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‘I had a mental illness.’ Monroe elected official says her removal from office was wrong

Charlotte Observer - 4/26/2022

Former Monroe City Council member Angelia James says she was wrongly removed from office after being hospitalized and treated for “acute psychosis.”

She wants a jury to reinstate her, according to a lawsuit she filed in U.S. District Court in Charlotte on Saturday.

In the lawsuit, James describes the condition she suffered from as “the byproduct of the sudden onset of a short-lived mental illness.”

That explains a series of disturbing confrontations she had with police in September 2021, according to her lawsuit.

What God told her

The confrontations, as revealed in police videos, included James ordering officers to search a hotel because God had told her a murderer and other criminals were hiding there, The Charlotte Observer reported at the time.

When police later responded to a disturbance call at James’ home that night, she tried to illegally fire or promote several of the officers at the scene, the city said in a later statement detailing the incidents.

When James was then taken to Atrium Health Union Hospital for treatment, more confrontations broke out, including one in which she ripped a protective mask off the face of one officer while declaring that the pandemic had ended, the city’s statement said. She also told multiple officers that they had been fired, video from the incidents showed.

In an email to the Observer at the time, James accused the city and police of fabricating the descriptions of her behavior at the Fairfield Inn, her home and at the hospital.

On April 7, the City Council voted unanimously to remove James from office.

The vote followed a Monroe hearing officer’s determination that James “engaged in misconduct in office and that just cause exists for her removal from office,” according to a copy of the officer’s March 25 report.

The City Council appointed the hearing officer, Valecia McDowell, after the September 2021 police videos were released.

‘I can’t fire police’

James, a Democrat, was elected to the council in 2019. Her term was to expire in November 2023.

In her lawsuit, she said she had no authority as a council member to fire police officers. Her actions weren’t misconduct in office, she said, because they didn’t occur as part of her role on council, according to the lawsuit filed by Charlotte lawyer Bo Caudill.

James also seeks money and other damages as determined by a jury.

Removal was ‘appropriate’

City council based its decision to remove James from office on the hearing officer’s report, city spokesman Pete Hovanec told the Observer at the time.

In her report, McDowell said James “presented no evidence indicating that (a) she received or plans to receive mental health treatment or (b) is taking steps to determine whether such events may occur again or to mitigate that risk.”

James didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment from the Observer on Tuesday.

In a statement to the Observer on Tuesday, city spokesman Pete Hovanec said: “The City of Monroe is confident that once the federal court has reviewed former Councilmember James’ removal from the City Council, the court will find that the removal was appropriate.”

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