Council members Nancy Vaughan (left), Danny Thompson, Mary Rakestraw (back to camera), Zack Matheny and Jim Kee confer before a work session today.
A majority on the Greensboro City Council has indicated support for reopening the White Street Landfill to municipal solid waste. By an informal straw poll in a work session on this afternoon, the council voted 4 to 2 to short-list three companies that are proposing to reopen the landfill: Advanced Disposal, Gate City Waste Services and Waste Industries.
The decision will have to be ratified during an official meeting with public advertisement.
Those who indicated they favor considering one of the three options to reopen the landfill include Mayor Bill Knight, at-large Councilman Danny Thompson, District 4 Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw and District 5 Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw. Those who indicated they are opposed to reopening the landfill were District 1 Councilwoman Dianne Bellamy-Small and District 2 Councilman Jim Kee.
Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan has recused herself from discussions about the city’s solid waste options because her husband Don Vaughan, a lawyer, represents Waste Industries.
After a brief discussion about redistricting, Vaughan left city council chambers.
City Attorney Rita Danish was researching on Tuesday afternoon whether at-large Councilman Robbie Perkins and District 3 Councilman Zack Matheny have a conflict of interest and should recuse themselves from the vote. Perkins’ commercial real estate company, NAI Piedmont Triad, is representing property for DH Griffin, part of the Gate City Waste Services group, near its headquarters on Hilltop Road. Matheny’s company, Bell Partners, has an investment partnership with DH Griffin in Atlanta.
Perkins and Matheny remained on the dais during the work session. Matheny stayed silent, while Perkins asked questions.
“[If I can speak,] that means I can taint the process, I can guide the process, I can lead the process all the way up to the finish line; I’m just not carrying the ball across the goal mark,” Matheny said. “I don’t feel it’s appropriate for me to sit here and guide this process although I can’t vote on it.”
Assistant City Attorney Jim Clark told Matheny: “The only requirement with regard to a member being excused for a conflict of interest is during a vote. Prior to that, they are free to interact, to participate in any work session in this case.”
Asked by Wade why Vaughan had leave the work session, Clark responded, “Ms. Vaughan chose to excuse herself, which she can do.”
After the meeting, Vaughan said that, in fact, she had not left the work session by choice. She said that former City Attorney Terry Wood and Deputy City Attorney Becky Jo Peterson-Buie told her “that I was not to take part in any discussion and that I should remove myself from the discussion. That was not my choice. I was following the law. I did sit down with Terry to make sure that what I was doing was in compliance. I believe that if I participated in any way, shape or form it would open the city council up to a lawsuit."
Vaughan said she was angry to learn that others participated in the work session, while she has scrupulously avoided any conflict of interest.
“If there is a question of, is there a conflict, they certainly should have not participated in this,” Vaughan said. “If they did, it would taint the process. If Robbie recuses himself from a zoning decision, he’s not able to sit up there and ask questions.”