washington to support Adcox’s argument that Washington, in his time more than a century ago, called out African-Americans who would stoop to use their peers as pawns in a power struggle.
Adcox wrote he believes with all that has transpired in 100 years, one would think it would be impossible for certain African-American leaders to exploit their fellow African-American citizens for political gain.
“And yet, it continues,” Adcox wrote.
Washington was a prominent spokesman for African-Americans from the late 1890s to the early 1900s.
On Facebook, Stevenson responded to Adcox’s posting by writing he believes the situation is one of power and control delegated by those who keep them in poverty, servitude and victimization.
“Those leaders have constantly been exposed for subjugating their followers to victimhood for over 100 years and yet history continues to repeat itself,” Stevenson wrote. “The amazing part is the relative success leaders have in projecting the consequences of their action onto others.”
Stevenson wrote he believed an entire race and a political party have been demonized in the process.
During the Sept. 11 commission meeting, Smith told his fellow commissioners, “First of all, it’s good to know that I’ve been in this black skin almost 50 years and Mr. Adcox is more of an expert on black folks than I am.”
Smith said of Adcox’s and Stevenson’s comments on Facebook, “This runs adverse to what we’re trying to do.”
Adcox later told the Telegram there was no intent on his part to offend anybody and he merely was stating a parallel he saw in history.
Stevenson later told the Telegram he had an inkling in advance something was up and did not go to the Sept. 11 meeting because he did not want to fall into an ambush.
Stevenson was chairman of the state Human Relations Commission under former Gov. Pat McCrory, who is a Republican. Stevenson presently is on the commission as state House Speaker Tim Moore’s representative. Moore also is a Republican.