Recall proceeds despite Bellamy-Small’s protest

by Jordan Green

The recall effort against District 1 Councilwoman Dianne Bellamy-Small steamrolls forward, despite the protestations of the brusque city leader from southeast Greensboro who considers herself a champion of the poor.

“I’m mad,” she told YES! Weekly.

She made a formal request that the Greensboro City Clerk’s office declare the recall initiative insufficient, according to an undated faxed document. City Clerk Juanita Cooper said on May 10 that she had not seen the request.

Bellamy-Small said she reviewed 861 signatures verified by the Guilford County Board of Elections earlier this month, and ascertained that only 166 of the signers voted in the last city council election. For a special election to go forward, the city clerk must receive at least 734 signatures – 25 percent of the number of people who voted in District 1 in the 2005 election. Bellamy-Small and her supporters contend that those 25 percent must be people who voted in the last election, but the governing ordinance only says that “any recall petition… must be signed by qualified voters of that council member’s district equal in number to at least 25% of the qualified voters of such district who voted at the last preceding election for its city council member.”

The request was delivered to City Attorney Linda Miles by Bellamy-Small supporter MacArthur Davis.

“I disagree,” Miles said. “You can’t disenfranchise people. That’s been the intent of the charter since it was written. The ordinance says ‘a number equal to.'”

Bellamy-Small’s formal request also alleges that a number of names appear to be signed by the same person, judging by similarities in handwriting styles.

Guilford County Elections Director George Gilbert said he has seen no indication that the recall initiative has been carried out improperly.

The next step in the process will have the city clerk certifying the petition as sufficient. Then the city must submit the recall initiative to the US Justice Department, as a requirement of the Voting Rights Act. That process takes a minimum of 60 days, Gilbert said. After that, a special election would be scheduled. It remains unclear how far in advance of the November general election the recall election might take place.

As to whether Bellamy-Small will run for reelection should she clear the recall hurdle, she has not announced her intentions. The councilwoman has filed a motion to exempt herself from campaign finance reporting, which enjoins the candidate from raising and spending more than $3,000.

Compared to her fellow council members, Bellamy-Small is not a prodigious fundraiser.

“If people want to give me money I’ll take it,” she said on May 9. “I’m not going to solicit contributions. It keeps me honest. The funny thing about it is if people want me to be in office they’ll help me. If I run, what’s going to be important for me to win is for people to get out and go door to door and defend me.”

In her faxed statement the previous day, Bellamy-Small made her first response to the grievances leveled against her by constituents in District 1. She defended herself against an allegation that she leaked a report commissioned by the city to address problems in the police department and against the perception that she used her power as an elected official to garner preferential treatment from a rookie police officer. She also took a swipe a fellow Councilwoman Florence Gatten, who has publicly called for her resignation.

“I feel the recall petitioners were misguided in their effort, but I respect their rights to use this process,” the statement reads. “My reputation, character and integrity have been bashed around for over a year now. I was totally unaware of Councilmember Gatten’s issues in regards to me until I saw her press conference in [the] news. She made no attempt to discuss her concerns with me. I cannot state more clearly than I have in the past that I have done nothing wrong.”

Gatten did not respond to phone calls for this story.

Bellamy-Small reiterated her assertion that she was not the source – “intentionally or negligently” – of the leaked Risk Management Associates report.

“There has been a serious problem with leaking information before I became a member of the council and since that time,” the statement reads. “I have personally talked with the mayor several times over the last 14 months about the leaks and as recently as February 20th in relationship to the Brady case. I have indicated to the mayor on each occasion that I am not the source of leaks from the council.”

On the matter of a Feb. 6 traffic stop in which a police officer alleged that Bellamy-Small was speeding on Lee Street after leaving a city council meeting, she says, “I, in no way, used any form of intimidation, nor did I hinder or delay a police officer from administering his duty.”

Transcripts released by the city indicate that Officer MJ Calvert sent a text message to Officer L. Albert that night reading, “Councilwoman… I just pulled over… not good.” He later added, “I think I better let her off on this one.”

Bellamy-Small has said she disagreed with Calvert’s judgment that she was speeding, but asked him to issue her a ticket anyway. She said he treated her rudely.

The councilwoman’s statement includes a quotation from a letter written to her by Capt. Mike Oates, indicating that the matter was settled amicably. “Sgt. Allen advised me that during his interview with you on February 14, 2007, you advised that you did not wish to file a complaint against Officer Calvert but wanted to voice a concern about his interaction with you,” she quotes Oates as saying. “He agreed the matter would be treated as an inquiry that was resolved with the citizen.”

Bellamy-Small’s statement also speaks to her difficulty in dealing with her fellow council members.

“Only a couple of council members have come to me privately to discuss concerns,” she writes. “I have never publicly criticized any of my fellow council members for their approach to serving on council. I never saw that as my role. I have, however, watched and learned how to do and not do some things from them. Each member of council has their own style of behavior and I have been respectful of that and I accept that none of us is perfect. I have gone to the mayor on several occasions with concerns as I considered him the leader of council. I felt that was and is the appropriate way to handle concerns involving the council.”

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