Greensboro City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba presented a bizarre plan to spend over $2.6 million of the $59.4 million in American Rescue Plan funds the city has received.
Before Jaiyeoba was hired as manager, the City Council had a plan on how to spend the $59.4 million and city staff spent months answering questions about the application process and grading the applications from nonprofits and small businesses.
Jaiyeoba has a different plan, which was presented to the City Council at a work session in the Plaza Level Conference Room in city hall on Thursday Nov. 3.
Part of Jaiyeoba’s plan was to create what Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter termed “a slush fund” for the mayor and each member of the City Council.
Jaiyeoba’s plan was to allow Mayor Nancy Vaughan to allocate $500,000, Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson $375,000 and each councilmember $250,000 to the nonprofit organization or small business of their choice.
The Jaiyeoba’s proposal ignores the basic premise of the council-manager form of government.
Neither the mayor nor any individual councilmember has the authority to allocate a dime from the city budget. The authority to take action, such as allocating money, must be approved by the majority of the City Council. No individual councilmember can allocate funds, whether the money comes from the federal government or from city taxes.
When the idea of individual slush funds was presented, Vaughan said, “I am not comfortable with that.”
She added, “I would rather see this money allocated in a different way instead of looking like it is earmarked. I don’t like that.”
Vaughan said that years ago there were council contingency funds and said, “that is something we were trying to get away from.”
Abuzuaiter said, “To me that would be like each councilmember has a slush fund and I don’t like that.”
Councilmember Sharon Hightower disagreed. She said, “I do like the $250,000. I understand the intent and applaud the idea.”
Councilmember Tammi Thurm said, “I’m not really comfortable just taking $250,000 out for a small business or a small nonprofit.”
Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann said, “I’m not comfortable with that either.”
Councilmember Zack Matheny said to Jaiyeoba, “I get it. What you’re saying is before we pitch and ask for another $14 million for us to balance our budget fixing up city owned buildings, we’re going to make y’all feel good and give you $250,000 apiece. That will excite y’all and get you distracted so you don’t pay attention to what else we are recommending.”
Matheny also described the presentation as “pretty awful.”