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Cornelius News

‘Privilege’ raised in Jetton speed enforcement discussion

Sheriff McFadden

March 19. By Dave Yochum. The gauntlet was thrown down Feb. 18 at the Cornelius Town Board meeting when Commissioner Kurt Naas demanded that Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden come to Cornelius because he “has some explaining to do.”

“The Sheriff owes the town some answers,” said Naas, a first-term commissioner.

Depending on your point of view, it could be that the sheriff and his officers threw down the gauntlet first.

The day before, on an otherwise quiet Sunday afternoon in Cornelius, sheriff’s officers enforced speeds on Jetton, ticketing drivers exceeding the 35 mph speed limit by 10 or more miles an hour. The officers operated out of Jetton Park, a county-owned park where pedestrians cross Jetton with the help of an often-ignored pedestrian flashing cross light.


It’s a long block from Naas’ home in The Peninsula.

The following Monday night, when Naas summoned McFadden to the next town meeting, it all could have ended right there.

Cornelius Police Chief Kevin Black said he and McFadden talked and agreed there would be more advance communication next time there is a “LIDAR,” for Light Detection and Ranging, operation in Cornelius.

Black, the new Cornelius chief of police, and Mayor Woody Washam acknowledged that the new Mecklenburg sheriff has every right to enforce the law in Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and points south.

It didn’t end there, of course. Two weeks later, at the next Town Board meeting, Sheriff’s officers attended the Town Board meeting and answered questions from Naas and other commissioners.

But this past Monday, McFadden himself attended in what could have been a courtesy meeting, with Mayor Pro Tem Michael Miltich presiding.

The scene reminded some people of Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings almost 30 years ago: An eminently qualified black man defending his record.

To begin with, the optics weren’t good.

McFadden said so himself: “I thought I came to be welcomed to Cornelius, not this.”

He almost immediately called it an adversarial situation.

“I think this is a staged event…I wasn’t welcomed here,” he said.

“It’s an African-American sheriff making a difference in this city and county,” McFadden said, explaining that the dynamics here were all about “privilege” among those that have it and those that don’t.

He came to office last November, winning 30,000 votes vs. 15,700 for Antoine Ensley and 11,700 for incumbent Irwin Carmichael.

Naas garnered 2,017 votes in the November election. His margin of victory over the sixth-place finisher—and therefore a loser—was 127 votes.


The scene this past Monday night included four white commissioners and one black commissioner up on a dais, looking down on the public, including McFadden.

Naas asked this question: “Are you aware this is a town-owned road?”

McFadden said, “Young men came out to do their jobs.”

To describe the exchange as awkward is an understatement. Confrontational and embarrassing is more like it​, elected officials said off the record. ​

Mayor Woody Washam, who missed the meeting because of a previously planned vacation, said he has reached out to Sheriff McFadde​n to mend fences and plan a meeting with the town manager and Chief Black.