Alvarez admits he lied about Coble threat

May. 30, 2013 @ 04:33 PM

The Indian Trail mayor Michael Alvarez has admitted he lied when he claimed a Union County Sheriff’s deputy verbally threatened him in February.

Shortly after a Feb. 16, 2013 council meeting, Alvarez told the Charlotte Observer that Lt. Chase Coble, supervisor of the Indian Trail UCSO office, verbally threatened him during a short break during the meeting. Alvarez said Coble leaned toward him aggressively and told him to “watch out.” He added that he felt afraid of the deputy after the alleged threat.

Fellow Councilman Robert Allen filed a complaint against Coble over the Feb. 16 meeting. In his complaint, Allen alleged that Coble threatened Alvarez if he voted to start a town police department.

The Union County Sheriff’s Office conducted an internal investigation into the complaint. Sheriff Eddie Cathey would not divulge the findings because it is a personnel matter, however, Coble remains assigned to the Indian Trail UCSO office.

Councilman David Cohn asked for an agenda item on Tuesday’s meeting dealing with Alvarez’s allegations against Coble.

Cohn noted that Alvarez has apologized to different people at town council meetings in the past months. The apologies have gone out to Cohn, residents of Indian Trail and, at the last meeting, there was a vague apology to Lt. Chase Coble.

“What I’d like to know is what you were apologizing for to Lt. Coble?” Cohn asked.

“Unprofessional behavior,” Alvarez said.

Cohn asked for clarification, specifically asking if the threat Alvarez said Coble made to him during a break at a Feb. 16 council meeting actually happened.

“What happened outside was emotions,” Alvarez said. He said something about comments being taken a certain way and a lot of strong feelings being felt.

“Is it possible I overreacted? Yes. And after looking back at it, how would I have reacted in the same situation? Probably no different than the person on the other side,” Alvarez said.

Cohn again asked Alvarez if Coble threatened him outside the building during that meeting.

“In a direct way, no,” Alvarez said.

“I think it’s very important that that came out...” Cohn began.

“In a public scene, did I feel uncomfortable and feel a bit inferior, yeah, I admit I did,” Alvarez said. “But in a general situation, just in a general situation, no one person intended.”

Cohn said it was good of Alvarez to admit that.

“David, I make mistakes,” Alvarez said.

“Everyone makes mistakes,” Cohn said.

“But one of the things that makes this a very touchy situation is, that if that didn’t happen, we’ve got a man who has been on the force for ten years. Officer of the Year. He could have very easily lost his job over that accusation,” Cohn said.

In a Feb. 22 Charlotte Observer story, Alvarez stated that Coble verbally threatened him and that he could not sleep at night. He repeated that for a March 9 story in the Enquirer-Journal. But Cohn said that if Coble did not threaten the mayor, than the Alvarez’s comments in those stories were untrue.

“It didn’t happen basically, is what you’re saying,” Cohn said. “That’s a very serious thing. Very serious.”

Cohn said he was surprised that Alvarez admitted he fabricated the threat. He produced a series of emails. Some were emails in which Cohn said Alvarez repeated the accusation and then contradicted his statements, sometimes within the same email. Some emails were by other council members Cohn said made similar accusations against Coble and demanded the deputy be fired. One email included the comment that Charlotte Police Chief Rodney Monroe would be fired if he threatened Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx.

“Well, let’s turn it around. What would happen if Mayor Foxx said Rodney Monroe threatened him  and he didn’t?” Cohn said. “What do you think the consequences of that would be?”

“You tell me,” Alvarez said.

“I personally think the City of Charlotte would get rid of their mayor,” Cohn said.

Cohn then read statements Alvarez made in emails and to the media about Coble and Coble’s comments about the town. Cohn said Alvarez’s admission that Coble did not threaten him made it apparent that Alvarez’s accusation was not a one-time mistake. He continued to perpetuate the claim that Coble’s threat made him change his vote on creating a town police department. Alvarez stated Cohn and Councilman Christopher King conspired with Sheriff Eddie Cathey to incite the meeting audience against the council. Alvarez said he felt that the sheriff’s office would not provide adequate security to Indian Trail.

In the E-J’s March 9 story, Alvarez said he had a “credible witness” who could confirm Coble threatened him.

“You weren’t threatened. Who could that witness have been?” Cohn said. “I don’t think there ever was a witness. And if there is, I’d like to know who he is, because it’s hard to witness something that didn’t happen.”

Publicly denouncing the mayor and sorting through every false public statement was not easy, Cohn said. It might hurt the town. Several people contacted him to ask that he not discuss Alvarez. But Cohn said it was important that it be done.

“But I think it’s more important that something like this never, ever, ever happens again,” Cohn said.

Councilman David Waddell moved to issue an official censure against Alvarez. Political differences happen in government and those differences can be forgiven. But lying about a law enforcement officer was unforgivable.

Censure means the council expresses a formal objection to the mayor’s behavior. But it is also a warning that such behavior repeated in the future could lead to efforts to remove the mayor from office.

“And I, for one, will support further action if it does,” Waddell said.

Cohn, Waddell and Councilman Christopher King voted for censure. Council members Allen and Darlene Luther were absent.