Anticlimax after rumored recusal vote

District 3 Councilman Zack Matheny was playing coy tonight, but apparently wasn't playing ball with District 5 Councilwoman Trudy Wade.

An expected (link) vote to recuse Greensboro Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan from taking part in a decision to approve a solid waste contract did not materialize during a city council meeting tonight.

Typically, motions that are not on the agenda or added as part of an addendum come up for a vote at the end of the meeting during a segment called "matters to be discussed by the mayor and members of city council." Members discussed 9-11 commemoration activities, emergency response planning and the Greensboro Grasshoppers' winning streak, but no motion was made to recuse Vaughan.

At-large Councilman Danny Thompson and District 4 Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw — two of the four members who have voted to reopen the landfill in the past — indicated after the meeting that they were unaware of any plans to seek Vaughan's recusal.

Interim City Attorney Tom Pollard declined to comment on whether any of the four pro-landfill council members had approached him to ask whether it was legal to recuse another member against her will, but he said he discussed the matter with Steven J. Levitas, a lawyer who represents Gate City Waste Services. The company has been preselected to operate the White Street Landfill.

Pollard said his research into the legality of what he has described as an extraordinary parliamentary procedure "was derived from that conversation."

Gate City Waste Services filed suit against the city, Vaughan and District 3 Councilman Zack Matheny today seeking an injunction to prevent Vaughan from voting and to force Matheny to vote in the selection of the contractor to reopen the landfill.

Just as the meeting was beginning, Pollard and members of council received an e-mail (link) from Chris Brook, a lawyer for landfill opponents, requesting that the vote be delayed. Brook's argument that requiring Matheny to vote on whether Vaughan should be recused "is the equivalent of giving him a vote on Gate City as a vendor" — a company that he is deemed to have a conflict of interest with — might have been read as a shot across the bow.

After a break earlier in the meeting, six members of council reconvened without Thompson, Rakestraw and District 5 Councilwoman Trudy Wade. Rhinoceros Times Editor John Hammer was also outside of chambers.

The six council members began rapidly moving through a motion to allocate funding for "downtown support activities" — an item expected to especially run counter to Wade's fiscally conservative, parochial proclivities. At-large Councilman Robbie Perkins, who was smiling mischievously with District 1 Councilwoman Dianne Bellamy-Small, made a rolling motion with his arms to urge the mayor to call for a vote. Everyone on the dais understood that as the three absent members were not excused their votes would count as yes.

Just then, Thompson, Rakestraw and Wade rejoined the meeting, looking stone-faced. Wade read the item on the screen and said, "I'm against it."

Matheny said he had been approached by a fellow council member, whom he declined the name.

"I was asked, 'What would I do?'" he said.

Asked how he answered, he said cryptically: "You'd have to ask them."

Presumably the reason the motion was not made was because the four did not feel confident that it would pass.

"I was waiting just like you were waiting," Matheny said.

No comments: