The agenda for the City Council work session on Tuesday, June 1 is not what is expected at this time of year, which for the City Council is budget season.

Greensboro City Manager David Parrish presented his recommended budget for 2021-2022 on May 18, and on June 15 the City Council is scheduled to pass its own version of that budget of more than $617 million. 

How much more and how that $617 million-plus will be spent is what the City Council would like to determine in the next two weeks.

However, the June 1 City Council meeting has a topic far more contentious than whether or not to start supplying Greensboro police officers with take home cars similar to the other municipalities in the area.

City Councilmember Michelle Kennedy has asked for the City Council to discuss an independent investigation of the events involving Marcus Deon ,Smith who died on Sept. 8, 2018 after being in police custody.

The “Budget Cycle Update” is the first item on the work session agenda.  However, it is just as common for Mayor Nancy Vaughan to take items on the work session agenda out of order than it is to take them in order.

And the second item is “Independent Investigation Discussions,” which may sound obtuse but it is better than the agenda item to appoint Assistant City Manager Chris Wilson as interim city manager.  The agenda item for that vote, which included no discussion, was, “Matters to be Discussed by the City Council.”

Kennedy has already stated that she is in favor of the City Council authorizing an independent investigation of the death of Marcus Smith.  City Attorney Chuck Watts has also previously told the City Council that from a legal perspective it would not be advisable to conduct an independent investigation while the city is being sued.  The parents of Marcus Smith, George and Mary Smith, filed a wrongful death suit against the City of Greensboro, the police officers involved, Guilford County and the Emergency Medical Services technicians on the scene.

The city has made an offer to settle that lawsuit, but no settlement has been reached and the lawsuit is ongoing.

After the State Bureau of Investigation had completed its investigation of the incident, the Guilford County district attorney determined that no charges would be brought against any of the police officers or Emergency Medical Services personnel involved.

According to the autopsy by North Carolina medical examiner’s office, the cause of Smith’s death was “Sudden cardiopulmonary arrest, due to: Prone Restraint; n-ethylpentalone, cocaine and alcohol use; and hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.”

The police had placed Smith in a Ripp-Hobble restraint, which bound his ankles to his handcuffed arms behind his back.  Shortly after being placed in the restraint, Smith stopped breathing.  He was released from the restraints and transported by EMS to Cone Hospital but never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at the hospital according to the autopsy report. 

Kennedy is in favor of authorizing an independent investigation, but the question is whether she has the necessary five votes to have the City Council authorize an investigation.