August 29, 2011
Contact: Chris Brook (919) 323 – 3380 ext. 113
GREENSBORO–SCSJ Staff attorney Chris Brook sent a letter this morning (link) to Greensboro Attorney Thomas Pollard urging him to stand firm on his prior ruling that Councilwoman Vaughan is obligated to participate in City Council’s consideration of Gate City’s plan to re-open the White Street Landfill. Gate City recently pressured Pollard into reconsidering his position in order to help them secure the contract.
Noting Pollard’s ruling is “well-ground in the applicable authority and consistent with previous opinions from the Greensboro City Attorney’s office,” Brook highlighted the North Carolina law presumption that City Councilpersons must participate in votes unless barred from doing so by a conflict of interest. The Greensboro Conflict of Interest Policy defines a conflict as “a financial or other interest in the firm selected for the award.” In this case, the City Council selected Gate City. Pollard has previously investigated Councilwoman Vaughan’s interests, finding she had “no financial interest, direct or indirect, in Gate City.”
Gate City, along Mayor Bill Knight and Councilpersons Trudy Wade, Danny Thompson, and Mary Rakestraw, challenged Vaughan’s participation only after it became clear she might imperil their previous four-person majority in favor of re-opening the landfill. Prior to the elimination of Waste Industries from consideration for White Street management, Councilwoman Vaughan had not been allowed to participate due to her husband’s legal representation of Waste Industries. After Pollard ruled she must vote, Councilwoman Wade even went so far as suggesting the City Council bring Waste Industries back into negotiations to prevent Councilwoman Vaughan from voting.
“Fearing it might lose the game Gate City has decided to complain about the rules and the referee,” Brook states at the close of his letter to Pollard. But “the rules are clear: Councilwoman Vaughan’s only conflict relates to Waste Industries. And the referee was right: Councilwoman Vaughan is compelled to vote on this matter of great importance to her constituents.”
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in August, 2007 in Durham, North Carolina by a multi-disciplinary group, predominantly people of color, who believe that families and communities engaged in social justice struggles need a team of lawyers, social scientists, community organizers and media specialists to support them in their efforts to dismantle structural racism and oppression.
White Street Re Conflict of Interest.pdf