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Asheville Watchdog

Advocates: Youth Need More Say in Reparations

 ‘Let Your Voices Be Heard'

Tyler Lewis, 18, says he's tired of talking about reparations. "Let's start making things happen." // Credit: Starr Sariego, Asheville Watchdog

By SCOTT CARROLL, Asheville Watchdog 

Cultural malnutrition.

That’s the phrase Asheville native and longtime resident Priscilla Ndiaye Robinson has coined to describe the disconnect many in the Black community, especially young people, have about their history and culture. In Robinson’s mind, knowledge is power, especially now as a historic Community Reparations Commission works to atone for the government’s role in denying Blacks wealth-building opportunities.

“There is a lack of knowledge of relevant local history,” Robinson said. “Our youth need to learn that history.”

Perhaps no group could be more impacted by the work of the Reparations Commission than Asheville’s Black children and young adults. But a lack of participation by youths is emerging as one of the early challenges to the reparations process. 

The 25-member Reparations Commission is decidedly older — 


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Madison Cawthorn Targeted by Federal Election Commission

After high-flying campaign, he’s broke, busted and disgusted

In a message to constituents on Instagram, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) shows off his cigar

BY TOM FIEDLER, Asheville Watchdog

Fancy cigars. Four-figure dinner tabs. Coast-to-coast luxury travel and stays at swanky hotels. Generous gifts to friends, and lucrative payouts to Republican advisors and cronies. Madison Cawthorn’s re-election campaign was rolling in money.

But now, following his defeat in the May 17 Republican primary, the money’s all gone. And federal officials want to know where it went.

In a bluntly worded letter dated Aug. 1 — Cawthorn’s 27th birthday — the Federal Election Commission warned that unless Cawthorn “immediately” submits a report that was due July 15, he faces fines of about $1,000 a day, an audit, or even “legal enforcement action.” The report must detail how he handled more than $3.65 million in campaign contributions, fully listing all his donors and the amounts they gave, and providing a full account of where he spent it. 


Publisher’s Letter: Why Don’t Asheville Watchdog Stories Appear in the Citizen Times Any More?

Gannett says it's all about profits

By BOB GREMILLION, Publisher, Asheville Watchdog

Many of you continue to ask why the Asheville Citizen Times no longer carries stories by Asheville Watchdog

We wondered that too, so we asked. And it turns out, according to Mark Russell, the Memphis-based executive who oversees the Cincinnati-based editor of Asheville’s only daily newspaper, the Citizen Times prioritizes local news that can be put behind a paywall and monetized.

As a not-for-profit local news organization, Asheville Watchdog believes in public service journalism that is freely available to the local community. We don’t put our stories behind a paywall, nor do we allow others to erect paywalls around the work we give to them without charge. 

“I am familiar with the non-profit model you described — and I am sure your content is relevant and useful,” Russell wrote to me in an email exchange in July.


Novant Offer for Mission Matched HCA Bid, Former Top Exec Says

Ex-CFO says he was excluded from negotiations

HCA Mission Hospital in Asheville


The Mission Health system could have been purchased by another nonprofit hospital chain in a deal that would have been at least as good if not better than the $1.5 billion sale that the hospital system’s board ultimately approved to HCA Healthcare in 2018, a former top Mission executive now says.

The sale to HCA was “significantly detrimental” to the community, said Charles F. Ayscue, who was Mission’s top financial executive from 2007 to 2018. Ayscue broke the cone of silence that has surrounded the highly controversial Mission sale by writing a letter in support of Novant Health’s application to be awarded 67 new acute care hospital beds in Buncombe County.

Ayscue is now working for Novant as an independent contractor. 

The letter includes stunning new revelations about the HCA deal,


July 4 Explosives Suspect in Court

Police on High Alert, Deployed Drone

By SCOTT CARROLL, Asheville Watchdog

A man who authorities say detonated a potentially dangerous homemade explosive following a July 4 celebration in downtown Asheville will remain in jail indefinitely after a judge ruled Tuesday that prosecutors had presented enough evidence to warrant the charges against him.

