An attempt at legal action against Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan last week fell short of the mark and resulted in an apology.
At the Tuesday, Dec. 6 City Council meeting, Jason Hicks, speaking during the public comment period, said that lawsuits would be filed against members of the City Council based on the lobbying disclosure act. He said, “We will no longer allow you to make poor decisions without consequences.”
On Friday, Dec. 9, Hicks sent an email to Greensboro City Attorney Chuck Watts and copied the City Council, City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba and some news organizations, with the subject line, “DGI & Mayor Vaughan Ethics Complaint.”
The email begins, “To anyone willing to do something.”
Hicks states, “Mayor Nancy Vaughan has served on the board of Downtown Greensboro Incorporated since at least 2018.
“On June 15, 2021 the Greensboro City Council voted on a Business Improvement District (BID) Contract (Agenda Item #38) in the Amount of $3,075,000 between the City of Greensboro and Downtown Greensboro Incorporated (DGI).”
Hicks notes that Vaughan voted in favor of the motion and states, “Per Statute, Mayor Vaughan is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor and the contract with Downtown Greensboro Incorporated is void.
“North Carolina General Statute 14-234.3 (Local public officials participating in contracts benefiting nonprofits with which associated).” Hicks then quotes a portion of the statute.
Vaughan responded to the email from Hicks stating, “As evidence you reference a law (SL2021-191, NCGS 14-234.3) which was voted on December 9, 2021 effective January 1, 2022) Simply follow the dates and you will see the fallacy of your ‘Complaint.’”
Hicks responded in an email on Monday, Dec. 12 stating, “Thank you for your response. First let me apologize for falsely accusing you of the before-mentioned offense. Mr. Watts made it clear that the law was not yet in place at the time of the June 25th vote.”
Hicks adds, “I strongly hold that the vote was unethical. Clearly the NC legislators hold that position as well; otherwise there wouldn’t be a law in place at this time.”
Actually, the laws in place at the time required Vaughan and the other members of the City Council present to vote on the contract. Unlike some elected bodies, members of the City Council when present are required to vote unless they are recused by a vote of the City Council because of a conflict of interest.
At the time of the vote in June, Vaughan had no legally recognized conflict of interest was not recused and was therefore required to vote.