The discussion of the resolution to oppose the civil services review board bill went pretty much as expected at the Tuesday, May 2 City Council meeting, but the vote caught a number of people, including Mayor Nancy Vaughan, off guard.
The civil services review board bill passed the North Carolina House and the first reading in the state Senate last week, without any comment from the Greensboro City Council. The bill would amend the Greensboro city charter to create a five member board to review decisions made by city management concerning the discipline, demotion or termination of a city employee.
The discussion was lengthy, with statements in favor of the resolution by Councilmembers Sharon Hightower, Marikay Abuzauiter, Goldie Wells and Nancy Hoffmann and statements in opposition to the resolution by Councilmembers Tammi Thurm, Zack Matheny and Mayor Nancy Vaughan.
Late in the discussion, Councilmember Yvonne Johnson, who had been largely silent on the matter, spoke in favor of a civil services review board.
Johnson said, “I’ve listened to everything. I’ve met with the workers. I’ve listened to various council people and as contentious as some of us might think this is, it is an opportunity for us in our leadership positions to correct some of the wrongs ourselves. I’m willing to do that I’m willing to work on that and I think the manager is willing to do that I’ve spoken with him I’ve spoken with the city attorney I think we have an opportunity that we don’t need to just push aside we need to jump on it.”
Johnson said that in her time on the City Council, she had seen some “appalling” things and added, “We have the opportunity to fix this. Let’s do it.”
Many who heard that thought Johnson was speaking in favor of the civil services review board bill that is currently being considered by the state Senate.
However, when the vote was taken, the motion in favor of the resolution opposing the civil services review board passed on a 5-3 vote with Councilmembers Johnson, Hightower, Abuzuaiter, Wells and Hoffmann voting in favor and Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Councilmembers Zack Matheny and Tammi Thurm voting in opposition.
Councilmemer Hugh Holston was absent from the meeting.
There was some discussion about the vote after the 5-3 result was announced and Vaughan could be seen conferring with Johnson. Several people in the audience shouted out that the vote total was wrong.
After the meeting Johnson explained that she is in favor of civil services review board. She said, “I’m in favor of us doing what we need to do ourselves. I’m in favor of a board, a process and a system that addresses our needs, but I’m not in favor of having the state telling us what to do.”
If Johnson had voted the way it sounded like she was going to vote, the motion to send a resolution to the legislature in opposition to the bill would have failed on a 4-4 vote.