The Greensboro City Council had a curious virtual work session on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

In many ways it was similar to the work sessions the council has been having lately, where they hear a report from a city department head and call it a day.  This report was from Guilford County Family Justice Center Director Catherine Johnson.  The Family Justice Center opened in 2015 as a “one-stop-shop” to provide all the services needed by those experiencing domestic violence. 

But what made the work session unusual is that the Family Justice Center is a Guilford County department, with offices in Greensboro and High Point.  Johnson reports to County Manager Mike Halford, not Greensboro City Manager David Parrish.

The City Council has no authority over the Family Justice Center.

Johnson, being a county and not a city employee, appeared to be prepared for a county commissioner type work session where meaningful questions are asked, discussions are held and decisions are made.

As a result, she had the attorney for the Family Justice Center and other staff members available to answer questions, which never came.

Councilmembers spent a lot of time telling Johnson what a great job her department was doing.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “I appreciate the work each of you at the Family Justice Center does.”

Johnson did go over some of the struggles of the past year and noted that through it all the Family Justice Center had kept its doors open every day and had in-person contact with its clients.

She noted that 2020 was a record setting year for domestic homicides with 11 and that there had been an increase in murder-suicides.

Johnson said, “Domestic violence breeds in isolation.”  And she noted that because of the pandemic everyone was more isolated and many had lost contact with their support groups.

The work session was held at the request of Councilmember Tammi Thurm and lasted less than hour.

After the presentation Thurm asked if the city could send out information about the Guilford County Family Justice Center in the water bills.  Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter asked if she could have some flyers to hand out and offered the city translation services to provide the information in several languages.

City Councilmember Justin Outling noted at the City Council meeting held after the work session that the City Council had held an entire work session on crime and domestic crime, “And there was not a single recommendation on what the city can actually do on those topics.”