City pays personal legal fees for Mayor Vaughan in Robert lawsuit

by Jeff Sykes

The City of Greensboro has paid more than $8,500 in legal fees for an outside law firm to personally represent Mayor Nancy Vaughan in a case involving environmental cleanup funds for the South Elm Redevelopment, more commonly known as Union Square.

Developer Eric Robert sued the city in May 2015 regarding brownfield funds the city used to clean up the Union Square site at the intersection of South Elm Street and Gate City Boulevard. The Union Square Campus, a joint nurse training facility among the area’s major colleges and universities, is currently being built on a portion of the site. The area was considered a polluted brownfield and Greensboro received $6.6 million in federal money for site clean up.

Robert bought a portion of the land intended to be part of the overall project and redeveloped the Daily Bread Flour Mill at 816 S. Elm St. Robert sued the city after staffers declined to include his project in the reimbursements. The suit was dropped in February. Prior to that point, Mayor Vaughan was subject to depositions in the suit. The city was represented by City Attorney Tom Carruthers and had hired Patrick Kane of Smith, Moore Leatherwood.

In an article published in the Greensboro News & Record in October, it was reported that Vaughan intended to pay her own expenses for hiring Amiel Rossabi to represent her personally during the legal proceedings. The city ultimately paid more than $150,000 in legal fees to Smith, Moore Leatherwood. A Rhino Times article in January reported that Vaughan “hired Amiel Rossabi, of Rossabi, Black and Slaughter to represent her personally, the day before the deposition.

“Rossabi advised his client Vaughan not to answer the questions asked during the deposition including: “Mayor Vaughan, have you ever been deposed before?” As well as, “Would you state your full name for the record, Mayor Vaughan?”

In a memo dated June 7, 2016 and released following a record’s request by YES! Weekly, Chief Deputy City Attorney Jo Peterson-Buie addresses the $8,545 legal payment to Rossabi’s former law firm. Rossabi Black and Slaughter billed the city for Vaughan’s legal fees on Feb. 17 of this year. The firm broke up on May 1 and the new firm, Black Slaughter Black requested payment. Rossabi formed Rossabi Law Partners and confirmed that the payment for representing Vaughan should go to his former partners.

The memo states that the city entered into a contract with Rossabi Black and Slaughter on Sept. 21, 2015. The memo states that Rossabi represented Vaughan at her deposition on Oct. 21. The memo mentions no additional representation.