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Hall of Shame 2023: The Charlotte Area’s Worst of the Worst

Not a list you want to be on

We hate to be downers but there are some people walking the streets of Charlotte who made the year shittier for everyone. Do better.


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TRICIA COTHAM

At 9 a.m. on April 5, N.C. House Rep. Tricia Cotham, a longtime Democrat in the NC General Assembly who was at that point representing the newly drawn District 112, made official her decision to switch aisles and become a Republican. Cotham cited poor treatment from fellow Democrats in the General Assembly, in Mecklenburg County, on Twitter and in Target as reasons for her switch.

Tricia Cotham's congressional headshot.
Tricia Cotham

The move was a big one, as it gave Republicans a super-majority in the state House, allowing them to pass laws without a single vote from Democrats and bypass any veto from Gov. Roy Cooper, and they took advantage. By October, the NC GOP had overrode more gubernatorial vetoes in 2023 than any group of lawmakers had in the state’s history before then.

This included multiple pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation that targeted trans kids in schools and restricted their access to gender-affirming health care, as well as abortion legislation that amounted to a 12-week ban on the procedure while also implementing stricter licensing requirements on clinics statewide and stricter mandates on doctor visits before receiving an abortion.

In November, Cotham announced she will not be running for re-election in the Democratic stronghold of District 112, where she once hoodwinked voters into putting her into the position she currently holds, but will instead run in District 105, newly drawn by her Republican colleagues in the state legislature to give her a better chance of keeping a seat in the NC House.


LAKE NORMAN CHARTER SCHOOL

Ongoing incidents throughout the last year caused one concerned parent to call on administration at Lake Norman Charter Elementary School (LNCES) to rethink how they approach the treatment of children with special needs. The parent, Danielle Farmer, alleged that the school’s superintendent, principal and a teacher at LNCES shamed her 8-year-old son for behavior due to his mental health conditions, resulting in suicidal and self harm ideations.

The outside of Lake Norman Charter Elementary School
Lake Norman Charter Elementary School in Huntersville. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Allegations against Farmer’s son’s third-grade English Language Arts teacher include bringing up his repeated bathroom trips — a symptom of his anxiety — in front of the class and repeatedly punishing him for behaviors that are known symptoms of his condition according to his 504 Plan, a plan created for students with special needs or disabilities to ensure they are not discriminated against or left to fall behind their classmates.

The school did not act on the child’s therapist’s recommendation to take the boy’s concerns seriously, said Farmer, who called for the removal of the school’s principal and third-grade ELA teacher.

Farmer has since filed official complaints with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and the NC Department of Public Instruction regarding the school’s alleged violations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and its refusal to issue Farmer’s son an Individualized Education Plan.


CHARLOTTE SECONDARY SCHOOL

Charlotte teacher Markayle Gray filed a lawsuit against Charlotte Secondary School in June after he says he was wrongfully terminated for assigning students a critically acclaimed novel that white parents called “racially divisive.”

Gray, a seventh- and eighth-grade English teacher at Charlotte Secondary, was fired on Feb. 2 after white parents complained to the administration about his use of the novel Dear Martin, which he assigned in observance of Black History Month with permission from and in recommendation of principal Keisha Rock.

The front exterior and entrance of Charlotte Secondary School.
A former teacher has filed a wrongful termination suit against Charlotte Secondary School. (Photo by Ran Pitkin)

The lawsuit claims similar complaints filed by Black parents against white teachers were largely ignored. Gray’s white colleagues were free to discuss their “divisive” political views on race, gender and sexual orientation without facing corrective action or discipline from Charlotte Secondary administrators, the lawsuit states.

Despite Charlotte Secondary’s student population being approximately 80-85% Black, Hispanic, or biracial — and a core principle claiming that “Diversity is not merely desirable, it is necessary for the accomplishment of our mission” — Gray believes the administration caters largely to its smaller white community.

“Principal Rock and the Charlotte Secondary Board of Directors seem to care more about bowing to political pressure than they do about following their own procedures and policies,” said Gray’s lead attorney Artur Davis.

“All Markayle Gray did was teach a novel his supervisors had already approved and they fired him for it.”


TIM MOORE

A lawsuit filed with the Wake County Clerk of Superior Court in June caused shockwaves in the North Carolina General Assembly, as House Speaker Tim Moore was accused of not only aggressively pursuing and participating in an affair with a woman he knew to be married but also engaging in sexual activity with other people seeking his political favor.

The 17-page complaint, filed by former Apex Town Council member Scott Lassiter, detailed how a love triangle involving three members of the NC GOP unfolded over three years, coming to a head in January 2023. The suit claimed that Moore worked with Scott Lassiter’s wife, Jamie Lassiter, in her capacity as the executive director of the NC Conference of Clerks, and “aggressively pursued a sexual relationship with Mrs. Lassiter” beginning in 2019 and lasting through January 2023.

