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Nikwasi Mound Lawsuit Against Franklin Town Council Withdrawn

Lilly Knoepp
The Nikwasi Mound sits at the bottom of the hill below the Franklin Town Hall.

The lawsuit against the Franklin Town Council members in response to their decision to transfer the deed to the ancient Nikwasi Mound has been withdrawn.


Gloria Raby Owenby, one of the plaintiffs, says that the group’s legal counsel explained that the injunction would take months or years. The group wasn’t willing to wait that long with an “uncertain outcome,” says Owenby, who explained that the group never hired an attorney. She says that the lawsuit could be brought up again at a later date.


“Time will tell,” says Owenby. “We will keep them under a magnifying glass - you better believe it.”  


The town council moved to transfer the Nikwasi Mound deed to nonprofit The Nikwasi Initiative on May 6.


The injunction was filed by five plaintiffs: Gloria Raby Owenby, Betty Cloer Wallace, Mary Ruth Byrd, Edgar Burton “Bud Shope” and Judith Dowdle, against each of the members of the Franklin town council: Barbara McRae, Joe Collins, Daniel Culpepper, Dinah Mashburn, Brandon McMahan and Adam Kimsey, as well as, Mayor Bob Scott.

The statement explains that the injunction was dismissed “without prejudice” so that the group has the option to renew legal action in the future. Owenby explains that they could change their minds as they learn more about transfer and the Nikwasi Initiative.

Transparency on the part of the town council and the nonprofit have both been called into question by the group.

“If they had been forthcoming on what they were going to do and their plans from the beginning then we wouldn’t have had an issue,” says Owenby.  


The statement goes on to encourage voters to remove the current members of the town council in the next election saying:

“We deserve better and more transparent government than we have been served in the matter of the Nikwasi Mound, and we must stay alert in knowing our elected officials and their intentions if we are to embrace a more open government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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