The Raleigh City Council held a closed-session discussion on the Raleigh-Durham Airport on Tuesday, but David Cox—whose reelection bid has focused on fighting the airport’s lease with Wake Stone for a quarry—wasn’t there.

He skipped the meeting to attend a Backstreet Boys concert at PNC Arena, Cox confirmed Saturday. (As The News & Observer has previously reported, Backstreet Boy Nick Carter is Cox’s third cousin.) 

Cox has posted repeatedly on social media about the quarry and discussed the issue at length during his campaign events. A few hours before the council’s closed-door session, Cox and his allies—Stef Mendell, Kay Crowder, and Russ Stephenson—pushed city attorney Robin Tatum Currin on the question of whether the city had legal standing to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit over the quarry deal. 

Mayor Nancy McFarlane insisted this matter was better suited to the closed session. “This is about governing, not politics,” McFarlane said. 

Cox interjected: “This is about governing transparently in front of the people of the city.”

A lawsuit filed in Wake County Superior Court by the Umstead Coalition and Triangle Off-Road Cyclists, which is expected to be heard next month, claims the city and the other local governments that own the airport—Wake County, the city of Durham, and Durham County—should have a say in the deal, which will allow Wake Stone to mine a 105-acre parcel for the next thirty years in exchange for up to $24 million in royalties. None of the other local governments has formally opposed the agreement. Jessica Holmes, who chairs the Wake County Board of Commissioners, told the INDY earlier this month that the county “does not have a vote on whether the land lease moves forward.”

Historically, matters pertaining to potential litigation are always discussed in closed session, McFarlane told her colleagues last week. Eventually, Mendell made a motion to add to the meeting agenda an item requesting that the city join the lawsuit against RDU. It failed in a 4–4 vote.

After the motion deadlocked, Crowder asked Currin to clarify whether the city would have standing if it wanted to get in on the legal action. While not wanting to discuss anything “covered by attorney-client privilege,” Currin said, she believed the city has the right to ask the court to be heard.

The council went into closed session at about 5:00 p.m. The session adjourned at about 6:15 p.m. The Backstreet Boys show was scheduled to begin at 8:00 p.m. By car, it takes about fifteen minutes to get from City Hall to the arena, according to Google Maps. Cox told the INDY he had personal matters to attend to before the show. Cox says that, while he wasn’t “physically in the room, I was available by phone.”

McFarlane says that’s not her recollection: “Nobody mentioned that David was available by phone if we needed him.”

In a now-deleted Facebook post on Saturday, Cox chided Brian Fitzsimmons, his challenger in the District B race, over the quarry issue: “So many have thanked me for fighting the quarry. I wonder how many have thanked my opponent for NOT fighting the quarry?”

The black-and-white framing of the issue is misleading, McFarlane says. While it’s easy to oppose the quarry, the legal ramifications of the city joining the Umstead Coalition’s lawsuit are more complex. 

“I don’t want people to misunderstand and think that I support a quarry,” McFarlane says, “because I would much rather the land not be developed or at least not be done into a quarry. But they’ve already made that decision and signed the contract, so there are legal issues of interfering with a contract, and it’s not as simple. We don’t have the legal authority, as far as I know, to, quote, ‘stop’ the quarry, but that’s how it is being portrayed.” 

This story has been edited for print. Contact staff writer Leigh Tauss at 

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10 replies on “David Cox, RDU Quarry Critic, Skipped a Closed-Door Meeting on RDU for a Backstreet Boys Concert”

  1. The city of Raleigh is the client of the city attorney. What does McFarlane mean by attorney/client privilege? The public has a right to know what options are available to our leaders.

  2. If David Cox cared so much about his community and the issue at hand, he wouldn’t have skipped out on such an important meeting to attend a Backstreet Boys concert. Seriously, the Backstreet Boys? It is sad he chose that over voicing his opinion. He displayed a complete lack of leadership and maturity. He needs to be voted out and replaced with someone who actually cares about the community they live in. David Cox only causes trouble and often times pretends he is something that he isn’t and has been called out on this publicly. Come on people, he chose to go to a boy band concert instead of doing the job he was elected to do.

  3. This story is a sad attempt at burying something of high importance said by the city attorney “… the city has the right to ask the court to be heard on the case”. True, the city attorney did not say Raleigh should ask. She said that Raleigh can ask. The City Council represents the citizens. By way of the petition against the rock quarry, attendance at public events such as the documentary film and the Umstead rally, messages to politicians, etc. it is clear that the current OWNERS of this land, the citizens of the 4 public owners of the public airport, want to keep this land and its mineral rights.

    The Odd Fellows organization encouraged the public to use their land. For example, they created a place for youth to have camping outings and partnered with the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts camped, hiked, biked extensively on the Odd Fellows tract for over 60 years until just recently when the RDUAA forced them to stop.

