Eric Robert finished fourth out of four in the May 17 mayoral primary, but the lack of public support has not quieted him down.
While a mayoral candidate Robert filed a lawsuit over public records not being released by the Greensboro Coliseum. He also used his mayoral campaign to attack Downtown Greensboro Inc. (DGI) President and District 3 City Council candidate Zack Matheny.
Robert is continuing his attacks on Matheny and is threatening another lawsuit over the records of DGI, which he claims is a government entity and therefor subject to the open meetings and public records laws of the state.
Robert is engaged in a lengthy email discussion with Greensboro City Attorney Chuck Watts about his claims.
In an email to Watts, Robert states, “When reading the statute below, it is clear that:
- Zack Matheny will be a “Public Officer or Official”
- Downtown Greensboro is an Municipal service District aka special district.”
According to Robert, because Matheny will be an elected official and Downtown Greensboro Inc. receives funding from the Downtown Business Improvement District, DGI is a public entity as defined in the public records and open meetings laws and should comply with those laws.
Watts, who unlike Robert is an attorney licensed to practice law in North Carolina, disagrees.
Watts in an email states, “Your point 2. is simply not correct. DGI is not a ‘Municipal service District’ [sic]. DGI is a private not for profit entity that contracts with the City to provide services to the District. Check the Secretary of State website, if you doubt my word. It might be helpful to this discussion if you consult with a lawyer before you attempt to make legal arguments.”
In an earlier email Robert asked, “When Zack Matheny gets seated as a city council member, will the DGI’s records be considered public records as they will be existing and in his possession?”
To this Watts responded, “No.”
Watts does not go into detail, but the idea that the records of a business or a nonprofit corporation where a councilmember works would be deemed “public records” because they are an elected official is quite a stretch.
District 3 City Councilmember Justin Outling is a partner in the Brooks Pierce law firm, but so far no one has argued that the documents of that law firm are public records because Outling is a city councilmember.
Perhaps more to the point, City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson is the executive director of One Step Further, a nonprofit organization that has a contract with the city to run the Cure Violence program, and again so far no one is maintaining that all the records of One Step Further are public records because Johnson is city councilmember.
This was my point 2:
” When reading the statute below, it is clear that:
Zack Matheny will be a “Public Officer or Official”
Downtown Greensboro is a Municipal service District aka special district.”
dude, I know you are trying to protect your boy Zack, but come on man… you used to be a journalist.
What happened to you?
and to put it in context…i was talking about this statute (132) where it clearly states that a “Special District ” is subjected to public record’s laws”
Chapter 132. Public Records.
(a) “Public record” or “public records” shall mean all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, films, sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data-processing records, artifacts, or other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance in connection with the transaction of public business by any agency of North Carolina government or its subdivisions. Agency of North Carolina government or its subdivisions shall mean and include every public office, public officer or official (State or local, elected or appointed), institution, board, commission, bureau, council, department, authority or other unit of government of the State or of any county, unit, SPECIAL DISTRICT or other political subdivision of government.
Since Downtown Greensboro is a municipal service district aka “Special District” managed by DGI, who is holding the public records…so far it is not the city and not DGI so WHO IS IT…you John?
I Still like you but dang, i kinda feel bad for you now. Too bad I am not Mayor as I would have let you back in the chamber with the cool kids.
As a former journalist, you should care more about public records instead of doing drunkass Zack’s bidding…
Now for upcoming attractions, check out :
Nancy Should never have voted to award the downtown contract to DGI as she is a board member…
Kudos to you Eric for taking on these folks. Something stinks in Denmark for sure. As my mama would say – these folks spend our tax money like a “drunk train robber”
Madmax, not sure why John keeps on trying to portray me as a “nutty nut job”, all while he keeps on publishing articles talking the exact same issues I am advocating to change :
1- Lack of government transparency and accountability
2- Abysmal Public Record performance on the part of our elected officials and their horribly unqualified city attorney.
John only seems to flip flop when it comes to his douche bro pal and advertiser Zack Matheny.
Bottom line is this… what i am asking for is really not unreasonable…I own buildings in Downtown Greensboro , so pay 3 different property taxes…County, City and Special District taxes. (Worth noting that the law clearly says that Special District are subjected to Public record’s rules.)
Dgi used to hold FREE public meetings to let us, the tax payers, know what the organization was doing with our tax dollars.
The last DGI meeting was held at Zimmerman’s facility, (A DGI board member) to , among other things, honor our Mayor Nancy Vaughan, who is also a DGI board member…
All I wanted to know, is…Hey, how much money was spent on such lavish party…that’s is all!
I kind of miss the old Hammer.
Charles Watts, Jr. likes to define what is and what is not public records. When a corporation is under contract to provide a service to the city of Greensboro, Watts along with other city attorneys declare that the corporation’s records belong to the city and demands that the records be given to the city. Of course, Watts and the other attorneys are wrong, according to case law. But being wrong does not stop them from filing a lawsuit and using taxpayer money to try and force a corporation to give the city of Greensboro records that do not belong to them. This action taken by a city attorney that is overpaid and on information and belief does not live within the city of Greensboro.
Termlimits, please elaborate if you can.
The city legal department plays dirty.
