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Hope Mills town commissioner voted out

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HOPE MILLS, N.C. -

Town commissioners in Hope Mills forced out one of their own on Thursday.

They voted 4-1 to remove Tonzie Collins from office. The decision came late Thursday, following a day-long hearing about complaints against Collins.

Collins was the only dissenting vote.

After a day-long hearing about complaints against Tonzie Collins, commissioners voted to remove Collins from office.

Collins, who rose to the rank of Captain during a 25-year career with the Hope Mills Police Department, was first elected to the town commission in 2005. Town employee complaints about Collins date back to 2006. As recently as this summer the town's deputy clerk said she needed to take a leave of absence because she felt intimidated by Collins.

During the hearing, the town's attorney T.C. Morphis explained all of the complaints against Collins. He called five witnesses, including four town employees and Collins, to testify about the complaints. Morphis argued Collins was guilty of 14 counts of misconduct. He said some of the misconduct was related to Collins overstepping his authority and discussing town matters with employees.  He claimed other misconduct included inappropriate comments Collins made to employees and aggressive physical actions toward some employees.

Collins denies those claims. He said he plans to run for re-election in November.

Before voting, all the commissioners made brief comments. They said they believe Collins was a responsive and dedicated commissioner for citizens. However, they expressed concerns about a pattern of behavior by Collins that may be scaring away employees or making the town susceptible to a lawsuit from an employee. They said they wanted to bring the issues with Collins to light before the November election. 

"The intimidation, the harassment that's ongoing, and that's what we're trying to do something about is to stop that," Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner said.

The hearing to consider removing an elected official from office is called an amotion hearing in North Carolina. It is very rare. Hope Mills is only the second government to use an amotion hearing in the state since 1935. Earlier this year New Hanover County Commissioners voted to remove a fellow commissioner. That decision is currently under appeal.

In June, fellow commissioners voted to ban Collins from accessing "non-public" areas of the town hall, in order to avoid having him come in contact with town employees who have filed formal complaints against him. 

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Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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