Surveillance photo of Tim Moore leaving Sullivan's Steakhouse with Jamie Lassiter
Surveillance photo of Tim Moore leaving Sullivan’s Steakhouse with Jamie Lassiter. (Exhibit in lawsuit)

The lawsuit claimed that, upon being confronted about the affair, “Mrs. Lassiter tearfully confessed that she had been involved in an extramarital affair with Moore for more than three years, that she had engaged in sexual activity with Moore (including group sex with other individuals seeking Defendant Tim Moore’s political favor), and that she feared ending the relationship with Defendant Tim Moore would result in losing her job.”

Moore called the suit “a baseless lawsuit from a troubled individual,” adding that, “we will vigorously defend this action and pursue all available legal remedies.” It’s unclear exactly what that legal remedy was, but the lawsuit was “resolved,” according to the plaintiff’s lawyer, just weeks after it was filed.


MARIAN HUDAK

Concord resident Marian Hudak was arrested by FBI agents in June and charged with two hate crimes following an investigation that spanned back to 2021. The federal complaint against him uncovered an ongoing pattern of hateful behavior aimed at Concord residents.

According to the complaint, Hudak regularly harassed and threatened a Mexican family that lived next to him in Concord, leading to at least one physical confrontation between the neighbors in which guns were pulled. Hudak later put his neighbors’ names and addresses on his truck under a label that read “illegals, drug abusers, alcoholics and racist.”

Surveillance footage depicts the suspect who now faces hate crime charges during an incident in which he allegedly blocked a Black resident of Concord into a parking lot after following him through traffic. His truck, decked out in Trump and Confederate gear, can be seen in the top right of the photo.
Surveillance footage depicts Hudak blocking a Black resident of Concord into a parking lot after following him through traffic. His truck, decked out in Trump and Confederate gear, can be seen in the top right of the photo. (Photo courtesy of FBI)

Hudak also regularly harassed and threatened women in the family, including a 9- and 13-year-old girl.

The incident that sparked the FBI investigation in October 2022 included a Black couple calling the police after Hudak allegedly began threatening the man in traffic, calling him “n***er,” threatening to kill him, then following the man home to his apartment complex, where he tried to box him in with his car.

The resulting investigation uncovered an array of racial intimidation incidents including Hudak’s harassment of his neighbors and his habit of parking in public lots and using a megaphone he had attached to his car to amplify racial hate speech. He had previously been banned from a Sam’s Club parking lot in Concord for such behavior.

According to the complaint, Hudak admitted to law enforcement officers in December 2022 following a disorderly conduct arrest that he had begun yelling “Fuck you, n***ers” to any Black people he saw while in traffic due to some perceived threat he felt from a Black person at a gas station in the past.


MADE BY THE WATER/CATAWBA BREWING CO.

As first reported by Beer With Me CLT on Aug. 14, Catawba Brewing Company reportedly turned away employees who showed up to work that morning expecting to still have a job, then placed a sign on the door stating the taproom would be permanently closed.

“Apparently this also happened this past week at the Wilmington location and possibly South Slope in Asheville,” Beer With Me CLT announced in a Facebook post that day.

Catawba Brewing operations in Morganton shut down in October 2022 with plans to move production to New Orleans, after CEO of Made By The Water said demand for the brewery’s brands were growing.

Catawba Brewing was originally owned by the Pyatt family before a sale to Made By The Water in 2021. Operations have slowly phased out over the years since the acquisition, with concerns of closure appearing before the latest announcement.

In April, Queen City Nerve reported on a tax levy notice from Mecklenburg County that had been placed on the front door of the brewery with an outstanding balance of $3,454.74 owed to the tax collector’s office. A retail operations representative insisted to Queen City Nerve then that the brewery would not be closing, and they were excited to share “big plans for what is to come,” though they were also let go after the announcement of the closure.

Employees reporting for work on Aug. 14, however, would not be part of those big plans, as they were turned away at the door with no notice of the impending closure, according to discussions on social media.


GASTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE

Emancipate NC moved to defend two teenage boys after the Gaston County District Attorney’s Office allegedly colluded with the Gaston County Police Department this year to come down hard on brothers La’Dainian and Paden Fuller, who were 14-years-old at the time of they were involved in an altercation with police officers in 2021.

Paden was assaulted by police following a Gastonia Honey Hunters game when the two attempted to continue down a closed sidewalk on their bikes, at which time a police officer tackled him to the ground. It was only after witnessing the officer kicking and abusing his brother that La’Dainian placed the police officer in a headlock, according to Emancipate NC’s Kerwin Pittman.

