Mayor Earnell Brown urged Hertford town councilors last week to take action against Councilman Quentin Jackson, claiming his conduct, some of which has resulted in criminal charges, is reflecting negatively on the town.
“Over the past year, the display of unethical behaviors have been committed by Councilman Jackson, several resulting in criminal charges,” Brown said during the Dec. 15 Town Council meeting. “These behaviors and actions reflect negatively on the town of Hertford. They reflect negatively on the board’s credibility to effectively govern this municipality, create potential liability against the town, and impede the ability to protect the citizens’ safety.
“If the Hertford governing board continues to remain silent and to take no action against such ongoing behavior/actions, it is guilty of condoning the unethical behavior of Councilman Jackson,” Brown said.
Brown called for council to either censure Jackson, seek to remove him from office, or seek state legislation authorizing the town to hold a recall election. (Brown’s list of Jackson’s actions is published on page A3.) Citing general statutes, Brown said any council actions or discussion about Jackson had to be done in open session.
“This is not personal,” she said. “This is not vengeful. It’s not mean or negative. And I apologize if it is taken that way. I feel compelled as the mayor of the governing board, that we have an ethical integrity requirement that we all took the oath of office for.”
Mayor Pro Tem Ashley Hodges said council is not really prepared yet to make any decision regarding Jackson, so he would prefer if council were to address the matter at the next meeting in January. He said that would give everyone, including Jackson, a chance to prepare for the discussion.
“If what was read (by the mayor) is true, of course I think then he deserves to be condemned in the strongest terms,” Hodges said.
Hodges said based on his perspective about the measures Mayor Brown mentioned as actions council could take against Jackson, a recall was not an option because it’s not allowed by state law in Perquimans County.
Further, Hodges said council cannot vote to remove a councilor unless that councilor is either incapacitated or convicted of a felony. He also said censure requires a specific process.
For the near term, a written resolution condemning Jackson’s actions seems plausible, Hodges said. Doing so, however, would be premature until Jackson has had a chance to respond, he said.
Councilman Jerry Mimlitsch said he doesn’t know what council should do about Jackson’s actions, but it needs to do something.
“As a council, we should agree that we have to act a certain way, regardless of whether we’re in here or out there,” he said.
Councilman Frank Norman said it was unfair to have a conversation about Jackson because the councilor wasn’t in the room to defend himself.
Jackson was not in the council chamber for Monday’s meeting. He instead attended the meeting remotely via Zoom.
Following Brown’s remarks, Jackson took aim at her assertion that he had influenced or asked for personal favors from police Chief Dennis Brown. He asked Chief Brown if he had ever asked him to do anything other than his job.
“No,” Chief Brown responded
Jackson asked, “We’ve always had the understanding that you could and would arrest me, right?”
Brown answered, “Absolutely.”
Jackson asked, “Have I ever made you uncomfortable doing your job or anything?”
Brown answered, “No, except for last week when I didn’t charge those people — that would’ve been in violation of my contract.”
Brown was referring to an incident reported several months ago about a Hertford resident who allegedly had stolen electricity from the town. Jackson was unhappy with the town’s response to the incident. He had called for an investigation into the incident, claiming not conducting one would be a violation of Brown’s employment agreement with the town.
Recalling the exchange which occurred at a council meeting, Hodges said Chief Brown felt his employment had been threatened in the course of the conversation.
Jackson also defended himself from allegations Brown made about an incident that happened Saturday, Dec. 6 outside Edenton. According to the Chowan County Sheriff’s Office, a deputy discovered an unoccupied vehicle in the Cape Colony neighborhood by the Northeastern Regional Airport around 11:30 p.m.
During her remarks, Mayor Brown said that while the deputy was checking the car’s vehicle identification number, Jackson appeared “nervously” from a wooded area. Jackson approached the deputy and said it was his car. The vehicle had revoked plates which were subsequently seized and turned over the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. Brown said the deputy patted down Jackson and discovered he was in possession of an 800 megahertz radio and there was a green ballistic vest in the car’s back seat.
During the council meeting, Jackson claimed the vehicle wasn’t his. He claimed he didn’t get a ticket; nor did the deputy check the car’s registration.
A subsequent check with the Chowan County Sheriff’s Department indicates the deputy did check the car’s registration during the incident and discovered it was registered to someone else.
When the incident occurred, Jackson told the deputy he is the liaison between Hertford Town Council and the Hertford Police Department. Town Manager Pam Hurdle and Chief Brown indicated that police department does not have a liaison with council.
During the council meeting, Norman said council had chosen Jackson to serve as police liaison during the governing body’s retreat last summer.
Hodges and Mimlitsch said though there was discussion on the matter during the retreat, no formal action was taken. Council did not think it appropriate to have a liaison who might be perceived as having power over any town department, they said.
Jackson then discussed a May 17 incident that resulted in him being charged with misdemeanor communicating threats. According to court documents, Jackson allegedly told Sonya Thomas of Hertford that he was going to beat her up and spit on her.
In her remarks, Mayor Brown said Thomas’ father called Chief Brown, who took her to the magistrate’s office to file a warrant for a criminal summons in the incident.
