"We felt it was a public building and we had a right to be there," Cozza said. Cozza claims that when he asked the police officer who escorted him out if he would be arrested if he returned to Syfert's office, the officer said he would. Cozza chose not to return. That evening, WBTV led its newscast with footage of Cozza being escorted out of Syfert's office by the officer.
"Never in 30 years of covering government in Charlotte have I seen the level of secrecy I've seen in the arena issue," Cozza said. "Pam Syfert has decided the people don't have a right to know about arena negotiations."
Hill was on vacation when Creative Loafing called her for comment, but city spokesperson Rick Davis, who was not present when Cozza was removed, says he was told that two employees who were working near the entrance to Syfert's office were distracted from their work by Cozza's presence and asked that he be removed. Davis says Cozza refused to leave and "got a bit belligerent."
The rest of the media generally wait for interviews with Syfert in the 15th floor lobby, rather than right outside Syfert's door, Davis said.
"It really wasn't necessary for him to be sitting right outside the office door," said Davis.
But Cozza says he didn't want to wait in the lobby because he couldn't see who came and went from Syfert's office. In the weeks before the incident occurred, Cozza said, he had a discussion with Syfert and Hill about what he sees as an unreasonable level of secrecy surrounding the talks and asked them to change their plans and be more forthright with the media about their negotiation plans throughout the process.
"I am neither for or against the arena," said Cozza. "I am for the public's right to know."