A bill passed by the North Carolina state legislature on Monday, Nov. 29, if signed by Gov. Roy Cooper, will alter the way the Greensboro City Council does business.
Senate Bill 473, titled “Enhance Local Gov’t Transparency,” passed the state Senate by a 42-6 vote and the state House by 64-44 vote.
One portion of the bill that will have a decided impact on the Greensboro City Council states, “No public official shall knowingly participate in making or administering a contract, including the award of money in the form of a grant, loan or other appropriation, with any nonprofit with which that public official is associated.”
The statue defines participating in making or administering a contract as, “Any of the following actions by a public official:
“a. Deliberating or voting on the contract.
“b. Attempting to influence any other person who is deliberating or voting on the contract.
“c. Soliciting or receiving any gift, favor, reward, service, or promise of reward, including a promises of future employment, in exchange for recommending, influencing, or attempting to influence the award of a contract by the political subdivision of the State with the not-for-profit with which that public official is associated.”
If this bill was not written with the Greensboro City Council in mind, it could have been.
City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson is the executive director of One Step Further, which the city has contracted with to run the Cure Violence program for the City of Greensboro.
Johnson was recused on the final vote to award the contract of about $500,000 per year to One Step Further, but she participated in the deliberations and as a councilmember spoke at meetings in favor of awarding the contract to One Step Further.
Johnson was also a member of the committee of councilmembers and Guilford County Board of Commissioners that met in secret and made the decision to award the contract to One Step Further.
Greensboro Neighborhood Development Department Director Michelle Kennedy while she was a city councilmember and the executive director of the Interactive Resource Center (IRC), a daytime facility serving the homeless population, often spoke about the need for funding for homeless programs including the IRC.
Kennedy also spoke about the need the IRC had for surplus city vehicles that were donated by the city to the IRC. Kennedy was recused from votes on the vehicles and funding for the IRC but not from speaking in favor of those items.
City Councilmember Goldie Wells while she was chair of the board of the IRC, because she had no financial interest in the IRC, fully participated in the decisions by the City Council to fund the IRC. This law would have prohibited Wells from participating in the discussions about the IRC or voting for funding the IRC.
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter is a board member for Crime Stoppers and was instrumental in raising the City Council’s allocation to Crime Stoppers by $75,000 in the current budget. Under this law, Abuzuaiter would not be allowed to lobby for more money for Crime Stoppers because she is on the board.
The Greensboro City Council has a history of providing funding for organizations in which councilmembers are involved, either as employees or board members. The law would not prevent that from continuing to be the practice but it will require that the councilmembers involved not lobby for or vote for that funding.
Also don’t forget about all the smaller funding to councilmembers pet projects. This would not be an issue if our elected officials had integrity or honest intentions. Instead we get opacity and self dealing from self aggrandizing knowitalls.
Definately describes these council members. What will they do now? Just look at each other. Try to remember this story when it is time to vote. Many have been on the city dole way to long.
Thank God for the NC Legislation. It is about time this corruption is stopped.
In the Third World we call this what it is – corruption.
How many times have council members advocated publicly for private, for-profit development, tax abatements and incentives for businesses and zoning changes that encroach on residential areas for friends and family? Unknown, but it would make an interesting investigative story if RT wants to keep track. Yet advocating for a program to help the homeless during a record breaking time of need gets Raleigh’s attention? Either the timing in Raleigh was coincidence, or the R’s there are advocating for MORE desperate people clogging the streets of our town? Homelessness doesn’t go away on its on, and without direct action including city sponsorship of shelters and low-income housing units, we’re going to see encampments in parks and parking lots fairly soon. Evictions are spiking nationally and the coldest part of the year is coming.
So tuna what are you doing to help the problem you’re talking about
The law doesn’t stop council members from advocating for non-profits. Just non-profits where they have an affiliation. Just because an organization is non-profit doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t compensate board members, etc… which would naturally be a conflict of interest. Article is a bit vague on the details of the Bill that was passed in terms of how ‘affiliated’ is defined.
Well holy crap! Finally somebody is paying attention that WILL do something about some of this mess. Tic Toc council better take notice almost time to vote again.
Glad they’re making the effort, but the language looks too murky to me to address the core problems with these kinds of conflicts of interest. If this drives public officials to spend more time working through intermediaries in off-the-record discussions prior to a vote or public hearing (see the most recent redistricting process), does that really increase transparency? Setting concrete timelines on the potential for future employment and placing restrictions on the frequency, uses, and administration of grants would have been more effective in my opinion.
Two words . . . .graft and corruption. The current council apparently sees their job as “Daddy Warbucks” with your money, and they give it out to their favorite “charities” aka “non-profits” in exchange for votes in the next election. See how this works?
Vote all of them out in March and thank “Republicans” for getting this bill passed in the legislature.
So you don’t believe public dollars should go to non-profits? Are you one of those Libertarians’ who thinks everyone should suffer on their own and accept their lot in life? Non-profits do a lot of amazing work in our communities such as repair housing for elderly on a fixed income, provide educational training for people with learning disabilities, etc…
Regardless of what ever political party title you carry, you come across as selfish and self centered.
Anyone but the skip and earl money pit and johnsons cure violence BS
That is not the issue. Of course we know that some non-profits do excellent work. The issue is that City Council office holders should not be on boards where they are paid high salaries and the charity gets the pennies.
Wo is me what’s ms johnson gonna do now. Maybe the council will start having to be accountable to the taxpayers for the money they give away
Surprised this was not already in place. I hope they clarify ‘associated with’ in the law. I could see a politician resigning from say a board position of a non-profit for the sole purpose of promoting the non-profit from their role as a public official yet staying informally engaged with said non-profit.
Politicians from both sides are very good as corrupting the intention of laws without actually breaking the law.
Furthermore, they will break the law, and dare you to contest it.
How do we rid ourselves of these leeches?
Replace the blue leeches with red leeches?
almost all of them are in it to line their own pockets
Council should return the money the gave away! Would like to see criminal charges once the law is signed. I am sure we all are tired of the unacceptable performance and lack of accountability to the citizens of Greensboro. Handing out our money to “friends” of the council while denying money to be allocated to public safety. Am I wrong to say the highest crime and murder rate are located in the districts that keep receiving our tax dollars to “friends” of the city council while the city council is neglecting the rest of the city ?
Time for a change!
While I am happy to see the legislature tackle this problem, it is a sad state of affairs that it is needed. This city council has a long track record of taking advantage of their offices when anyone with a lick of experience in government knows how these actions are unethical and make politicians the least respected people in our community. Thank you Republicans in Raleigh. We need all the help we can get.
Sad that the County Commissioners were Skipped over in this article, a museum could be built in their honor regarding how this kind of giveaway is done.