Danish to go

by Brian Clarey

One could be forgiven for being blindsided by the resignation — sorry, “mutual separation agreement” — of Greensboro City Attorney Rita Danish last week. After all, we had been assured time and again how new legislation in Raleigh — the one that puts the city attorney under the authority of the city council as opposed to the city manager — had absolutely nothing to do with Danish.

We were told that council had been looking to make this adjustment, which put Greensboro in line with pretty much every other municipality in the state, for years. We were told that no one on city council had ever even brought up getting rid of Danish, who was brought over by City Manager Rashad Young from his previous stint in Dayton, Ohio. That anyone who ever suggested such a thing was flat-out lying.

“Not a single person on the City Council has uttered the words, ‘We need to fire Rita Danish,’” Councilman Danny Thompson said to the Rhino Times.. “There is absolutely not a grain of truth in that.”

Of course, you should never believe anything until it has been officially denied.

What detractors call “cronyism” is fairly standard practice among professionals who undertake a new enterprise.

Perhaps we all should have been paying attention to the less loudly proclaimed rumblings: that Rita Danish’s hiring was blatant cronyism, that she was unlicensed to practice law in North Carolina, that she favored one faction of council over the other.

Most of this is pure nonsense, of course. What detractors call “cronyism” is fairly standard practice among professionals who undertake a new enterprise. People bring in others with whom they have previously worked, who they know and trust. Happens all the time — in business, in politics, in academia, in the entertainment and news businesses.

And the chattering class was so busy noting that Danish had yet to pass the NC Bar exam in a faux “gotcha” moment, they failed to note that she had two years in her contract in which to pass the exam. And again, there is nothing untoward about a lawyer changing her state of residency — particularly for a guaranteed city job — and having a reasonable window in which to become instated to the bar.

But the big questions aren’t about why Danish is leaving, but how the whole thing went down. It’s hard to square Thompson’s comment with what went down last week. Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan has said she felt misled by the process.

The city press release — issued at 4:59 p.m. last Wednesday — quoted Mayor Bill Knight as saying, “I received a commitment from a majority of council members in support of establishing a mutual separation agreement.” Because the matter is a personnel issue, the results of the straw poll are not public information, so we’ll have to take the mayor at his word. Trouble is, with so many lies flying around, it’s hard to know who to believe.

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