If Mathney & Johnson receive city funds then there actions on the City Council are a confict of interest to the tax payers of GSO. They should decide to do one thing or the other but not both.
There is a cabal running downtown. The city and other entities insure that their “boys” (and let’s be clear the main four are all white men) get their tax incentives, zoning, and whatever else they want to the detriment of other owners downtown. Look at who the city grants go to and who they do not go to. You may not like Eric Robert’s methods but no one can doubt the BS that exists downtown. The city has made every effort for a small number of people to run downtown. Even with Zack’s “ambassadors” downtown noting has changed. They cannot stop homeless people from doing the same old s&*$, including throwing chairs through store fronts.
When a private entity receives taxpayer money, it certainly becomes public interest. This grey area over what constitutes a public record suggests that maybe these private entities ought not to be run by elected officials.
More wasted time and money from Eric. Doesn’t set up to make a good public official with this case. His first suit made some sense (but was really grasping at straws) but at least the case had merit. Now it looks more like his ego is hurt.
Who would vote for such a guy? Let Hammer work the city over on public records issues. He clearly knows where the focus should be…
Look, I wanted change, i put my businesses and family on hold, I tried, I failed, I moved on. I have been a citizen advocate for over 20 years now, not becoming Mayor does not mean that there is no work to be done.
I am not looking for your vote or anyone else’s for that matter.
I was a little bummed the evening of the elections simply because I really thought we were ready for change….the constituents have spoken and, there it is !
This is not and has never been an ego trip for me. I am doing what I am doing, simply because I love this country and I believed, maybe naively, that we should be governed better than a third world country.
The first case (still ongoing) clearly demonstrated that the current city attorney had no problem repeteadly lying to the citizens of Greensboro by maintaining that the documents i was looking for did not exist. He was covering up for elected officials…and guess what , the documents did exist and he is now saying (and i quote) ” That PIRT requests generated more than 10,000 email records”…so first there are none, and now there are over 10,000 records.
The Dgi thing is more sinister and probably more important than the first case as the UNC school of government seems to think that this could be a “precedent setting case”.
You are correct that it is a waste of my time, a gigantic huge waste of my time, money and resources, but they are my time and my money that I am willing to spend to make our city a little better. I would prefer to go on living my life in blissful oblivion.
I don’t really want to think about Matheny or Zimmerman another minute…BUT, if not me, who?…definitely not John as it is clear that he is not capable of objectivity when it comes to Matheny , even though I know he and I agree on principles. I wish he would ‘work the city” so I that i don’t have to.
Public record is one of the pillars of our Democracy, don’t take my money and i won’t ask questions, but if you do, then, you have to be held accountable.
Remember , all i asked was how much did you pay one of your board member to honor another one of your board member. I did not ask for Matheny’s medical records.
Now , this thing has ballooned into a real mess for them as it clear that laws are being broken as the Downtown Special District is mandated by State Statute to be subjected to public records, all while DGI is not.
Charles Watts, Jr. reports directly to City Council. Of course, Chuck will do their bidding. A city attorney should not report to a city council. After all, Greensboro City Council is responsible for Chuck’s salary, and they have been very generous to him indeed.
DGI is a non-profit and not a government organization. Not complicated. Hammer has it right and is one of the best advocates for transparency in Greensboro for over 30 years. You insult him for not supporting you in this one example? Sounds like ego to me.
We are in dire need of a change in city leadership. You weren’t the right guy. Not even close.
Chris, what insulting comments you make. Who appointed you to say who is the right person? Shame on you. The city of Greensboro needs new leadership. Nancy Vaughn is full of herself. She is not a leader. She meddles. If she were doing her job, she would not have time to meddle. She has Chuck Watts ear. Why would a mayor need the city’s attorney’s ear, except to meddle. Chuck Watts is in his position for the money. He likes the good life and believes he is entitled. He needs to report to the city manager not City Council, which appears to be enamored with him. What a waste.
Chris, who are you to say Eric is not the right guy. That is very insulting to Eric.
Chris, who are you to say Eric is not the right guy?
I am a voter. Turns out many voters agreed with me. Lol
Eric, request DGI to submit their Form 990 to you. They are required to provide when requested.
The records are subject to public records request. If the city will not comply, go to Raleigh. The city is in violation. The city legal dept will delay and delay rather than comply. Keep up the good fight.
Elections aside, as someone who used to have deep ties to downtown Mr. Robert is correct about how the city runs things down there. The fact that someone who had to resign from city council due to his drunk driving gets the soft pillow of the DGI job courtesy of our current mayor shows the hypocrisy and favoritism. It is not even an opinion-it is fact. Mr. Robert look into DGI grants they receive from the city. They may be allowed to apply after the deadline and swoop up the $. Or will Chuck Watts say that is not public information.
I would vote for such a guy. Eric is doing what others will not do Most people just talk and complain. I was surprised to read that Yvonne Johnson runs a nonprofit that has a contract with the city. This is a clear conflict of interest. The contract should be cancelled. Nancy Vaughn and others have been there too long. Vote them out!
Eric, have you requested a copy of DGI’s Form 990? Nonprofits are required to provide a copy upon request.
Eric, request DGI to submit their Form 990 to you. They are required to provide when requested.