A simple exchange between City Manager David Parrish and City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson at the City Council work session last week appeared to violate the City Council’s normal conflict of interest policy.
Parrish gave an update to the City Council on the Cure Violence contract. He said, “The Cure Violence contract has been agreed to and has been routed. I think One Step Further has signed and we’re waiting on the University of Chicago and then we will route that for signatures.”
City Councilmember and Executive Director of One Step Further Yvonne Johnson asked, “How long are they going to be because I’m waiting to pay for a space.”
Parrish replied, “Polly [Sizemore] checked with the University of Chicago I believe late last week and we are pushing it, but we’ve agreed.”
All fairly pro forma, except Johnson is Parrish’s boss. The $500,000 Cure Violence contract is just one of the thousands of contracts the City of Greensboro has with outside entities. The fact that a member of the City Council runs the agency with which the city has this contract should not move the contract up or down the list for action.
But in this instance Parrish is under pressure to push this contract along from someone who has the ability to cast a vote to fire him or give him a raise, and also has a recognized financial interest in the contract.
The City Council voted to recuse Johnson from the vote on the Cure Violence contract with One Step Further because of a conflict of interest. Normally when a councilmember has a recognized conflict of interest that councilmember is not allowed to discuss the matter or vote.
City Councilmember Justin Outling, who is a partner at the Brooks Pierce law firm, frequently has to be recused from votes on matters involving that firm. Outling, however, is not allowed to enter into the discussions of those contracts and has never suggested that a contract with his firm be given preferential treatment. He is recused from all discussions of the contracts as well as the votes.