Local residents lobby council on manager’s employment

by Jordan Green

The Greensboro City Council voted 7-2 in a special meeting on Valentine’s Day to direct City Manager Mitchell to develop an action plan within 30 days to address several issues related to city administration. The vote followed a failed motion by at-large Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw to fire Johnson. While the council decision dealt with administrative matters, a continuing controversy over the resignation of former police Chief David Wray had precipitated the meeting. The News & Record had reported on Feb. 8 that the city had failed to produce a memo related to the creation of a photographic lineup book that has been at the center of the controversy.

The following represents a sampling of e-mails sent to council members from residents regarding their feelings about Mitchell Johnson’s employment, and one sent to a constituent by Mayor Yvonne Johnson. Three e-mails provided by the city that were critical of Rakestraw are not included in the sample because of redundancy. – Jordan Green

From: Edward LaCrosse

To: Mayor Yvonne Johnson, Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Anderson Groat, at-large Councilmember Robbie Perkins, at-large Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw, District 1 Councilwoman Dianne Bellamy-Small, District 2 Councilwoman Goldie Wells, District 3 Councilman Zack Matheny, District 4 Councilman Mike Barber District 5 Councilwoman Trudy Wade

Sent: Feb. 8, 7:27 a.m.

Subject: [Text redacted]

“If the quotes in this N&R article are accurate, I certainly don’t buy the explanation(s).

“‘Not at this time’ seems to indicate that someone knew that there was more information.

“‘We didn’t know that’s what you were asking for’ also indicates knowledge.

“‘After city officials saw those publications, they realized which memo….’ This statement is a clear indication that there was knowledge of this particular memo.

“When you have a group of people telling lies to cover each other, and they are not in the same room, at least one of them will eventually ‘let the cat out of the bag.’ That cat is now out! Those of you who continue to support these folks need a reality check….”

From: Martha Herbolich, Greensboro

To: Yvonne Johnson, Robbie Perkins and Zack Matheny

Sent: Feb. 9, 4:55 p.m.

Subject: [Redacted] Rhino Times

“It sickens me to see our city being swayed by the accusations and falsehoods continually published by the Rhino Times. Please allow cooler heads to prevail in the latest blowup of more innuendo and muckraking. As a native of Greensboro, I am saddened and frustrated by this latest attack on our city manager, [redacted]. How can we ever achieve anything here, with this never-ending backbiting? The Rhino Times is the single most hurtful and destructive entity in our city. Their sense of journalistic ethics is horrible awry. Please don’t allow these latest tactics to derail our elected officials from handling the Wray matter in the most dignified, expedient and unbiased way possible.”

From: John Graham, Greensboro

To: Mike Barber

Sent: Feb. 10, 3:04 p.m.

Subject: Ignore Rakestraw!

“Mike, Have you forgotten how destructive Mary can be? Have you forgotten about her trying to link BJ Barnes with [former Guilford County Deputy Manager] Ed Pons’ death? What about how she and Phyllis Gibbs would sit and giggle during the county commissioners’ meetings?

“[Text redacted] It’s time someone other than Robbie stands up [redacted]. I implore you to think about doing what is right and not what the Rhino Times wants to be done! The Rhino has not been good for you, and you should not let them bully you!”

From: Yvonne Johnson

To: City Manager Mitchell Johnson

Sent: Feb. 10, 3:57 p.m.

Subject: (None)


Forwarded message:

From: Lisa Liringis, Greensboro

To: Yvonne Johnson, care of Cathy Justice and Donna Gray

Sent: Feb. 10, 8:09 p.m.

Subject: (None)

“Many years have passed since I meet you. I was a local girl who got her first job working for you and others (it has been so long I can’t remember names – my boss had a beard and the girl that taught me had long hair and her husband was a pro golfer – but was not on the tour. I remember you because I admired you. Now you are the mayor – I am so proud of you – I also feel the city of Greensboro is in good hands with you guiding the boat. This is my first time getting involved in politics. I had to send this e-mail because I can’t let the media [redacted].”

From: Yvonne Johnson

To: Martha Herbolich

Sent: Feb. 10, 4:06 p.m.

