City Councilmember Zack Matheny has suggested that the City Council hold a closed session to discuss the incident of domestic violence involving City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba at his home on Dec. 28, 2023.

Matheny suggested that a closed session might be needed in an email to Mayor Nancy Vaughan, his fellow councilmembers and senior city staff on Thursday, Jan. 25.

In the email Zack stated, “I’ve struggled with how to manage this situation, but, since this has become such a public issue, I think it would be wise for the City Council to hold a closed meeting and hear the call. Although, as I write this I am not sure if this could be done before it is made public.”

Matheny continued, “As much as this is a personal situation, it is also our employee and therefore it seems necessary for us to at a minimal to have a discussion.”

When Matheny wrote the email, the city was still withholding the 911 call itself and the police report, which were both released to the public later in the day.

Matheny immediately got push back from Councilmember Sharon Hightower, who wrote, “Zack, I don’t think we can do this. Chuck [City Attorney Chuck Watts] is this right?

Watt’s response is fairly long and it begins, “Sharon, it’s actually a more interesting legal question than I initially thought. And sorry but the answer is that it would depend. It depends, as is always the case, on the purpose of the closed session. If the closed session is for the purpose of considering the qualifications etc of an employee, then, yes a closed session would be legally allowed. If, however, Council is interested in hearing the audio tape for some other reason, then no, it would not be authorized.”

Watt’s response continues with a quote from the North Carolina General Statutes, and he states, “People tend to think of this language broadly as the HR exception when in fact the language is explicitly clear. So if Council believes that from what you may know, that hearing it would impact your decision about the manager’s ‘qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, condition of appointment…,’ then closed session would be authorized.”

The original CAD report released by the city was incorrect.

The city reportedly corrected the CAD report so that it now reads, “CITY MANAGER IS HITTING HIS CHILDREN.”

It would certainly appear that a father hitting his children would reflect on his “character.”

One would have to hope that the question being considered is whether the City Council should have a discussion about the city manager’s behavior on Dec. 28 in closed session or in open session, not whether or not the City Council should discuss the matter at all.

By not releasing the standard police report on the incident at Jaiyeoba’s house on Dec. 28, the city managed to keep the incident out of the public domain for almost a month. But now that information is out there and the public deserves a more detailed explanation of what happened and why it took so long for the city to release the public information about it.