With election day a week away, it was no surprise that the campaign raised its ugly head at the Greensboro City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 19.
The two mayoral candidates, Mayor Nancy Vaughan and District 3 City Councilmember Justin Outling, have been having a back and forth on recusals during the campaign.
Vaughan has made the point that because Outling is a partner at the Brooks Pierce law firm, he frequently has to recuse himself from votes because of the involvement of his firm.
Outling has responded that most of the recusals are for routine matters on the consent agenda that pass 8-0-1 when he is recused and it wouldn’t make any difference if instead they passed 9-0.
But as Vaughan notes, Outling has also had to recuse himself from all the many votes and discussions having to do with the Toyota battery plant coming to the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite and about Boom Supersonic coming to the Piedmont Triad International Airport.
Outling, in a campaign email, has questioned Vaughan’s failure to ask to be recused on matters that involve companies where her “significant other” worked.
When asked about that accusation, Vaughan said that she had privately asked City Attorney Chuck Watts if she could be recused from votes because her ‘boyfriend’ did parttime consulting work for the company and according to Vaughan, Watts said, “No.”
However, at the Tuesday, July 19 meeting, after Outling had asked to be recused from four votes concerning the water and sewer extension to the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite, Vaughan asked publicly about being recused.
Vaughan said, “Mr. City Attorney, you and I had discussed earlier that my ‘boyfriend’ is a parttime consultant for Davis, Martin and Powell Associates, and we talked about whether or not I would need to recuse myself from this item and your answer was?”
City Attorney Chuck Watts responded, “No.”
State law requires members of the City Council to vote on matters, unless they have a direct financial interest and have to be recused. In other words, a member of the City Council, unlike other elected officials, cannot simply choose not to vote. If they are present and are not recused they must vote, and if they refuse to cast a vote, their vote is recorded as a yes vote.