A meeting of Alamance County’s commissioners took a dramatic turn on Monday when commissioner Pam Thompson veered off into a long, emotional diatribe about the evils of the illegal drug trade and the alleged failure of elected leaders to do anything about it.
Thompson devoted nearly 15 minutes to this tirade when each of the five county commissioners was invited to make some closing comments at the end of Monday morning’s regularly-scheduled meeting.
Thompson ultimately seized on this opportunity to share a tear-soaked homily that touched on everything from drug trafficking to Biblical exegesis.
She then called on sheriff Terry Johnson to back up her points – only to pack up her belongings while he was still speaking and exit the meeting chamber as John Paisley, Jr., the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, was making his own closing remarks.
Thompson’s extended soliloquy began with some reflections on the criminal activity that she said she has personally witnessed at a motel within Burlington’s Maple Avenue corridor.
“I’m going to talk about the Econo Lodge,” the commissioner said as she singled out the establishment at the corner of Maple Avenue and Hanford Road. “I decided to ride over there last week…I parked my car and I thought ‘I’ll just sit here and watch.’”
Thompson went on to describe some scenes of prostitution that she apparently witnessed at the motel. She recalled seeing a couple of young men follow some young women into one of the motel rooms for a 20-minute assignation. She said that she later observed a woman literally mount a man inside of a parked car before she decided that she had enough of the stakeout and left.
Thompson also recounted another, more recent occasion when she and the jail’s peer support specialist ran into a young schizophrenic man who had just been released from Alamance County’s jail. She added that she later learned that, since his release, this man had been sleeping on the ground behind the Econo Lodge– a situation that she admitted tugged at her heart strings.
Thompson proceeded to vent her outrage against the drug dealers that she blamed for the pitiful predicament facing this man as well as the female prostitutes that she had previously observed.
“I asked the sheriff ‘How much money would it take to get this crap out of the county,’” she added. “I want the mere mention of Alamance County to scare the hell out of a drug dealer…If there’s anybody out there myself to take you myself to get into treatment. But if you don’t want to do that, there has to be some consequences. I want everybody to come after you and get rid of you because you are killing us.
“I was going to resign cause I’m so frustrated,” Thompson continued as she broke into tears. “But I’m not…I so understand right now why Jesus flipped a table, and if I could flip that table right now I would because I’m as ticked off about this as he probably was about overpricing lambs and doves to sell for Passover…and if you don’t take it serious, don’t run for office.”
Thompson then called on Alamance County’s sheriff Terry Johnson to corroborate her concerns about the illegal drug trade.
“I’m like her; sometimes I can’t sleep as night because of some of stuff that’s going on here,” Johnson dutifully told the commissioners. “I want you to keep in mind that these are citizens even if some of them may be convicted felons and some of them drug addicts. But we’re working hard to get the major drug traffickers in this county.
Johnson went on to recall the results of an anti-drug operation that culminated last week with the arrests of several dozen individuals who were allegedly slinging narcotics along Burlington’s Maple Avenue corridor. He also alluded to the potential for some policy changes which could make it easier to combat the drug racket.
“I’m going to ask you folks to tighten down our courts on some of our drug traffickers,” the sheriff added, “because they’re laughing at us, and I get plumb ill at it…We do not want Alamance County to be owned by some drug trafficking cartel leaders.”
Johnson’s stated desire to “tighten down on the courts” raised a few questions for Steve Carter, the vice chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners. Carter inferred that the sheriff had been referring to the bond policy which the county’s court system adopted a few years ago, and which has recently drawn heat from Republicans like Carter, who is seeking another term on the county’s governing board in Tuesday’s general election.
Meanwhile, commissioner Craig Turner, a fellow Republican who is also on the ballot on Tuesday, bade the rest of the board not to forget the struggles of nonviolent drug users in their zeal to go after the high-level traffickers.
“There’s two sides to this,” Turner declared. “There’s the law enforcement side for dealers, and there’s the recovery side for addicts.”
Turner went on to remind his colleagues about the new “diversion center” they’ve agreed to build near Alamance Regional Medical Center to provide treatment options for low level offenders with mental health and substance abuse issues. The county is scheduled to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for this multi-million-dollar facility on Thursday.
In the end, the conversation which Thompson touched off added more than 20 minutes to the duration of Monday’s proceedings. Thompson, however, chose to not to stick around for the few minutes that remained after this discussion wound down – taking her leave just before Paisley made his relatively brief closing remarks to the board.