Commissioner accused of using 'N-word'

Tonzie Collins

June 2, 2010 4:07:07 AM PDT
For the second time in as many years, a Hope Mills town commissioner is under fire. The town attorney has confirmed to ABC11 Eyewitness News that he's looking into allegations that Commissioner Tonzie Collins used the N-word in a reference to the town's African American police chief.

"In this case I really need to direct all questions to the town manager or the town attorney for any further answers to the allegations," Hope Mills Police Chief Robert Hassell said.

ABC11 has obtained two sworn documents from Animal Control Officer Paul Howard and Sergeant Dave Servie, who say on April 1, Collins pulled up to them in the back of the police department and started talking about Jesse Helms.

They say when Chief Hassell crossed the parking lot, Collins placed his truck in gear and said, "And I don't like N***** either."

"I never sat in no cars with no officers and I never used the word N***** against the Chief of Police of Hope Mills," Collins said.

He went on to say he never used the N-word in the presence of any police officers that he is aware of.

The two officers later told Chief Hassell about the incident.

Hassell then wrote a formal letter of complaint which says in part, "...upon listening to staff on how the N-word was used and when the statement was made 'I don't like the N-word' as I entered the police station leads me to believe the remark was intended to refer to me as the police chief and an African American."

ABC11 has learned the two officers passed lie detector tests when questioned about the allegations they made.

Collins says he would take a lie detector test also, to clear his name. He says he's being targeted for supporting a long-time police department employee who was recently fired by the chief.

"And also they're in the process of trying to make a transition with the dispatchers going over to Cumberland County and I've been very vocal about that," Collins said.

Currently, the comments are just allegations. It will be up to the town attorney to determine whether an additional investigation is warranted by the League of Municipalities or even the SBI.

Meanwhile, Collins is no stranger to controversy. He received a vote of no confidence last year from fellow commissioners.

The vote centered on a harassment and hostile environment case alleged by the town's former human resources manager. Hope Mills had to pay Kimberly Lockamy $150,000. Collins denied any wrongdoing in that case.

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