There is a good chance that the Greensboro City Council is going to turn down a $138,000 Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) from the US Department of Justice when the money is awarded.
The grant has been approved by the Justice Department and the City Council has agreed to the terms of the grant, but the money has not yet been awarded.
At the Tuesday, Jan. 7 meeting, three councilmembers – Sharon Hightower, Michelle Kennedy and Yvonne Johnson – said they would vote against accepting the grant money because they disagree with the actions of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security.
The item was not on the agenda for the Jan. 7 meeting but something about the grant was approved by the City Council at its Dec. 17 meeting and it was brought to the City Council’s attention by a speaker from the floor.
Hightower said that she didn’t realize what she was voting for at the Dec. 17 meeting and asked if the item could be reconsidered because she wanted to vote against accepting the grant.
The council almost voted on her motion to reconsider, but did not.
There was a great deal of discussion about what the City Council had actually done on Dec. 17. City Attorney Chuck Watts read the agenda item to the City Council several times, but that did not stop the discussion.
At the Dec. 17 meeting, Mayor Nancy Vaughan asked if any action needed to be taken after nobody spoke at the public hearing. Watts said the council needed to vote. The question that was asked repeatedly by councilmembers on Jan. 7 was what had they voted to approve. Unfortunately, reading the resolution isn’t helpful because it doesn’t say anything. It has the normal “whereas” clauses, but the “now therefore let be resolved” clause is lacking a verb, making it difficult to determine what was being resolved.
Kennedy said that she was in favor of holding a public hearing, but she added, ”There is no scenario where I would have voted for the City of Greensboro to participate with ICE which in my opinion is the most ethically bankrupt federal agency that exists today.”
Hightower said that $138,000 wasn’t much money and they should find the money somewhere else.
Johnson also said that she would vote not to accept the grant.
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter noted that the vote to hold the public hearing had been taken at the Nov. 19 meeting and was held at the Dec. 17 meeting when the council approved the resolution. She said, “If we turn away this grant we are turning away more than $138,000 for crime prevention. It is not trying to have us work with ICE.”
She added, “We have accepted this grant for how many – 10, 15, 20 years?”
Assistant City Manager Trey Davis explained several times that the Greensboro Police Department did not collect information on the immigration status on people, so it didn’t have information to share with ICE.
At the public hearing on Dec. 17, nobody spoke and the City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution to accept the grant and the memorandum of understanding about how the $250,000 grant money would be divided. Greensboro will receive $138,000, the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department $61,000 and the High Point Police Department $51,000.
Greensboro is the lead agency for this federal grant, so it is responsible for distributing the funds when they are awarded. If Greensboro does turn down the $138,000 from the federal government, it could affect the money going to High Point and the Sheriff’s Department.
Five votes on the City Council is the majority, so if the three who have said they are opposed to accepting the federal grant are joined by at least two others, the city would turn down a federal grant to the Greensboro Police Department for crime prevention because a majority of councilmembers don’t like ICE.