When an elected official can no longer adequately perform the duties of their job, for whatever reason, it is their responsibility to resign.
One of the few actual duties of the mayor of Greensboro is to conduct City Council meetings. Mayor Nancy Vaughan has proven that she is incapable or unwilling to properly conduct a City Council meeting.
It is time for Vaughan to resign as mayor and allow someone who is willing and able to conduct City Council meetings take her place so that the business of the city can be done at public meetings.
Vaughan has been repeatedly warned by friend and foe alike that if she did not take control of the City Council meetings they would only get worse.
The meeting Tuesday, May 2 was the worst so far, and it was the worst of the thousands of public meetings I have attended. Never before have I seen a meeting devolve into mob rule, where the mob was allowed to take over the meeting room after forcing the elected officials to flee the dais.
Months ago, Vaughan allowed former attorney Lewis Pitts and Nelson Johnson to stand in the audience and argue with her, and she then gave in to their demands.
She was warned that by allowing those two to shout out from the audience, and legitimizing their actions by engaging in dialogue with them, more people would follow their lead.
When LGBT activists were allowed to disrupt City Council meetings by shouting, clapping and making so much noise that speakers could not be heard, Vaughan was again warned that if she didn’t take action it would only get worse.
Tuesday, Vaughan completely lost control of the meeting. The protestors took over the Council Chambers while the City Council hid in the back, protected by a phalanx of police officers and two locked doors.
There was no reason for the City Council to be scared. No one had threatened violence. The goal of the group was to disrupt the meeting, and they did so efficiently and effectively.
It actually didn’t take much – a few people shouting out from the audience, a lot of clapping, jeering, chanting and foot stomping.
The meeting could have been controlled in the beginning after the first outburst, but it had already gotten out of control by the time Vaughan did attempt to take some action.
Vaughan ordered Irving Allen, who refused to stop shouting at city councilmembers, to leave the Council Chambers. It didn’t help that Councilmember Sharon Hightower engaged in dialogue with Allen, but once Allen was ordered by the presiding officer to leave for being disruptive, by not leaving he was committing a misdemeanor.
The state legislature gives presiding officers the legal right to control the meeting for just such occasions. Allen refused to leave when asked to by a security guard and nothing happened except the crowd got louder.
At that point Vaughan had a decision to make. She could have Allen arrested for a clear violation of the state statute on conducting public meetings or she could allow Allen to stay and the City Council could surrender the Council Chambers to the protestors.
Police Chief Wayne Scott said he had advised Vaughan that at that point it would be best to clear the room. But the meeting never should have gotten to that point. Scott’s advice was no doubt good from a security standpoint, but he was making the best of the bad situation Vaughan had gotten herself into.
After councilmembers scurried off the dais and out the back door in such a hurry they didn’t take time to vote on the motion to recess – and the protestors had taken over the chambers – Nelson Johnson did what Vaughan should have done. He tried to get the protestors to calm down and leave the Council Chambers.
While trying to get the protestors to leave, Nelson said, “We have won a big victory here tonight.” And he was right. The protestors did win a big victory. They chased the City Council out of the Council Chambers with a few shouts, claps and foot stomps. It wasn’t much of a battle, but it’s hard to fight with someone running for the door.
For the good of Greensboro, Vaughan needs to resign. Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson would take over as mayor and Yvonne Johnson has no trouble running a meeting. She will have people removed if they don’t behave. She will do it very calmly and gently, most likely calling them “Honey” or “Hun,” but she will do it.
Of course, another option would be for Mayor Vaughan to start doing her job.
At the next meeting, the city manager will present his budget, if the mob allows him to do so. The City Council needs to get on with the business of the city, which it can’t do while the mayor and the council are cowering in the back room.