Subject: Your e-mail

Carbon copied: Cathy Justice and Donna Gray

“Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I hope you will come to the town meeting Monday evening at the West Market Street United Methodist Church and express your sentiments.”

From: Susan Schwartz, Greensboro (executive director, Cemala Foundation)

To: Goldie Wells

Sent: Feb. 11, 9:03 p.m.

Subject: [Redacted]

“It is most unfortunate that you, others on council [redacted] have to deal with so many concerns about the police department along with the outlandish accusations of the Rhinoceros Times; however, all indications are that you, the rest of the previous council [redacted] understand the responsibilities of the city in dealing with these matters.

“It would be wonderful if you and others on the council would say loudly and clearly that you will deal with the police matters as organizationally and legally necessary, but that you want to get on with city matters and move our community forward. I know you have many pressing matters to address within city government including water shortages, water and sewer extensions, economic development, transportation concerns, bonds, the renovation of War Memorial Auditorium, gangs, crime and safety, and much more….

“The city council has been a model for good government for many years. It seems that a few new council members and the Rhinoceros Times would like to destroy good people and progressive government in our community. Please stand up [redacted] for progressive city government. If at least five council members will bind together and [redacted] citizens to the important matters that city government needs to address, keep those important concerns and ways to address them in front of the public, and maintain the coalition going forward, I think you can beat the naysayers and negate the Rhinoceros Times.

From: N. Jones, Greensboro

To: Mayor and council members, care of Cathy Justice and Donna Gray

Sent: Feb. 12, 3:22 p.m.

Subject: [Redacted]

“Please stop wasting time and money regarding the issue of how [redacted]. Before this gets more embarrassing to the city, and attracts any outside attention (which will not paint Greensboro in a favorable light) put a period on the end of the sentence and move on.

“I know most of you will do the right thing. Thank you.”

From: Pamela Duncan

To: Mayor and council members, care of Cathy Justice and Donna Gray

Sent: Feb. 12, 4:46 p.m.

Subject: Dignity of city council

“Many of your constituents have been disappointed since this past election at the decline in civility, leadership and overall professionalism exhibited by the city council. There have been too many examples of council members seeking their own agendas, opting for publicity and slinging mud at elected and appointed officials, rather than exhibiting the restrained and refined leadership skills the public should expect from our leaders. Mrs. Rakestraw and Ms. Wade, we do not need you to bring your witch-hunting skills form the county commission to the city. They didn’t serve us well there, and they won’t serve us well here.

“[Redacted.] I, for one, am tired of the council’s pandering to the lowest common denominator in the public and the media, and their demands and desire for sensationalism and scandal. We the citizens of Greensboro, who elected you, need and want you to be strong in the face of unfair pressures and demands, to weigh all the facts in every matter that comes before you, not to overreact so as to get your face on television or your name in the Rhinoceros headline, and to remember that it’s the good name of the city of Greensboro that you malign when you, as a city council member, act the fool.”

From: John Graham, Greensboro

To: Mayor and council members, care of Cathy Justice and Donna Gray

Sent: Feb. 13, 11:05 a.m.

Subject: Appalled at leaders? Look in the mirror!

“Looks like our former commissioners have brought their ‘games’ to what is supposedly a non-partisan city council!


“Said Wade: ‘Robbie’s old news. Mary’s been saying we need to bring it to an end for some time now, and she was going to make the motion.’ This one doesn’t even deserve a comment. Conventional wisdom arrow down.

“Mary Rakestraw tells the N&R that she’s made her mind up and will make a motion to fire the city manager. Wow! Saying she’d made up her mind indicates that at a previous time she had an open mind! She campaigned door-to-door telling people she was going to get rid of the city manager! I actually have people willing to go public with it. She’s a joke – going back to trying to link Ed Pons’ death to Sheriff BJ Barnes!

“Conventional wisdom arrow in permanent down mode for Rakestraw.

“Will she begin giggling at meetings with Trudy like she did with Phyllis Gibbs on the county commission?