    Given this land was taken from private citizens for public use, it should remain as land for public use. Public use includes projects that will have a benefit to all citizens. Things likes schools and parks are for public use. The quarry is not public use. It is private use.

    The story is that Raleigh does have a choice to have a say in what happens to this unique and irreplaceable treasure. The citizens have spoken. We want this chance to have a say.

  4. David Cox is the best candidate for District B . He has fought hard for Raleigh homeowners , the environment and the against the quarry !

  5. So .. is this a hit piece on David Cox without really anything to hit him with? (yes)
    Or is it pro-quarry? (possibly)
    Or is it a way to further the narrative that McFarlane is faultless as always? (of course)
    Or is it click bait worthy judgmental gossip column stuff trying to paint David Cox in a questionable light for his choice to see a Backstreet Boys concert vs something more high brow? (definitely)
    This story’s tone matches more closely to the style of someone working for the National Enquirer vs a legitimate and respectable media outlet. Would it have been more palatable if Dr. Cox had spent his evening watching his third cousin perform in the symphony vs being one of the Backstreet Boys? Must have been a slow news days to warrant this strange tying together of uninspiring stories.

    How is it that Councilman Cox’s vigilant non-stop efforts to support not only his immediate community but to support all the constituents and to want to protect the City’s rights as regards the quarry are all overshadowed in this story by his missing one meeting — one meeting in all his years serving on Council? So by missing one – and only one – meeting he has nullified all of his years of hard work and invalidated his stance on the quarry? Oh please. He had already participated in a heated argument earlier in the day (as described by this writer) on the topic, one which further magnifies the need for a new Mayor who can lead the council and facilitate compromise within the members vs dictate to and argue with them.

    I watched the Council meeting broadcast live and the Mayor said what she always says, the same thing she said to the Falls North community as thousands voiced dissent against over-development in existing neighborhoods. She replied with something along the lines of “everyone would be happier with a park [but it just can’t be that way]”. And that was the end of it in her mind. As soon as developers get involved McFarlane throws in the towel and offers no other option but to chastise anyone who has the tenacity to continue to work the problem and find a way to do what should have been done in the first place. So it’s natural that the personalities of the four Council members who have a strong sense of justness and value serving the community would clash with the four who are there to make self-serving connections.

  6. Don’t you all have any real news to write about? How about your all write about THE REAL ISSUE which is why is Nancy McFarlane trying to brush aside the issue about the quarry? This land belongs to the people of Raleigh, Durham, Wake and Durham County. None of those municipalities got a say about this “lease” which will be gone forever and be a total liability to us!!! Outrageous that the Indy is such garbage!

  7. I have attended every closed session since elected with this one exception. And with this exception I made arrangements to be available by phone. Others on Council knew this.

    The story lacks perspective because it doesn’t indicate if my absence is unusual or how it compares with the absences of others. What is unusual about my attendance is that I have been absent only once which is way below the norm if not unprecedented.

    I know that my opponent served on the Human Relations Commission for two years. I will be happy to compare my record with his. Perhaps that will provide perspective.

  8. I was at the open city council meeting prior to the private session and watched Mayor McFarlane tie herself in knots to prevent the city attorney from speaking. Her desire to keep this pet project of handing off our public land to a private quarry out of the public view is a violation of the public trust. David Cox knows this issue well, and if you check his track record, I believe you will find his attendance at council meetings quite high. He was available by phone if needed. It looked like the Mayor needed this meeting for her own goals, not for the benefit of the public. The author of this piece is desperately searching for insult pieces, not really trying to shed light on the issue.

  9. You buried the lede.
    Headline should be “City Council Lawyer contradicts Mayor McFarlane statement”.
    Mayor McFarlane: “We don’t have the legal authority, as far as I know, to, quote, ‘stop’ the quarry”
    City Attorney: “… the city has the right to ask the court to be heard on the case”

    It’s not complex. It’s very simple. The RDUA is violating NC law by selling property without permission. Calling it a lease clearly invalid. There is precedent that RDUA had to get permission to sell timber from the land. If they permission for timber, then need permission for stone.

    The city council should be the ones be the ones to check their own appointees and file a lawsuit, and not rely on a couple of small local groups to hold RDUA accountable.

    They SAY they are against the quarry. The city attorney says they CAN do something. So they should!

    And our local media should be holding the city council and RDUA accountable for this crap and not worrying about who went to a Backstreet Boys concert.

  10. INDY Week should be embarrassed to employ Leigh Tauss, she has such a strong bias when reporting on Raleigh politics … such a clear conflict of interest and violation of your Code of Ethics.

    Perhaps you can create a gossip column for Leigh where her skills would be put to better use?

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