August 24, 2011
Contact: Chris Brook (919) 323 – 3380 ext. 113
Kay Brandon 336-324-7207
GREENSBORO–The already absurd, rushed process to re-open the White Street Landfill undertaken by a four-person majority of the Greensboro City Council has taken a turn for the truly Kafkaesque.
Last Tuesday, a four-person pro-landfill faction on the nine-person City Council voted to enter into contract negotiations with Gate City Waste Services. Council members Nancy Vaughan and Zach Matheny were excluded due to conflicts of interest. That changed this Monday when interim Greensboro City Attorney Tom Pollard ruled that “there is no basis to excuse” Councilwoman Nancy Vaughan “from voting on the contract award to Gate City.” Vaughan’s previous exclusion was based on her husband having served as an attorney for Waste Industries, another potential landfill operator. With Waste Industries’ elimination from consideration on Tuesday, Pollard found Vaughan no longer had a conflict and was obligated to vote again.
If Vaughan voted against the Gate City proposal, the Council would deadlock 4-4, meaning the Gate City proposal would die. In 2001, Vaughan voted with a unanimous City Council to close the White Street Landfill to municipal solid waste.
But the previous four-person majority, consisting of Mayor Bill Knight and Councilpersons Mary Rakestraw, Trudy Wade, and Danny Thompson, is not letting the fact that their plan to re-open White Street lacks Council or public support stop them. At Tuesday’s meeting of the City Council as Councilwoman Trudy Wade warned Vaughan, “If you vote against Gate City, we’re going to have a very serious problem picking anyone but Waste Industries because that would be the only way you couldn’t vote on it.” In short, the four-person faction would contrive a conflict of interest for Vaughan by bringing back a vendor, Waste Industries, it eliminated just a week ago just to keep her from voting.
If the four-person majority backtracked and abandoned Gate City and chose to bring Waste Industries back into consideration, then Councilman Zack Matheny’s conflict of interest would disappear, giving him the decisive vote. Matheny has not been allowed to participate thus far due to a financial interest in Gate City.
These most recent developments come on the heels of this City Council abandoning its first effort to re-open the White Street Landfill and being forced by two Guilford County Superior Court Judges to abandon their second effort to re-open the landfill after failing to do their legal due diligence. As part of its third Request for Proposals, the council chose to negotiate with Gate City. The then four-person majority selected Gate City without saying a word supporting their decision. It has since come out that three members of the four-person majority, Mayor Knight, Councilwoman Wade, and Councilman Thompson, have received large political contributions from D.H. Griffin, a key player in the proposal put forward by Gate City.
“I hope they would show some integrity in dealing with this situation,” says Kay Brandon a leader with the Citizens for Economic and Environmental Justice, which opposes re-opening the landfill. “They shouldn’t do tricks just to keep a majority–that’s basically what they’re doing. It makes the city look bad.”