The mayor said Jackson was upset when he called the police chief at 7:21 p.m. May 17.
The mayor claimed Jackson also called Thomas’ husband May 21 in an attempt to intimidate the victim to drop charges. On June 10, the mayor said Jackson allegedly yelled from a car window at Thomas: “You have no protection now.”
The mayor also said that on June 18, Jackson allegedly told Thomas, “All he has to do is hit her in the head and make her have a seizure.”
Thomas filed a restraining order against Jackson on June 19.
During the council meeting, Jackson said the mayor took Thomas to the courthouse to file the restraining order after they met in Brown’s office at Town Hall.
“You took them there!” Jackson said.
Brown answered back, “Absolutely!”
Jackson continued, “So don’t say on that she (Thomas) went on her own to do that. You’re not going to sit here and lie on me. If you’re going to tell something, tell the truth.”
Jackson then asked police officer John Duncan if he was separated from the incident involving Thomas when police first arrived on May 17. Duncan responded that was true.
Jackson then said of the incident, he didn’t want to bother anyone – information not included in the police report. He said he called the police, not Thomas.
Jackson said the charges against him arising from the incident were thrown out of court. Jackson said when Thomas testified, she was charged with perjury — information not mentioned in the mayor’s comments. “What your thing was to do, was to come here and disrespect me tonight,” Jackson said to Mayor Brown. “I’m going to get with you tonight — I promise you.”
Jackson then discussed a tablet that had been reported missing from Town Clerk Shoniqua Powell. Mayor Brown noted that the tablet was removed without authorization from her office and how several days later, Powell confided that Jackson had called and asked her for the password.
Jackson claimed that by using the password to gain access to the town’s server, he was attempting to locate the missing tablet. Jackson explained that in many instances, he used his technical experience to assist council and Town Hall — a point Manager Hurdle confirmed.
Jackson mentioned the incident when he was convicted in December 2019 of assaulting former councilman Sid Eley by hitting him in the face. Jackson, who had appealed his earlier conviction in District Court for assault on a government official, pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of simple assault in Perquimans County Superior Court.
Superior Court Judge Wayland Sermons sentenced Jackson to the maximum sentence — 60 days in jail — but suspended it and ordered him instead to serve 15 days in jail. Sermons gave Jackson credit for seven days he had already served in jail for the conviction earlier this year, meaning the councilor will spend eight days in jail. Jackson spent about a week in jail.
Jackson also apologized to Eley, the 71-year-old former Hertford town councilor he punched in the face following a work session on Oct. 1, 2018.
Jackson said because some of these incidents happened before Brown was elected mayor, she should have “fact-checked” the incident before including them in her remarks.
“You need to get your facts when you come in here,” he said.
Norman addressed rumors that Town Hall had not paid for Jackson’s criminal defense in the case involving Eley, but had done so in another situation – payment of fees endorsed unanimously by the previous council.
In her remarks, Brown also discussed how Jackson was arrested June 20 and charged with resisting arrest after allegedly interfering with a traffic stop. According to court documents, Jackson allegedly attempted to interfere with Capt. Gilbert Rodriguez as he was conducting a traffic stop.
Jackson said what the mayor didn’t say about his arrest was that it was racial profiling of a Black man and the charge is still making its way through the court system.
Jackson noted Brown’s call to a former police officer and the time she spent talking to the Hertford’s public works director – instances he called violations of town policy.
“So when you call me out, we’re going to talk about everything that you’ve been doing,” he said.
Jackson said that instead of following the legislative protocol when presiding over meetings, Mayor Brown does whatever she wants such as changing the agenda. He asked if those actions would qualify the mayor for censure.
Jackson noted how the Mayor’s “buddy on Front Street” was stealing electricity, but nothing was ever done to prosecute the person. Jackson said he’s seen emails that said, “Chief, ‘don’t prosecute her. Don’t arrest her, chief.’
“You know why? Because who was the next door neighbor? You. You just said we should just give them a second chance and that it is OK that they stole power, but yet you want to sit here and talk about Quentin Jackson and how it broke your heart to talk about him?”
Jackson dismissed many of Brown’s assertions about him before he noted how when she received a speeding ticket, she didn’t report it to the town as she was required to do — a point confirmed by Brown.
Jackson also said Brown should have filed paperwork with the clerk that indicates she took an ethics course as she is required to do as mayor.
Brown said she has filed the paperwork.
Hurdle, however, said Brown has not filed the paperwork.
Mimlitsch said he understood how difficult it was for Mayor Brown to “call out” Jackson before council. Mimlitsch said one thing he’s talked about since being elected to council in 2019 is setting an example of leadership.
“The people up on stage are supposed to be leaders,” he said. “I think that dictates a lot of things. Part of that is our actions during meetings, but part of it is our actions outside Town Council. The things that the mayor read from her speech, they are facts from things — she wasn’t trying to present anything wrong. She wouldn’t do that. But hearing all that compiled, I don’t think that’s anything anyone should be involved in. That’s not right.”