StartUP Siler’s Unclear Endgame

SILER CITY – StartUP Siler, the mysterious philanthropic organization that has promised to, among other things, tackle Siler City’s drug and crime problems and invest $100 million in a housing loan fund, has pledged in an announcement on Twitter to open its doors this week “to varies (sic) media from across the state and nation” to give “an intimate look into the inner workings” of the organization.

“All of this leading up to major milestone announcements and introductions of our newest picks,” the Monday post read.

It was the latest in a series of recent announcements by the organization on social media, including saying it would provide new scholarships, more than $1 million in grants (at $10,000 per person) urging people to move to Siler City – saying these newcomers could help ‘end historic racism’ in the city – and numerous job postings, some of which were posted with a long string of “#gay” hashtags “.

Meanwhile, StartUP Siler Executive Director Kristen Picot has filed a restraining order in Wake County against a Siler City resident who she says harassed her and sent harassing text messages.

A series of activities

It’s a dizzying series of activity after a relatively quiet period following the May 17 Siler City general election, in which four candidates with a direct or indirect affiliation with StartUP Siler lost bids for seats on the Board of Commissioners. from the city. In recent weeks, some of the four — Nick Gallardo, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor, and unsuccessful board candidates Jared Picot, Dean Picot Jr. and Sam Williams — have started attending meetings again. of the commission and to participate in certain community events as volunteers.

Calls, emails and text messages to Kristen Picot seeking feedback on StartUP Siler’s series of new initiatives have gone unanswered. And the News+Record is not currently among the “state and nationwide media” invited to StartUP Siler’s offices on East Raleigh Street in downtown Siler City.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, the organization posted several posts on its social media pages promoting its new initiatives. The first post announced its new “Phyllis Williams Fellowship for Women in Tech,” aimed at helping women looking to enter the STEM field. The scholarship application states that participants must have a grade point average above 3.0, be under the age of 23, be accepted into a STEM program, and “meet all deadlines.”

The scholarship’s ambiguous guidelines were paired with a one-minute YouTube video explaining the scholarship and Phyllis Williams’ background.

It is not known how much money the scholarship is worth or where the funding for the scholarship would come from. The video also doesn’t explain why Phyllis Williams was chosen as the stock exchange representative or what she did as a businesswoman. The video, voiced by Kristen Picot, claims that Williams was “a 60s, 70s and 80s businesswoman” who rose through the ranks and became vice president of “the company.” A Google search for Williams also returned unclear results.

There is no published application for the scholarship, but potential applicants are encouraged to email StartUP Siler.

Picot did not respond to requests for comment on the stock market.

$10,000 relocation grants

The next day, Friday, StartUP Siler posted an ad for a $10,000 “relocation grant.” The grant offers 100 recipients $10,000 each to relocate to Siler City “in an effort to attract talented workers” to the city.

“This is your chance to make real change,” StartUP Siler wrote of the grant on its website, “and end the historic racism that plagues this area. Chatham County is the county to North Carolina’s fastest growing city. With beautiful rolling hills and great opportunities coming to the area, Siler City is more than just a small growing town. Siler City is a hot sport (sic) where your dreams come true. come true!

Unlike the scholarship, a grant application is available. It asks basic demographic questions and information about previous employment. There are no questions asking applicants why they want to move to Siler City, or why they can move to Siler City. There is also no list of qualifications for who should apply and no mention of what recipients can bring to the city.

It is also unclear where the promised funding of $1 million would come from.

The organization also released an announcement about the grant and claimed that the announcement would be broadcast on local radio, Spotify, Pandora Radio, Apple Music and K-Love Radio.

“StartUP Siler grows from Siler City and beyond,” the announcement, voiced by Picot, reads. “We are looking for those who have an idea of ​​the design to the existing form. The only caveat is that you have to move to Siler City, NC.

The 24-second ad also claims to pay the city 100% of moving expenses for one year.

StartUP Siler did not respond to requests for comment on grant funding.