“Councilman Mike Barber, a frequent critic of the way business is done at city hall, said he’s disappointed the saga is playing out in public, which he said is a sign of poor leadership. Yep! Two new members plus the Rhino Times are totally responsible for that, Mike.

“Conventional wisdom arrow points down. Sent anymore demeaning e-mails to concerned local citizens, Mike?

“Folks, this is not about [redacted]. This is about an investigation that should soon be in the courts.

“This is about whether our city council will do what is right, or will they do what they think the bloggers and the Rhino Times wants them to do. The narcissism of the bloggers is well known, and in no way represents what normal ‘Greensboro loving’ citizens feel. They are still debating the Kennedy assassination, and the Klan/Nazi shootings!

“Business recruitment doesn’t need anymore shenanigans like our former commissioners seem prepared to give us!

“We do not need to be without a city manager and a school superintendent at that same time.

“Will the real grownups please stand up and do what is right and not what plays to the Rhino and the bloggers!”

From: Baeden Buckner, Greensboro

To: Mary Rakestraw, care of Cathy Justice and Donna Gray

Sent: Feb. 13, 11:25 p.m.

Subject: (None)

“As a concerned citizen of Greensboro, I felt compelled to express to you, as a council member at large, my distaste at your witch hunt [redacted]. You are new to this system and therefore in my eyes unable to call for such a permanent action regarding [redacted]. Again, as you are an at-large council member, you represent the entire city, and I feel that you are acting impulsively and in a biased manner. Please reconsider your position and attitude regarding this situation. As such a new member of council, there is no way for you to understand the ramifications of your inclinations. Please realize this and give this situation the time it needs to work itself out.”

From: Bob Cone, Greensboro (director, Tuggle Duggins law firm)

To: Mayor and city council, care of Cathy Justice and Donna Gray

Sent: Feb. 13, 4:33 p.m.

Subject: (None)

“[Redacted.] Many thanks, too, for the service each of you provides to Greensboro.”

From: Chester H. “Trip” Brown Jr., Greensboro (chairman, Brown Investment Properties)

To: Mayor and city council

Sent: Feb. 14, 10 a.m.

Subjected: [Redacted] meeting

“The editorial in today’s paper expressed my thoughts. What was done [redacted] had the full support of prior council. [Redacted.] This council should evaluate Mitchell based upon his performance during your tenure, with proper goals, etc. established by you as outlined in today’s editorial.

“[Redacted.] It would set us back significantly. We have tremendous opportunities. Let’s move forward and capture them.”

From: Dee Thompson, Greensboro

To: Mayor and city council, care of Cathy Justice and Donna Gray

Sent: Feb. 14, 10:32 a.m.

Subject: [Text redacted]

“I had not felt it necessary until now as I had always assumed that reason would rise above rumor. But it is clear that actions are now being taken to appease opinions based entirely on half-truths at best.

[Text redacted.]

“The Rhino Times has tried to prove innocence of a crime, but breaking the law is not necessary in order to be relieved of employment. [Redacted.]

“Accusations and judgments have been made in the public based on sensational journalism in the Rhino Times. This paper is not reporting facts and searching for the truth, they are publishing an endless saga of a fantastic (base word being fantasy) story. They are enjoying the power of the press. [Redacted] The fact that the suggestion to request the document originated from an attorney from the Rhino Times reeks of a setup to, at the very least, embarrass someone and at the most egregious [redacted]. For the council to take part is a disgrace. [Redacted] and the actions you are contemplating are further dividing our community. Choose to be honorable….”

From: Lynne Alexander, Summerfield

To: Yvonne Johnson, Sandra Anderson Groat, Robbie Perkins, Dianne Bellamy-Small, Goldie Wells, Zack Matheny and Mike Barber, care of Cathy Justice and Donna Gray, Public Affairs Department

Sent: Feb. 14, 11:59 a.m.

Subject: [Text redacted]

“Before tonight’s meeting, I hope you will take a few minutes to read a thoroughly researched and balanced account of [redacted] and the subsequent media distortion. (, Jan. 9 and 15 editions)


“Please [redacted] shut the door [redacted] and look forward, not back: Greensboro faces many important challenges in the next five years which deserve your attention.”