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Re: Mitch e-mails, city manager under fire

by Jordan Green

The following are excerpts of e-mails sent from Greensboro residents to Mayor Yvonne Johnson and members of the city council from Feb. 8 to Feb. 14, a week in which a furor erupted when Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw pushed for City Manager Mitchell Johnson’s resignation when a memo surfaced related to the so-called “black book” at the center of an ongoing controversy over the departure of former police Chief David Wray.

The e-mails published here represent a sampling of viewpoints from the document set released by the city. YES! Weekly published material from the same set on May 21. At Mitchell Johnson’s direction, references in the e-mails to his personnel matter involving himself, which would ordinarily be protected, were released. The material here comes from those un-redacted e-mails.

-Jordan Green

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

From: Edward A. LaCrosse, Guilford Courthouse National Park area

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

Subject: [None]

Mitchell Johnson has no credibility with the majority of the community. I have not talked to anyone who supports him and letting him continue is going to destroy this city. Do the right thing so that Greensboro can move on.

Date: Feb. 11, 11:25 a.m.

From: Terry Fripp, Kirkwood neighborhood

To: Mayor Yvonne Johnson, Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Anderson Groat, at-large Councilman Robbie Perkins, at-large Councilman Mary Rakestraw, District 3 Councilman Zack Matheny, District 4 Councilman Mike Barber and District 5 Councilwoman Trudy Wade

Subject: City Manager

It is time to fire Mitchell Johnson. This city should have a manager that reports to the council with the complete truth. I don’t think Johnson and/or the city legal department has been open and truthful. Johnson fired Chief Wray for not telling the truth and confidence then the council has the same conditions with Mitchell Johnson!

Date: Feb. 11, 8:03 p.m.

From: Alan Smith, Country Park Acres neighborhood

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

Subject: Rakestraw, Wade & Mitchell Johnson

I believe Mitchell Johnson would have turned over the memo if the News & Record had been clear about what they wanted. Now, because of the N&R’s vagueness, these two women [Mary Rakestraw and Trudy Wade] want to fire Mitchell? I say no way!

While the police department matter itself is quite serious, I do not believe that Mr. Johnson is hiding any details from the public or the council. From what I can tell by watching city council meetings and reading the N&R, he has done a fine job leading our city through some very difficult times since being appointed to the position….

Mitchell Johnson deserves to be out city manager. He’s intelligent, speaks based on fact and has Greensboro’s best interest at heart. Rakestraw and Wade do not. It’s Rakestraw and Wade who need to be removed from any leadership positions.

Date: Feb. 11, 8:49 p.m.

From: Susan Schwartz, New Irving Park neighborhood; executive director, Cemala Foundation

To: District 1 Councilmember Dianne Bellamy-Small

Subject: Your support for City Manager Mitchell Johnson

I am very concerned about the continuing headlines and discussions regarding Mitchell Johnson and the possibility of his being fired. I think Greensboro is fortunate to have Mitchell as its city manager. Mitchell has spent his entire career with the city of Greensboro; under Ed Kitchen, he was nurtured and developed for city of Greensboro leadership; Mitchell understands the many, many facets of government; Mitchell is very bright; and Mitchell is a family man whose character and integrity are exemplary.

Mitchell has had to deal with unbelievable professional challenges. Before he had a chance to set direction within City Hall, the police problems surfaced. He has lacked a deputy manager of his caliber as he served under Ed Kitchen. He has lost two long-time attorneys in the legal department. These loses [SIC] come at one of the most challenging times in the city government.

Date: Feb. 12, 10:42 p.m.

From: Marilyn Miller, West Friendly Avenue

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

Subject: Manager Mitchell Johnson

Please share a few moments with me as I offer an opinion about the discussions surrounding performance of City Manager Mitchell Johnson. These are painful discussions because the council seems to be evaluating the performance of a relatively young, extremely intelligent and able man in a stressful time for him, city departments, the city of Greensboro and the city of Greensboro.

As I remember, Mitch was appointed city manager on the basis of his very strong qualifications. He moved from being the director of a support unit to manager and into a learning curve. As he moved into his role, it was obvious that he believed that his mission as manager was that city government with his leadership would be community centered. A good example was the process he administered for the selection of a new police chief, Tim Bellamy.

I have always believed Mitch Johnson as a leader with a strong council could help the city face its future with confidence and thoughtful appraisal. My opinion grew partially out of a protracted working relationship with Mitch during the planning and building of the new central branch library which the public desired so much as they had waited so long. As at least two council members will remember, I have enjoyed a long involvement with library activities and advocacy. Mitch as director of information and technology worked closely with us in the development of that plan to see that technology would be an important focus of the new library and that all branches would enjoy connectivity.

