Amnesia in the at-large race

by YES! Weekly staff

Last week, local news and culture website Avant Greensboro, a site we follow and admire, ran a long Q&A with At- Large Councilwoman Marikay Abuzuaiter, who is running for re-election this year. The interview, conducted by Rae Alton, herself fairly well informed on city politics, and running more than 2,000 words, touched on Abuzuaiter’s voting record, the performing arts center, the curfew, food trucks, the International Civil Rights Museum, the needs of the city’s poor and the balance between business and cultural interests.

But the interview also contained what we in the trade call a “sensational omission”: There was absolutely no mention of the fact that back in January, our reporting revealed that the Greensboro Police Department considered the councilwoman as a “frequent CI,” or confidential informant. We uncovered dozens of e-mails between Abzuaiter and the criminal intelligence division of the GPD, where she sent intelligence about various activist groups including Occupy Greensboro and the tea party.

Six months later, it seems that the only people who accurately remember the details of the incident are running against her, most notably Ben Holder, who brought the matter up at the last council meeting and has been hitting it on his blog.

Six months later, it seems that the only people who remember the details of the incident are running against her.

“From my perspective, this issue has been resolved,” she said from the dais, “and has been for many months.

That is news to us — we never got a satisfactory explanation for the e-mails between her and the criminal intelligence division and other GPD departments.

Abuzuaiter told us she didn’t send the e-mails, though she was unable to explain how the missives were sent to and from her e-mail account, and said she was unwilling to tap city resources to discover who might have done such a thing. Of course, at the last council meeting, at Holder’s prodding, Abuzuaiter said she “never denied” sending the e-mails in question, along with a couple other statements that contradict the record.

Those who remember their local history might recall that in 2007, Holder himself was fingered for wearing a wire for the GPD while, as YES! Weekly put it, “under the guise of gathering news.”

It’s not exactly apples to apples — Holder was a minor public figure at the time, neither running for nor sitting in an elected position. And Holder never denied his role.

“Wearing a wire is no different than when I rode around buying crack pipes, writing down times and places and taking it to the police,” he told us in March 2007.

And while we feel that neither candidate should be judged solely on inferences derived from these discoveries — both have public service records and full platforms, available in our comprehensive candidate profiles at our elections website, — we will weigh each instance accordingly in our endorsements.

For those who might be hazy on the details, read Eric Ginsburg’s Jan. 30 cover story, “Under surveillance,” which raises even bigger questions Abuzuaiter’s role in the department’s monitoring of citizens, here: 15466-un-der-su-rvei-llance.html, with a follow-up a week later here: