Monday, June 24, 2024

Fired PCU employee recounts commissioner discussion as ‘tense,’ not threatening

A discussion took place in a parking lot near the Port City United headquarters at 320 Chestnut St. on Monday between county commissioner Dane Scalise and PCU former employee Anthony Brumm, who was fired following the exchange. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — A county employee who has been accused of intimidating a commissioner earlier this week indicates a local leader’s side of the story is overblown.

READ MORE: Local commissioner against funding Port City United claims suspended employee threatened him

Anthony Brumm, also known as Shaka Ali Bey — a validated Bloods member — served as Port City United’s community outreach specialist since 2022. He was fired Wednesday after the county’s human resources department investigated an incident that transpired between him and commissioner Dane Scalise.

Port City Daily asked the county the reasoning for Brumm’s dismissal. 

Spokesperson Josh Smith cited state statute NC GS 153A-98, regarding personnel matters, and said the county cannot reveal the cause for dismissal and the period was still active for Brumm’s right to appeal.

Brumm said he planned to appeal.

“They are going to believe his word over mine, which doesn’t seem like a fair decision,” he said about the county and Scalise. “Don’t get me wrong, the conversation wasn’t delightful. It was tense, but I wasn’t threatening him.”

According to Brumm, he was at the 320 Chestnut Street building where PCU headquarters is located to get help with his résumé and applications Monday. Brumm said he was preparing for the possibility of a job hunt; PCU has been on the chopping block in recent months and the county is unsure it will continue with the department, as budget discussions heat up.

Brumm was bringing in roughly $55,000 a year but had been suspended with pay along with other mediation and outreach team members of PCU. The county paused the division and put everyone on administrative leave in March, following the arrest of one of its employees, Stephen Barnett — also a validated gang member — who was charged with accessory to attempted murder while on the job.

In the parking lot after Monday’s commissioners’ meeting, Brumm said he approached Scalise while leaving PCU. He wanted to talk to the elected official about his perception of the department and its employees, who represent an underserved population, also voting constituents. 

Brumm said he also sought to explain that gangs aren’t only associated with unlawful activities.

He admitted saying to Scalise “I’m one of those gang members” from PCU; the commissioner has been vocal against the county hiring from this sector and starting the department. So far around $10 million has been infused into PCU, with the county committing to almost $40 million over four years.

But Brumm said he didn’t approach the commissioner in an aggressive manner, rather introduced himself upfront, stating he was from PCU, and didn’t curse as Scalise told Nick Craig, WAAV radio host, on Tuesday where details of the incident first became public.

“I wasn’t trying to intimidate him,” Brumm said. “It was to humanize us. But he began to get a little more hyperactive and started saying, ‘I’m not the one, I’m not the one’ — he got really aggressive with that phrase. So I asked him: ‘What do you mean by that?’ He told me: ‘Well, I’m not going to be intimidated or frightened by you.’”

Brumm said he was clear he wasn’t trying to scare Scalise, corroborated in a police report Scalise made as well on Monday. Brumm confirmed he had not been contacted by law enforcement regarding the report. 

The commissioner detailed on Craig’s radio show the exchange got heated and said Brumm suggested he “not effing interrupt” him while in discussion.  

“I didn’t use profanity, but I did ask him not to interrupt me,” Brumm said, adding Scalise also intervened while Brumm tried to speak. 

He said he was trying to tell Scalise that some people at PCU may have made past mistakes but they were working to turn their lives around and create a safer community.

“Some of us might be a part of organizations that have a certain stigma about them, but that’s not what we’re all about — we’re also men and women with families, children,” Brumm said he pressed during the conversation.

Scalise took two issues with Brumm’s phrasing during their exchange: “you won’t be commissioner for long” and “stay safe out there.”

On Craig’s radio show, Scalise said: “I’m not really sure how to interpret these comments.”

Brumm said his expression “you won’t be commissioner for long” was actually cut off. He alleged he could not finish his thought, as Scalise was saying over again: “I’m not your guy.”

The former PCU employee explained he attempted to tell Scalise he wouldn’t be commissioner for long since he’s an elected official who the people vote on. Scalise is up for re-election this year after being appointed to the seat once occupied by Deb Hays, who passed away in March 2023.

Upon hearing “stay safe out there,” as the two parted, the commissioner told Port City Daily Wednesday he considered the exchange an intimidation tactic that left him “shook.” 

Brumm said he ended their discussion by saying: “God bless, stay safe.”

“That’s what I say in everyday interactions,” he added, noting he also told Scalise they could “agree to disagree.”

“I didn’t say or do anything to make him feel like he was going to be harmed in any way, shape or form — nor was that on my mind,” Brumm said.

Within two hours of the conversation ending, Brumm said he was contacted by the county who informed him an HR investigation would open. They asked for his official rundown of events and by Wednesday Brumm was dismissed via phone call and told an official letter would follow, though one has yet to be delivered. 

Brumm said the county described his actions as unprofessional, something he disagrees with.

“For them to say I was being unprofessional, for talking to an elected official — somebody who’s a public official — out in public about issues that concern the public and taxpayers and an employee, all of those things. I don’t feel like I was being unprofessional at all. I also feel like I was doing something I had a right to do, by having a conversation with an elected official about things that are going on in my community,” Brumm said.

Despite recent headlines, Brumm believes PCU has been an asset to the community. PCU’s mediation and outreach division has received flack due to its violence interrupters — often gang-adjacent members with strong ties in the community who have gained trust with some to appropriately de-escalate situations before they erupt into gunplay.

“There has been numerous situations that we’ve mediated that could have otherwise turned into somebody possibly losing their life and freedom,” he said. “A violent situation may have happened but didn’t and that’s what an outreach and mediation team was for.”

Some of these members previously worked at TRU Colors Brewing before it shuttered; this includes both Barnett and Brumm. 

Brumm was an outreach specialist, noting his job was mainly connecting people with resources to get back on their feet, whether they were homeless or fresh out of incarceration, and needed to find housing, a job or food. He said he helped with mediation roughly four times in his career with the department. 

“That wasn’t my primary position,” he said, adding he did have training for when and if he was needed in that area.

Friends with Barnett, the supervisor of the division arrested in March, Brumm said: “Everyone’s innocent until proven guilty.”

The two opened a business together, Manly Moving Company, in the last year, which strives to employ people who need a hand, particularly incarcerated people exiting prison. It’s a startup and hasn’t taken off yet but Brumm said the two are still operating it. 

“It’s slowly growing,” Brumm said. “One of the big things is to help guys get jobs — like with Port City United — because the population we serve, we are able to access certain people, who may or may not want to work in certain settings. They can make money and also learn to start their own business.”

Until it takes off, Brumm said he continues to look for employment. He remains a part of a gang, calling it a fraternity and family but adding he has distanced himself from illegal activity. Formerly in foster care, he joined the Bloods as a teen, due to seeking a place to belong — something he said many gang members do. There is a safety net in the “brotherhood” looking after one another, he indicated.

“No family is perfect,” Brumm said. “I don’t feel like you’re supposed to abandon your family when things get inconvenient.”

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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