Council work session turns ugly

by Jeff Sykes

Tension among Greensboro City Council members nearly boiled over during a work session Monday as council reexamined the process leading to two contracts addressing poor housing in the city.

Councilman Jamal Fox pushed several times to have recently awarded contracts rescinded, citing what he views as procedural concerns when a contractor who lacked insurance was hired.

Other council members questioned the short advertising period of the contract, while noting the rate of pay was “excessive.”

In the end, a majority of council directed city staff to explore expanding the number of contractors used to make up for a shortfall of code enforcement positions.

But it was the tension between Councilman Fox and Mayor Nancy Vaughan that brought the discussion down to an uncomfortable level. After a lengthy discussion on the details of the request for proposal that ended with activist Ben Holder being contracted to perform code enforcement services, Vaughan pushed to move to a second phase of contracts. Fox, who had raised the issue of having the contract rescinded, jumped in.

“That is a band aid approach and that’s just ridiculous,” Fox said.

Mayor Vaughan pushed back, saying she had attempted to reach out to Fox to discuss the issue seven times since the council wrangled over the issue at its last meeting.

“If you want to reach out to me how about you have some integrity,” Fox snapped.

Vaughan was not flustered but several members, including Mike Barber and Zack Matheny immediately said Fox was out of line.

After things settled down, Council member Sharon Hightower said that Fox had been threatened over the contract issue.

“I understand why he is upset. We should be able to have a difference of opinion. We should not be pointed at.”

Fox elaborated on the threats after the meeting, saying he had been warned by a member of council not to bring the contacts issue up. He declined to state specifically which council member he was referring to.

For more on this story see this week’s edition of Yes! Weekly.