Rallies, protests, demonstrations, buskers and public gatherings — it must be spring in Asheville.
Concerned taxpayers rallied on Monday, April 18, and presented a $3.95 billion “tax bill” to a surprised clerk at the downtown Asheville branch of Bank of America.
Meanwhile, a national event makes its second run, er, walk, in Asheville on Saturday, April 30: Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, “the one where the men walk through downtown wearing women’s heels to take a stand against sexual assault,” says Robin Payne, development coordinator for local nonprofit Our VOICE.
Organizers will lead a group of 20 “Poster Men” (well-known Ashevilleans such as Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair David Gantt, City Council members Cecil Bothwell and Gordon Smith, musician Billy Jonas and more), along with 300 others who are willing to “walk a mile” to show their support for the women in their lives. The participants plan to do a one-mile jaunt throughout downtown. Our VOICE operates the Buncombe County Rape Crisis and Prevention Center.
According to Our Voice, one in six American women are victims of sexual assault. "That means someone you know, someone you care about, has or will become the victim of sexual violence," says Payne. "It may be your mother, sister, friend, girlfriend, wife, coworker or daughter. No one is unaffected."
The event is open to the public, and Payne encourages "men, women and children of all ages to register for the walk" at www.walkamileasheville.org.
Hot Topics: Chief no more
At 4:59 p.m. on April 18, Asheville Police Department Chief Bill Hogan announced his retirement, effective May 13. The step came amid public criticism over his handling of an investigation into missing evidence and the settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit involving a still-employed APD officer.
“After 36 years in law enforcement, I am looking forward to retirement and a new chapter in my life. I strongly value public service, and I am grateful to have spent a career serving the law enforcement profession,” Hogan said in an official announcement from the city of Asheville. “It has been an honor to serve with the professional and dedicated men and women of the Asheville Police Department. I have the utmost confidence in the level of service they will continue to provide to the citizens of Asheville.”
What the announcement did not note, however, is that Hogan has recently been under fire after the State Bureau of Investigation shut down the APD evidence room and began an investigation into missing evidence, including guns, drugs and money. District Attorney Ron Moore publicly criticized the APD leadership at the April 12 City Council meeting, saying he was not adequately notified when a partial audit of the evidence room indicated missing items in early March. At that meeting, Hogan said the evidence room issues were due to “one individual who betrayed the trust.” Mayor Terry Bellamy promised that “changes should be made, and will be made,” though she didn’t specify what those changes would be.
Due to the investigation, Moore has delayed cases involving APD evidence, and a full audit of the property room is currently under way.
The same day, the city settled — to the tune of $52,100 — a sexual harassment lawsuit from former APD Officer Cherie Byrd involving explicit and racially offensive text messages sent by her then-superior, Sgt. Eric Lauffer. The lawsuit alleged that Hogan and city staff ignored Byrd’s complaints. While the APD demoted Lauffer, he remains employed by the department.