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Asheville Watchdog

2 Years in Making, California Reparations Report Offers Ideas For Asheville-Buncombe Commission

Two years ago, as violent protests shook Asheville and other cities after George Floyd was murdered while in Minneapolis police custody, the Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Commission passed resolutions in support of reparations for Black residents, to make amends for historic discrimination. Acting at the same time, California established a task force to study and develop a plan for reparations in that state.

Last week, the task force overseeing California’s reparations effort released the first part of its work: a landmark 500-page report documenting nearly two centuries of systemic discrimination imposed by the state, the harm it caused, and what needs to be done to attempt to address that harm. 

The California report arrives just before the Asheville and Buncombe Community Reparations Commission will meet for just the third time. The meeting is scheduled for Monday from 6 p.m.


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An Open Letter to the Asheville Community

Hello, my name is Scott Carroll and today — June 1, 2022 — is my first official day as a reporter for The Asheville Watchdog. I would like to take this occasion to introduce myself, explain my role here, and ask for your help moving forward.

My primary focus will be covering the reparations process here, which was approved by the Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Commission two years ago. In addition to covering reparations, I will be writing about homelessness and related social justice issues.

Photo of Asheville Watchdog reporter Scott Carroll
Scott Carroll

I am the first paid staff reporter for The Watchdog, a nonprofit online news organization that was launched in 2020 and continues to be run by volunteer, award-winning journalists and media executives who live in Asheville and care deeply about the community.


Hunting for dead dad’s missing money, grieving son finds pain, anger … and a clue

Bank trail leads to Asheville woman already facing fraud charges

George Jones and his house in Asheville

George Jones died on Christmas Day 2019, rear-ended while pulled over on the shoulder of Interstate 26 in Woodfin.

Jones, 85, wore pants over his pajama bottoms, one shoe, two shirts, and a hat. His deteriorating mental state was the only explanation his son, Drake Jones, could fathom for why his father wound up on the highway’s edge at nearly 2 a.m.

But sorting through his father’s affairs, Jones came away with more unsettling questions: How was his dad able to apply for and receive a reverse mortgage on his Asheville home when, Drake Jones said, he barely recognized his own son?

What happened to the proceeds of the loan, two payments totaling $74,617, that were wired into his father’s bank account and immediately transferred out? And why was the address on his dad’s bank account changed to a postal box and back to his house after each transfer?


The Asheville Citizen-Times Has Stopped Carrying Our Articles

Please accept this image as our public testimony and full confession of just how badly we at Asheville Watchdog need a good graphic designer. Almost as much as we need a webmaster. Consider volunteering for us.

Just over two years ago, Asheville Watchdog began its mission of bringing to the citizens of Asheville fair, factual, and reliable in-depth news stories about local government, institutions, issues, and people. And we’ve been doing that ever since.

Rather than compete with local media, we seek to complement and expand the critical services they provide. For this reason we have always offered, free of charge, all of our articles to The Asheville Citizen Times, Blue Ridge Public Radio, Mountain Xpress, and other local publications.

Three months ago, The Asheville Citizen Times (which is owned by Gannett Co., Inc., a subscription-led digitally focused media and marketing solution company that owns hundreds of other media outlets in 46 states across the country) made the decision to stop publishing our articles.

The Watchdog welcomes 2 to news team

Asheville Watchdog proudly welcomes reporter Scott Carroll and engagement editor John Shore to our news team.

Scott Carroll, a Report for America corps member, will join Asheville Watchdog June 1 to cover reparations, homelessness, and social justice issues.

An accomplished newspaper reporter and editor, Carroll comes to Asheville from The News-Review in Roseburg, Oregon, where he won five first-place awards in the 2021 Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association contest, including Best Writer and Best Story.

Before that, Carroll worked for 17 years at The Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune. As the Herald-Tribune’s projects editor, his reporting teams won awards from numerous organizations and publications, including Editor & Publisher, Associated Press, American Society of News Editors, Society of Features Journalism, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors,


The Fall and Rise and Fall of Madison Cawthorn

From “douche crew” leader to Congress to late-night punch line

Before the luxury travel, before the payroll padding at taxpayer expense, before the sexually suggestive photos and social-media messaging, they were the “douche crew,” the name 20-year-old Madison Cawthorn gave to himself and his buddies. 