A group of six people stand in front of the Gaston County courthouse.
Kerwin Pittman with Emancipate NC addresses the media at an August press conference. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

This summer, the Gaston County District Attorney’s office moved to transfer the case from juvenile court to adult superior court, where Fuller could be tried as an adult on attempted murder charges despite the officer only suffering minor injuries — mild redness and bruising for which he refused medical attention on the night of the incident.

“Clearly the justice system here in Gastonia is not color-blind, but turns a blind eye to law enforcement brutality,” Pittman said at a press conference in August. “Clearly the DA is colluding with law enforcement to try to find these 15-year-old kids guilty.”


MILES BRIDGES

It was with an unbothered smile for a mugshot that Charlotte Hornets star Miles Bridges turned himself in to police in Lincoln County on Oct. 13 after new domestic violence charges were filed against him related to an incident that occurred on Oct. 6. Bridges missed the entire 2022-’23 season after he was arrested on domestic violence charges against his then-girlfriend in May 2022.

Bridges reportedly has also had a warrant out against him by the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) dating back to January 2023 for “continually” violating a restraining order related to that past incident by contacting his now ex-girlfriend and children’s mother.

On Oct. 6, Bridges allegedly threw billiards balls at the windshield of a car that his children were in, resulting in child abuse charges, while also telling his ex-girlfriend that he would withhold child support and “take everything from her.” Court documents also showed that Bridges “allowed his current girlfriend to yell, scream, and kick the victims [sic] car while the children were in the car.”

The Hornets re-signed Bridges, then a restricted free agent, after a league investigation into the 2022 incident ended with a 10-game suspension that was set to start at the beginning of the upcoming season. Bridges returned to the court with the Hornets on Nov. 17, as no new punishments were handed down based on the October incident.

During an interview in the lead-up to that return, Bridges admitted, “I know a lot of people feel some type of way about me being back and I understand that. It’ll be a while before I gain their trust back … If I get us some more wins, people’s perspective will change.” Yikes.


YORK MEMORIAL CEMETERY

Some consider cemeteries scary because they could host ghosts and ghouls, but a class action suit filed in March makes claims more disturbing than any specter conjured by the imagination. Plaintiffs say owners and cemetery management of York Memorial Park on South Tryon Street have lost track of people buried at the cemetery, sold nonexistent plots, desecrated graves and vaults, and buried bodies on top of one another.

Rolling hills with flowers marking gravesites
York Memorial Park cemetery in south Charlotte. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

A former employee-turned-whistleblower filed the suit in April, claiming that cemetery management sold plots they knew were not available and failed to ensure that plots purchased by and for family members would be the same plots that people were buried in.

In an especially disturbing allegation, the suit claimed that the cemetery repeatedly buried babies on top of each other in the same spot over a span of years “to the extent that an area of the cemetery is commonly referred to among workers as ‘the hill of babies.’”


JEFF EDWARDS

In June, more than 250 leaders of the LGBTQ community from across the Carolinas launched a boycott campaign against The Bar at 316, an LGBTQ bar in South End. The campaign was spurred by reports that owner Jeff Edwards harassed a performer at the bar mid-show.

A group of men stand outside of an LGBTQ bar holding signs with slogans such as "Shut Down 316" and "All Drag Is Valid."
Shelby Savage supporters protest outside of The Bar at 316 on Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy of Charlotte Gaymers Network)

Edwards allegedly targeted performer Shelby Savage during Savage’s contracted performance at The Bar at 316. In a press release, Savage and members of the local drag community alleged that Edwards interrupted and aggressively rushed toward Savage yelling, “Get this freak off my stage,” before ending the show.

The release also claimed the incident was just the latest in Edwards’ “history of aggression and racism, which has caused repeated harm to Black and Brown members of the LGBTQ+ community.”


ACLU OF NORTH CAROLINA

In February, Charlotte-based organizer Kristie Puckett-Williams was fired from her position as deputy director of engagement with the ACLU of NC following an argument with local right-wing radio host Pete Kaliner on Puckett-Williams’ personal Twitter account.

During the Twitter spat, Puckett-Williams’ told Kaliner to “suck my dick from the back like you used to.” The ACLU of NC originally stood behind their employee before capitulating to reactionary groups like the John Locke Foundation, which called for Puckett-Williams’ firing following the online fracas. It’s unclear what caused the ACLU of NC to cave in the course of a week.

Emancipate NC, for which Puckett-Williams serves on the board, tweeted, “We are deeply concerned that [Puckett-Williams] has been fired by [ACLU of NC]. The policing of language by anyone, but especially of a formerly incarcerated Black woman, is inconsistent with our organization’s morals and values.”


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