Chioke Auden Fugate, 23, has been in the Buncombe County jail since July 11. Asheville Police say Fugate and Duncan Andrew Small, 30, threatened to blow up the remnants of the Vance Monument and detonated at least one explosive known as a quarter stick, an illegal device capable of serious injury.

Their attorneys say Fugate and Small were merely setting off fireworks, but prosecutors have described the men as a “danger to the community.” As Asheville Watchdog previously reported,


Was It Just a Fireworks Prank? Or Was a Possible Tragedy Averted?

Courts weigh public safety threat of July 4 explosives suspects

Fugate posted a photo of himself in his blue coyote "fursona," holding an M4 carbine // credit:


One dressed in Nazi uniforms, posed with an array of firearms and knives, and posted videos of himself shooting automatic rifles. The other threatened to spread his COVID-19 infection throughout a courthouse in Washington state if court personnel did not drop a speeding ticket.

Chioke Fugate, 23, and Duncan Small, 30, both of Asheville, are charged with detonating a homemade explosive similar to a pipe bomb in Pack Square on July 4. Witnesses said Small threw the explosive, described in court as a “quarter stick” or M device, at the remnants of the Vance Monument, and Fugate “threw fireworks and other incendiary devices at people,” court records say.

No one was injured, but police said the explosion,


In their own words: Members of Reparations Commission describe systemic racism in Asheville

City was "not built to provide equality,” one writes

Reparations: Cut The Check mural at 508 Haywood Road // photo by Peter Lewis for Asheville Watchdog

They range from Asheville natives to relative newcomers. Their backgrounds include a broad array of vocations, including educators, nurses, entrepreneurs, and community leaders.

All of them are Black, and nearly all say they have encountered various forms of racism in their lives. They are members of the Asheville/Buncombe County Community Reparations Commission, and to a person each said they are committed to providing reparations to right the wrongs and address the residue of centuries of discrimination against the Black community of Asheville — discrimination that they say continues to this day.

“I’ve lived in other cities and Asheville by far suffers from the most racism,” Aleesha Ballard wrote in her application to be a member of the Commission.

Aleesha Ballard // photo courtesy The Urban News

“I have three children currently attending Asheville city schools and the education system is not only failing our children academically,


Asheville Lawyer Arrested, Charged With Felonies in Real Estate Deals

Her client, Lisa Roberts, also arrested on 32 forgery charges

Ilesanmi “Ile” O. Adaramola // Photo credit: Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office

An Asheville attorney was arrested this week on six felony charges related to Buncombe County real estate deals, and her client, a woman already charged with fraud, was arrested on 32 additional counts of felony forgery.

Lisa K. Roberts was charged with forging her uncle’s signature on deeds, mortgages, and checks, and the attorney, Ilesanmi “Ile” O. Adaramola, was charged with notarizing the signature on legal documents.

Arrest warrants say Adaramola, 37, “while acting as a duly commissioned North Carolina notary public did take an acknowledgment the notary knew was false of [sic] fraudulent.” Each of the six counts against her is a Class I felony, the least serious, punishable by up to 24 months in prison. But barring any criminal history, under state sentencing guidelines she would likely receive probation.



Buncombe Lawyers, Others Accused of Fraud

Court complaint details scheme to take ex-cop’s home equity

Attorney Tikkun Gottschalk argues the scheme was a "fraud on the court" at an April hearing before Buncombe Superior Court Judge Alan Thornburg. Credit: Pat Barcas for Asheville Watchdog

A guardian for a former law enforcement officer has filed a complaint in court accusing three Buncombe attorneys and two others of fraud in a scheme to illegally sell his house and keep more than $40,000 in proceeds that belonged to him.

The complaint, filed on behalf of David Shroat, is among the first attempts to recoup money for a homeowner in real estate deals exposed by Asheville Watchdog in its investigative series, Equity Erased.

Shroat, a former Asheville police officer and Buncombe sheriff’s detective, was showing signs of dementia, according to his lawyer, when in 2018, his Arden house was sold through a series of property transfers and court actions. Shroat owned more than $40,000 in equity but came away with nothing.

David Shroat // Photo courtesy of Kelly Southerland

The complaint names as “fraud defendants” the following people:

— Lisa Roberts,