Cawthorn assembled his circle of friends as a student at Patrick Henry College in northern Virginia in the fall of 2016, and he remains at the center of its successor pack as the high-profile, far-right, Trump-embraced congressman representing North Carolina’s 11th District, which covers most of the state’s western mountain counties.

Cawthorn was “the ringleader of a cohort of, let’s be honest, rich kids … a group of classmates known as ‘The Douche Crew’,” one schoolmate wrote on the website Medium. The tightly knit gang became well known on campus for frat-boy pranks, for parties at Cawthorn’s off-campus house,


Watchdog Reporter Sally Kestin Wins National Journalism Award

Asheville Watchdog won a National Headliner Award honoring the best journalism in the United States in 2021.

Sally Kestin

Equity Erased, a five-part investigative series by reporter Sally Kestin, won third place in investigative reporting for online news sites. First place went to The Markup, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates how powerful institutions use technology to change society. The Better Government Association, an Illinois-based watchdog, won second place.

Equity Erased documented how Buncombe County homeowners, many of them elderly and/or Black, lost years and sometimes generations of equity to real estate investor Robert Perry Tucker II. An associate, Lisa K. Roberts, was charged in February with nine felony counts of notarizing an action by fraud or forgery. Her case is pending.


Angered and Dissatisfied, Some Mission Patients Seek Healthcare Elsewhere

Hospital's formerly stellar reputation attracted people to region

They chose Asheville to live out their retirement years, drawn to the area not just for the mountains, the food, and the culture, but also for the safety net of a healthcare system considered one of the best in the country.

The flagship Mission Hospital provided a level of care that helped put Asheville on national lists as one of the top places to retire. One in five Buncombe County residents is now 65 or older. As recently as 2018, for the sixth time in the previous seven years, Mission Health was named one of the nation’s Top 15 Health Systems by IBM Watson Health.

But also in 2018, in a surprise decision, Mission’s board of directors voted to sell the successful nonprofit to HCA Healthcare — the largest for-profit hospital chain in the U.S., with a reputation for cost-cutting and skimping on staff.


Our Man in Congress: Cawthorn Races From Reckless to a Possible Reckoning

Outrageous comments get him publicity and money, but traffic citations might land him in jail.

There is sexual perversion, drug use among GOP colleagues, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) tells interviewer

It seems only yesterday that Congressman Madison Cawthorn’s most newsworthy achievements were his citations for repeatedly violating motor-vehicle laws, including “extreme speeding” while driving his father’s car with a revoked license.

Since the traffic citations came to light last month, the 26-year-old Republican from Hendersonville earned bipartisan rebukes in Congress for calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” and Ukraine “incredibly evil” — charges that won him accolades on Russian state television.

He then told a right-wing YouTube channel host that unnamed Republican lawmakers in Washington “in their 60s and 70s” had invited him to “orgies” and that he had witnessed them snorting cocaine.

And on April 4 , he took to the House floor to lecture Speaker Nancy Pelosi — a grandmother of nine — on biology. “I never imagined that one of my sacred duties in this hallowed chamber would be explaining to the House Speaker the difference between a man and a woman,” Cawthorn announced.


Mission Nurses Overburdened, Patients Suffer

‘Oh My God, I Never Expected to Have This Many Patients’

One nurse on a surgical floor at Mission Hospital reported “patients lying in stool for an unknown amount of time,” pain medications and insulin being administered late, and “irate family members.”

A nurse caring for the sickest patients on a surgical floor at Mission documented “delayed and missed medications due to RNs having 7-8 patients … Inadequate staffing led to patient fall.”

Still another nurse on an intensive care and cardiac care unit reported an “inability to care for critically ill patients at appropriate high level,” resulting in an increased risk of possibly serious harm to patients.

The alarming concerns were reported by nurses on forms known as Assignment Despite Objection (ADO), a formal complaint system developed by the labor union representing Mission nurses to document unsafe assignments that, in their professional judgment, put patients at risk. The forms are completed only after the nurses have informed their supervisors with no resolution.