The lawsuit filed by Black Network Television against the City of Greensboro and six city councilmembers in 2014 has been thrown out of court.
Officially, U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen granted Greensboro’s motion for summary judgment on Wednesday, Sept. 18. Granting the motion for summary judgment means that the court has ruled that taking the evidence in the light most favorable to BNT, it does not have a winnable case.
It all started in June 2013, with the Greensboro City Council agreeing to loan BNT $300,000 to produce the television show Whatcha Cookin’. One of the conditions of that loan was that the city take the second position on property put up as collateral. During the due diligence period, the city discovered that there was more debt on the property being put for collateral than they had been told, and not one lien, but two. The City Council then voted 6 to 3 not to change the terms of the loan to take a third position instead of a second position on the collateral.
BNT filed suit for racial discrimination claiming that the City Council voted not to grant the loan because the owners of BNT, Michael and Ramona Woods, are black.
As is noted in the court opinion, the loan under the original terms was still available to BNT for months even after the lawsuit was filed.
The case took a weird turn in March 2019, when the attorney for BNT, Norman Smith of Smith, James, Rowlett and Cohen, asked to be removed as counsel and further requested that two briefs he had filed on behalf of BNT be stricken from the record.
As reported earlier, the presentation made by BNT to the City Council involved some sleight of hand. It showed a national magazine with an article about Whatcha Cookin’ on the cover. However, the cover of that magazine had been altered and the actual magazine sold across the country didn’t have an article about Whatcha Cookin’ on the cover.
One of the reasons the case dragged on for six years was that the lawsuit was dismissed in federal district court and that dismissal was appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the dismissal was overruled and sent back to the North Carolina Middle District Court in Greensboro.