With his expertise and forward thinking, the system went from eight computers in seven libraries to nearly 200 available across the city for users of all ages. This in addition to other systems that were developed. At the time, this was an extremely estimable decision.

I believe strongly that it would be wise for the council to work with the city manager and give him the opportunity to meet council goals – the job he was hired to do. It also seems to me that the city does not need another divisive issue.

Date: Feb. 13, 10:10 a.m.

From: Griff Thompson, Hamilton Lakes neighborhood

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

Subject: Mitchell Johnson

I am writing to voice my support for City Manager Mitchell Johnson and to share my concern about opinions expressed about him within the council. From my point of view, everything that Mr. Johnson has done with respect to the Greensboro Police Department has been entirely appropriate to a very difficult and disappointing situation….

It would have been all too easy and all too common for our new city manager to have turned a blind eye to the problems that were brought to his attention within the police department. It would have been much more convenient to simply avoid them. If he falls victim in this whole affair, it will send a message to this community and to the world around us. Greensboro deserves better. Mr. Johnson made a principled decision in a very difficult situation. He deserves our praise, not our condemnation.

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

From: Baeden Buckner, Revolution Mill area

To: Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw, at-large

Subject: Mitchell Johnson

As a concerned citizen of Greensboro, I feel compelled to express to you, as a council member at large, my distaste at your “witch hunt” of Mitchell Johnson. He has performed in his position as transparently as the legal system allows. You are new to this system and therefore in my eyes unable to call for such a permanent action regarding his employment and abilities.

Date: Feb. 13, 11:26 p.m.

From: Margaret Huffman, Sunset Hills neighborhood

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

Subject: Mitchell Johnson

As you cast your vote deciding the future of Mitch Johnson, his wife, and three children, please be sure you have investigated the facts and can assure yourself that he is not a scapegoat for an issue that stems from a previous city manager. Mitch Johnson’s fate is being handled too publicly and without respect.

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

From: Bob Cone, Starmount neighborhood; director, Tuggle Duggins law firm

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

Subject: Mitchell Johnson

I write in support of my friend and fellow Rotarian, City Manager Mitchell Johnson. Mitchell is highly capable, honest and hard-working. He has devoted a career to Greensboro and its citizens. From practically day one in office, and under difficult circumstances, Mitchell has dealt with a variety of novel problems that would be daunting to the most experienced of manager, while continuing to run the business of the city. Mitchell has the confidence and support of his department heads and other employees. He is a problem solver who gets things done. He is fair-minded. He works with others collaboratively and effectively. Please give Mitchell the benefit of every doubt. He has faced a steep learning curve and done a good job for our city. He deserves a fair shake. Many thanks, too, for the service each of your provides to Greensboro.

Date: Feb. 13, 7:38 p.m.

From: Rick Haase, Lake Daniel neighborhood

To: District 4 Councilman Mike Barber

Subject: Fire Mitchell Johnson

I am a 53-year-old and a life-long resident of Greensboro.

I cannot remember a poorer city manager than Mitchell Johnson. His handling of the police department alone is enough to get rid of him in my book.

I cannot believe you were quoted as saying he is a husband and father, also.

What about [names redacted]. Aren’t they husbands and fathers also?

Get real!!!

Date: Feb. 14, 12:37 a.m.

From: AB Housen

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

Subject: Mitchell Johnson

There have been missteps in execution, but Johnson’s instincts were right. He should not be punished for having the integrity to do his job.

Second, Johnson has devoted his entire professional career to this community. How often do you see that anymore? He deserves your commitment in return.

Date: Feb. 14, 9:27 a.m.

From: Lynne Alexander, Summerfield

To: Mayor Yvonne Johnson, Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Anderson, at-large Councilman Robbie Perkins, District 1 Councilwoman Dianne Bellamy-Small, District 2 Councilwoman Goldie Wells, District 3 Councilman Zack Matheny and District 4 Councilman Mike Barber

Subject: Mitchell Johnson

Mitch Johnson is a man of integrity and honesty who has served Greensboro for over twenty years. He handled the Wray departure appropriately – and with careful fairness and discretion. Mitch deserves the respect and support of city council. Greensboro cannot afford to lose his knowledge and experience.

Please support Mitch Johnson, shut the door on the Wray case, and look forward, not back: Greensboro faces many important challenges in the next five years which deserve your attention.

Date: Feb. 14, 9:14 a.m.

From: Carol Davis, New Irving Park neighborhood

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

Subject: Supporting city manager

I would like to express my support for Mitchell Johnson. I think he has a difficult job that he is trying to do within the limits of the city’s legal expectations. I hope the entire council will be supportive of his efforts to resolve a difficult issue that he inherited. I appreciate the time and energy that you are giving to leading our city. Please give Mr. Johnson your support. I think it would be a mistake to lose his experience and knowledge base about Greensboro.

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