Jobs

The organizations and its affiliates have also posted several job vacancies this week with high paying salaries. Last Thursday, the company posted a call on social media for an in-house lawyer, a position that offers an annual salary of $195,000.

“If you are a member of [North Carolina Bar Association] with at least 10 years of hands-on experience,” StartUP Siler tweeted. “Experience in corporate, litigation, government and First Amendment law is a plus.”

The job postings looking for a lawyer were paired with job postings from Chatham Weekly, an online publication which, like StartUP Siler, is funded by Courtney Jordan, the self-proclaimed billionaire philanthropist under whose foundation StartUP Siler is supposed to work.

“After months of meeting with a consultancy firm and talking to various (sic) wide reaching news papers and magazines,” Chatham Weekly tweeted last Thursday. “We are pleased to announce that we are opening hiring and beginning our process to reach Chatham County.”

The publication published several overtures, including its own search for an in-house lawyer, as well as reporters, photographers and paperboys to deliver “40,000 copies of our weekly (sic) print supplement”.

Chatham Weekly has yet to publish a print edition.

Paper deliverers reportedly receive $20 an hour, and the publication says it has already hired five people for the job, according to its Twitter page.

Reporters and photographers were promised $60,000 a year in salary. Responsibilities include basic journalistic practices such as coverage of meetings and community events.

“This reporter will also write compelling and powerful stories about the successes, helpers and good work being done in these communities,” the job posting reads in its responsibilities section. “The positive news that is often overlooked and severely underreported.”

When Chatham Weekly originally posted the journalist and photographer’s openings to its Instagram page, the post also included the following hashtags posted by the Chatham Weekly account: #gayuk #gay #instagay #gayboy #gayman #gayguy #gaymen #gaypride #gaylife #gayfollow #gayusa #gayselfie #gaystagram #gaylove #gaylondon #gayhot #lgbt #gayfrance #gayfit #gaybrasil #gayworld #gayitaly #gaycute #gaybeard #gaygermany #gayfitness #lgbtq #gaytwink #gaydaddy #gaylatino.

These hashtags have since been removed from posts. Chatham Weekly did not respond to requests for comment on these posts or its job postings.

At the time of publication, the Chatham Weekly website consists primarily of celebrity news and articles by “special contributors”. His only local story is about the hiring of Kristen Picot, written by Liam Santos, which was first published months ago.

StartUP Siler’s main funder, Courtney Jordan, is awaiting a September court appearance in Moore County on impaired driving charges.

The restraining order

Amid the hiring activity, Kristen Picot posted a tearful Instagram video claiming a Siler City resident harassed her.

In the video, Picot says:

“I work in Siler City, NC and fell in love with the community here,” Picot said in her video posted July 15. “Since I’ve been here there’s been a few select people who haven’t been as welcoming. They’ve followed me home, they’ve talked about my appearance on the road, they’ve come after my friends and family , I received, my God, so many text messages.

Screenshots of the text messages were posted by Picot along with the video. They do not show the sender of the messages, but reveal harsh words calling Picot degrading names. The post also includes a screenshot of a doorbell camera of Hauser, but it’s unclear what he’s doing other than standing on the porch.

The video goes on to name Alec Hauser as the person stalking her. She claims he and others tried to get her out of town and insulted her. She also says, however, that she did not report these cases to law enforcement due to “prior experiences,” which she says did not address her concerns.

Siler City Police Chief Mike Wagner told News+Record he was not contacted by Picot. He also said those who complained about harassment around the May primary election, which included Picot and Unity candidates who were also involved in StartUP Siler, are now “uncooperative witnesses” who have not responded to recent follow-up calls from Wagner.

Hauser told the News+Record that the 50-C no-contact order was filed by Picot in Wake County. He denies any wrongdoing but would not comment further on the ongoing case.

A hearing on the no-contact order was scheduled for August 11 at the Wake County Courthouse in Raleigh.

Journalist Ben Rappaport can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @b_rappaport.

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