City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba is continuing to make the government of the City of Greensboro less transparent.
All nine members of the Greensboro City Council are running for election on Tuesday, July 26 and claim to support a more open and transparent city government, but they refuse to take any action to hinder or halt the actions of one of their two employees who is doing the opposite.
Some of Jaiyeoba’s actions have been obvious – like his attempt to ban the media from the Katie Dorsett Council Chambers and force the media to cover City Council meetings from a table in the balcony where the vast majority of the members of the City Council and city staff are not visible.
Jaiyeoba’s stated intent was to ban the media from the Council Chambers entirely during meetings, but because the meetings are open to the public and the media representatives qualify as “public,” that was not possible.
But there are more subtle changes such as not posting the presentations for City Council meetings and work sessions on the City of Greensboro website. The presentations are technically available by making a public records request, but considering how long public records requests often take, it is not a reasonable method for journalists to acquire them.
In an incredible example of withholding information, Jaiyeoba didn’t provide copies of his proposed 2021-2022 budget to the City Council until the day after he presented the budget at the City Council meeting. City Councilmember Sharon Hightower complained about trying to discuss a budget that she had not seen at the Monday, May 23 City Council meeting.
Now there is another subtle example of not making information readily available to the public. The upcoming City Council work sessions are no longer listed under “Upcoming Meetings” on the “Council Meetings” page of the City of Greensboro website. City Council Work Sessions are official meetings of the City Council and by law the City Council may take any action in its power at a Work Session.
However, the City Council usually doesn’t take official votes at Work Sessions but takes action by consensus.
During the Work Sessions on the budget, such as the upcoming Work Sessions in June, the City Council traditionally makes major decisions on tax rates and spending by consensus which are then formalized by an official vote when the City Council passes the budget. Councilmembers who may have been on the losing side of a consensus “vote” in a budget work session, often vote for the overall budget despite their disagreement with some items.
The June Work Sessions are listed on the “2022 City Council Meeting Schedule” under the heading “Tentative Work Session” and they are Thursday, June 9; Tuesday, June 14 and Thursday, June 30. The list also states, “Work Sessions are held at 2:00 p.m.” But the meeting time of Work Sessions are often changed.