Gate City Waste Services files a complaint (link) seeking an injunction to affect Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan and District 3 Councilman Zack Matheny's participation in a vote on the selection of the solid waste company to operate the White Street Landfill.
Plaintiff respectfully requests that the court declare that: (i) Ms. Vaughan has a “financial interest” within the meaning of NC Gen. Stat. § 160A-75 in the award of the contract and therefore has a conflict of interest and is required to recuse herself from voting and participating in the proceedings related to the award of the contract; and (ii) Mr. Matheny has no “financial interest” within the meaning of NC Gen. Stat. § 160A-75 or any other conflict of interest in the award of the contract and is therefore not excused from voting and participating in the proceedings relating to the award of the contract.
Vaughan told me today that she expects her pro-landfill colleagues on council to take a vote to recuse her from the landfill decision against her will, adding that she believes tonight's vote is tied to the lawsuit filed today because if the vote is successful the city would be enjoined from representing her as a defendant.
Vaughan said that interim City Attorney Tom Pollard has been researching the matter this afternoon and determined that the city council does have the authority to take a vote to recuse the mayor pro tem against her will.
"He thinks it can be done," Vaughan said. "From what I understand, he thinks it's not something that should be done lightly. It's certainly not something done regularly. It should be done only in the most extreme circumstances."
Chris Brook, a staff attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, has been monitoring events today. Brook said Pollard has determined that all members should vote on Vaughan's possible recusal.
A key fulcrum of the vote tonight is likely to be Matheny's role.
"Even though Matheny is conflicted out of voting on Gate City, he could vote to recuse Nancy, which would help Gate City," Brook said. "My understanding from talking to people is that Matheny is saying, 'I don't want to vote'.... If he is deemed okay to vote and he doesn't vote then he would be counted as a yes vote. That strikes me as too cute by half. By default he's voting yes, and then by default he's voting for the company that he claimed to have a conflict with."
UPDATE: "I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it done before, but I do think it’s possible for council to take that action," says Tom Pollard, who served as city attorney for the city of Wilmington from 1983 to 2009.
"It would just be the statutes that apply to a conflict of interest and the council making the decision that the statutes apply to a member of council," Pollard said, explaining the legal basis for his decision.
UPDATE2: Tonight's city council meeting begins at 5:30 p.m.