Smoke or Fire?
Leaders say candidate’s corruption allegations are all make-believe
Democratic mayoral candidate Gardenia Henley is accusing some local church leaders of being bought and paid for by her primary election challenger — Mayor Allen Joines.
She released the latest of her “Henley Reports” last week. Subtitled, “Abuse of Power by Church and State,” the report alleges “unethical conduct committed by various elected officials and some religious leaders.”
“This is something that has been on my mind and my heart since I was a little girl, noticing the mix of church and state,” Henley said in an interview with The Chronicle on Monday. “It needed to be said.”
In the report, the sixth she has released over the years to point out what she sees as governmental corruption, she states some religious leaders in the city “have benefited from the personal use of our tax dollars, some in the form of forgiven debts.” Henley goes on to say that “a few religious leaders have stated to my campaign members and myself, that financially, ‘the mayor has helped them out,’ yet for some, the money has never reached their church.”
Henley, a Democrat who ran for North Carolina governor in 2012 and the North Carolina House of Representatives against then-Rep. Earline Parmon in 2010, declined to provide specific examples of her allegations, saying that she is still investigating the issue.
Joines, who has been mayor since 2001, said Henley’s claims are unfounded. For years, Joines says he has donated his mayoral salary to various organizations citywide, including churches, but asserted that the money is used to serve the Winston-Salem community, not secure a vote in his favor.
“I can ensure that the money went to the best interests of the churches and the community,” he said.
Henley also criticized the mayor for his political career, saying it is in direct conflict with his position as president of the nonprofit Winston-Salem Alliance, and in violation of federal tax codes for 501c3 nonprofits.
Joines said he has always been careful to keep his politics and his career separate.
“I think everybody has a right to participate in the democratic process,” he commented. “The main thing is that you can never use the nonprofit for political purposes. I’ve always kept a strong firewall between the two, and I’m clear that there are no violations.”
The report also criticizes the Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, the Baptist Ministers Conference and their leaders for not coming to the aid of city sanitation workers who Henley says have grievances with the City that need to be addressed.
“I asked on the behalf of the Sanitation workers that both institutions and its members assist the employees with their call to justice,” she wrote.
The leaders of both organizations said that Henley had mentioned the issue but never offered specifics or made a formal presentation or request for help from their groups.
“She said there was a report, and the report was coming out, but there was never any specific detail that was given,” said Ministers Conference President Rev. Willard Bass. “I’m surprised that the sanitation workers didn’t come to the conference. They have not come to us expressing a concern or an issue, because if they had, I’m sure that we would’ve responded to them.”
Rev. James Fulwood, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference, said Henley had distributed a leaflet at one of the conference’s meetings, but offered no proof of the claims she was making.
“Hearsay is not enough for me,” said the longtime pastor of St. Mark Baptist Church. “It’s got to be proven.”
Mayor Joines recently requested that the Forsyth County Board of Elections consider adding two one-stop early voting sites to accommodate a larger than normal turnout because of several hotly-contested municipal races. Henley spoke out against the measure at the Board of Election’s Aug. 6 meeting, stating that opening the proposed sites — 14th Street and Polo Park recreation center — would benefit Joines and not his opponents, and therefore, would be a violation of the board’s nondiscrimination policy. The board did deny the request for additional sites, but it is unclear if board members were swayed by Henley’s argument.
“I find that incredulous,” the mayor said in response to her claims. “Really, I don’t know how it could benefit me and not benefit all candidates.”
Board of Elections member Fleming El-Amin said the mayor did not initially request specific voting locations and that all candidates are allowed to ask for additional sites.
When the Ministers Conference hosted a press conference to address the board’s denial of the additional sites, which it called the “latest act of voter suppression by the Forsyth County Board of Elections,” Henley objected, saying the presser gave the appearance of the conference endorsing Joines because he had asked for the measure.
“There is no voter suppression. I am sick and tired of hearing people talking about voter suppression when it comes to polling locations,” Henley said. “…If any of the vote is being suppressed, it’s mine if they would’ve opened those (sites).”
Bishop Todd Fulton, chairman of the Political Action Committee of the Ministers Conference, denies that the media conference was a covert endorsement for the mayor.
“I don’t know where she came up with these Henley Reports. They’re not credible. There’s no one to validate these reports. Those Henley Reports are half truths, which equals whole lies,” he declared. “She says she’s ‘the people’s candidate,’ but I don’t know what people she’s referring to. It’s not the people I’m in collaboration with.”
Henley said she stands by “every word” in her reports, which have included allegations about other political and community leaders and organizations over the past two years.
“If they have a problem with anything in my report, call me in so we can have a discussion,” Henley said. “No one in my reports has done that, including the City of Winston-Salem, and I know they haven’t done it because what I’m saying is true and they don’t want to face their realities.”
State Sen. Earline Parmon, a well known Joines supporter who beat Henley in a landslide in 2010, is also named in the report. Henley states that it is unethical for Parmon to express her support for another elected official or political candidate. Parmon calls that nonsense.
“Even though I’m an elected official, I’m still a citizen that votes and it makes perfect sense to me that I look at and determine, for me at least, who would be the best candidate,” she said. “I’ve never shied away from supporting people who represent the ideas that I thought would be good for the city, county and state.”
Henley also took a dig at LIFT Academy, a charter school Parmon founded in 1982 for students who had been suspended or expelled from local schools. The report claims that the school graduated illiterate students. Parmon called the allegations “absolutely untrue.”
“My kids had to pass tests like everyone else,” she declared. “We did have some students with some real academic challenges, but we did not run from those challenges. We worked with those students.”
Joines took exception to The Henley Reports and the assertions Henley makes about him.
“I do think it’s unfortunate that a candidate has taken the very low road of attacking respected religious leaders and other individuals in the community and is clearly making accusations that are not supported by any fact,” he remarked. “I think our residents are pretty smart and they will recognize this as really nonsense.”
Despite the allegations that are being made against him, Joines said he will continue to run a clean campaign.
“We’re running a campaign just based on our record of accomplishments,” he said. “We’re not stooping to what I would call just desperation moves such as this.”
Henley has no plans to stop producing the reports. In fact, she says three more are in the works. She believes the reports are a service to the community.
“If elected as mayor, I’ll continue to put the Henley Report out there,” she added. “My goal is to inform and empower the citizens of Winston-Salem, and that’s what this report does.”
To view the Henley Reports in their entirety, visit www.thepeoplescandidate.org. For more information about Joines, visit allenjoinesformayor.com.