by YES! Staff

Developments across the Triad and beyond, compiled by Y!W staff

Black officer files new suit against city of Greensboro

Officer Julius Fulmore, a former special intelligence detective who was demoted to patrol on the Greensboro Police Department purportedly for failing to document an informant, has filed suit against his employer. The civil complaint is based on a determination by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that “the evidence as a whole indicates that [the] charging party was discriminated against.” Fulmore’s lawsuit alleges that former Chief David Wray “created and developed a pattern and practice of investigating and disciplining black officers, including Officer Fulmore, more harshly, and paying and promoting black officers, including Fulore, less favorably, than white officers in the GPD.” The lawsuit alleges that Wray told a captain that Deputy Chief Randall Brady had “taken down” Fulmore, and that Fulmore had committed crimes involving prostitution, narcotics and association with criminals — all before any investigation into the allegations had been undertaken. — JG

Uproar over which business interests shape search for city manager

Greensboro City Council members expressed concerns to staff about which business groups would have input in the search for the new city manager during a May 19 meeting. District 5 Councilwoman Trudy Wade complained about Assistant City Manager Denise Turner inviting political and business leaders to a town hall meeting the following day to gather input on the city’s search for a new city manager. Wade said she was concerned that businesses in her district, which covers much of the southwest portion of the city, were underrepresented among the stakeholders identified by staff, and said she was unhappy that the High Point Road Merchants Association was not invited. She also objected that the Guilford County Commission was slighted, and said when she learned that a black business leadership group called the Greensboro Men’s Club was invited, “I wasn’t real happy.” District 4 Councilman Mike Barber added, “We’re all concerned that we don’t have buy-in from large property owners and some of the more prominent individuals in our community and business CEOs. And this is a perfect opportunity to reach out and partner with them: Cone Health, Roy [Carroll]’s made a significant investment downtown… RF Micro, we incentivized them six times but never bring them to the table.”

Mayor Yvonne Johnson instructed staff to make sure small businesses were invited.

Later, during a break in the meeting, Turner provided a list of entities invited to participate in the forum, including the High Point Road Merchants Association, the Guilford County Commission, Action Greensboro, the Triad Real Estate & Business Industries Coalition, the Greensboro Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Greensboro Inc., the Greensboro Merchants Association, the East Market Street Development Corp., the Randleman Road Merchant Association, the Greensboro Men’s Club, the chancellors for the city’s six universities and colleges, members of the NC General Assembly, Guilford County Schools Superintendent Mo Green, United Way and the Greensboro Housing Authority. — JG

Bond to expand Natural Science Center proposed

The Greensboro City Council took the first step towards placing a $20 million bond before voters in November to pay for the expansion of the Natural Science Center by a unanimous vote on May 19. The bond would pay for a combination science center, aquarium and zoo branded as a SciQuarium, renovation of the museum and expansion of the center’s outdoor animal exhibit. Greensboro voters approved a $3.5 million bond in 2000 to allow the Natural Science Center to build its Animal Discovery facility by a 72-percent rate. “The economic impact of the Natural Science Center right now is on the order of $11 to $12 million per year,” said Andrew Brod, director of the Center for Business & Economic Research at UNCG, “and just as an aside when you factor in the net contribution of the city of Greensboro of little less than a million dollars that’s a multiplier effect of 12-to-13 to one, so the science center generates a substantial economic impact each year, and our projections are that that’s going to grow as this capital program grows until about ten years from now when we’re projected to have about a half a million visitors per year.” Mayor Yvonne Johnson signaled her support, describing the science center as “one of our crown jewels and it is going to put us in a place on the map that we have not seen…. I totally support this.” — JG

Signs of the economic times

The Greensboro Engineering & Inspection Department has found stark evidence of the ongoing foreclosure crisis in the exploding number of vacant lots that need to be cleaned up. Sometimes the city cuts the grass and assesses a fee if the property owner doesn’t do it themselves after receiving official notice. “I looked at the lot cleanup numbers that we’re hitting today,” Engineering & Inpsections

Director Butch Simmons told council on May 19. “The grass is growing awfully fast. We picked up 775 new cases in the last 30 days. We do that with three parttime people. I have four other inspectors in inspections full time that are helping them. Just to let people know we’re doing our best with the overgrown lots, but the volume is just incredible this year.” In another grim indicator, the NC Justice Center released a report the following day finding that the number of North Carolinians added to food stamp rolls since the recession began would more than fill the city of Winston-Salem. The number of people receiving food stamps in Guilford County is pegged at 64,052, an increase of more than a fifth since the recession began. — JG

Greensboro lobbyist also represents cable industry

Greensboro Mayor Yvonne Johnson probed city staff on May 19 about an allegation that the city’s lobbyist, Cam Cover, also represents the cable industry. Assistant City Manager Denise Turner acknowledged that Cover’s law firm, Brooks Pierce, represents the NC Association of Broadcasters, which she characterized as a “conflict.” In fact, the NC Lobbying Compliance Division lists Cover as an active lobbyist for both the NC Association of Broadcasters and the NC Cable Telecommunications Association. The city council unanimously adopted a resolution in early May opposing a bill in the NC General Assembly called “The Level Playing Field Act,” which would prevent cities from providing broadband service as an incentive to incoming businesses. Johnson asked what the consequence would be if Cover were caught representing both the city and industry associations on legislative matters in which the two parties found themselves on separate sides of a fight. “That would be something we would address with the firm, and see that it didn’t happen again,” City Attorney Terry Wood said. “This issue about conflicts, it happens in a lot of different ways. For instance, we use several different law firms in different areas. And every now and then, one will call and say, ‘Well, you’re condemning a water line down at such and such a place, and we are filing a — a landowner’s been to us to ask that we represent them against the city.’ And we, as a general rule, don’t allow that. But there are a lot of ways that conflicts can come up, not just with lobbyists but also with realtors. It can come up with appraisers. It can come up with attorneys. And those issues are addressed. They’re all bound by the code of ethics; they’re all bound to let us know if they have a conflict of interest, and then we deal with it. But they cannot, obviously, represent two sides in the same fight.” — JG