The Guilford County Board of Commissioners ended their Thursday, June 4 meeting at about 7:30 p.m. – just in time to avoid a legal question that had been brewing for days leading up to the meeting.
Did the county commissioners have to comply with an 8 p.m. curfew that was put in place earlier in the week by Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan?
The Board of Commissioners first got news of the implementation of the ongoing 8 p.m. curfew for Greensboro while in a Monday afternoon, June 1 budget work session. The commissioners – who were planning a meeting for June 4 that included a public hearing on the new budget – thought that the meeting could go well past 8 p.m.
While that work session was going on, Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston texted Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan to see if the curfew applied to the Board of Commissioners while conducting county business. Alston announced Vaughan’s texted response to his fellow commissioners: Yes, the curfew did apply to the Board of Commissioners.
Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne, right before the start of the Thursday night, June 4 meeting, told the Rhino Times that, according to his legal interpretation of the order, the curfew, as stated, didn’t apply to the county commissioners carrying out their business.
Payne said that public employees doing their work were exempt from the order and he added that the county commissioners are counted as public employees in some regards – which would make them exempt from the curfew as worded.
Payne went on to say that, Vaughan, as mayor does have the authority to declare a curfew that did pertain to the board, however, the county attorney added, in this case it did not.
Alston made the same point this week.
“County commissioners get W-2’s from the county, which makes them employees,” Alston said.
The commissioners seemed more interested in the actual wording of the curfew order than the mayor’s interpretation of it.
Commissioner Alan Branson said after the meeting it would have been very interesting indeed if the city had tried to close down the commissioners meeting for going past 8 p.m.
Some county officials were a little taken aback by the mayor’s stance but didn’t wish to be quoted publically.
Alston, however, said that he could understand Vaughan’s reasoning.
“I think she was more concerned about the people who would come out and speak, and that the meeting could run a long time if there were a lot of speakers,” Alston said.
It turned out that, due to protests in downtown Greensboro, the commissioners moved the meeting from the Old Guilford County Court House to the Bur-Mil Club and the board also cut out, at the last minute, the planned in-person speakers on the budget.
So no one got to see the commissioners hauled off in handcuffs by Greensboro police. (The lone reporter at the June 4 meeting would have been fine since members of the media doing their jobs are exempt from the curfew.)
The city probably wouldn’t have arrested the commissioners but people should remember that it wasn’t all that long ago that the City of Greensboro did sue Guilford County over an election law.