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by Eric Ginsburg & Jordan Green

Items from across the Triad and beyond

GREENSBORO POLICE DISCRIMINATION LAWSUITS DISMISSED

Another chapter in Greensboro’s police saga drew to a quick close last week when a judge granted the city’s motion for summary judgment in two discrimination cases.

US District Judge Thomas Schroeder dismissed all claims  with prejudice in suits by former officers Charles Cherry and Joseph Pryor against former chief David Wray, former city councilwoman and current NC Sen. Trudy Wade, former deputy chief Randall Brady, Officer Scott Sanders and the city.

The city and the plaintiffs filed multiple motions to seal documents related to the case and the judge, noting that the motions were all unopposed, granted both parties’ requests.

Cherry and Pryor’s suits were scheduled to go to court in early January after the pair declined the city’s settlement offer this fall that the rest of the plaintiffs accepted. The two men, along with former officer Robert Reyes, still have pending wrongful termination suits against the city, their lawyer Anita Earls said.

Earls works for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, an organization that has represented numerous Greensboro residents in cases involving the police department including Bennett student Ashley Buchanan earlier this year and Latin King Jorge Cornell. She said she is unable to comment on Schroeder’s ruling, but noted that Cherry and Pryor have a right to appeal.

The officers maintained that the department retaliated against them for speaking up about racial discrimination within the department and, in Reyes’ case, in an interaction with the public. Earls said the three men have struggled to obtain employment since being fired and said Cherry is currently unemployed.

Before the fall election, the city council voted by a narrow margin to settle the police discrimination lawsuit against the city involving dozens of officers for $500,000. Thenmayor Robbie Perkins and Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson appeared at a press conference with Chief Ken Miller, saying it was best to move on from that part of the city’s history and not bog down Greensboro by airing old dirty laundry in court.

Nancy Vaughan, then a councilwoman and now the mayor, disagreed with the settlement, saying people deserved to know the truth about what happened and noting the city believed it would win the cases.

Perkins, Miller and others have repeatedly tried to distance the department’s more tumultuous and divisive racial history under Wray from how the department operates now. Despite the cases being dismissed last week, allegations of discriminatory treatment persist.

Capt. Therron Phipps filed a lawsuit against the department earlier this year, claiming that he was overlooked for promotion to assistant chief and that he suffered retaliation for raising his concerns. His allegations pertain to the department under Miller’s leadership.

Community members supported by the Beloved Community Center have come forward in several new cases to allege police misconduct and discrimination in 2013 as well. In Buchanan’s well-publicized case, she was found not guilty and an officer was fired for being untruthful in relation to the incident at a Bennett College graduation party in the spring. — EG

WHISENHUNT MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN OPEN NC SENATE SEAT

Forsyth County Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt is considering putting her name forward as a candidate to replace Pete Brunstetter as representative of District 31 in the NC Senate.

Brunstetter resigned from the Senate in November to accept a position as executive vice president and chief legal counsel at Novant Health. His resignation took effect on Dec. 15. Brunstetter was a senior budget writer in the Senate, a position he inherited from former NC Sen. Linda Garrou when the Republicans took control from the Democrats in 2011.

A conservative Republican, Whisenhunt has served on the Forsyth County Commission since 1996. Prior to that, she served on the Forsyth County Board of Education for six years. She said last week that she hasn’t made a final decision on her next move.

“I’m giving it a lot of thought and looking at pros and cons,” Whisenhunt said. “I’m going to wait until after the holidays to make a decision.”

NC Senate District 31 covers the suburban and rural doughnut around Winston-Salem in Forsyth County and all of neighboring Yadkin County. Forsyth County Republican Party Chairman Scott Cumbie said he expects that the executive committees of the two local parties will convene in early January to determine who they want to recommend as a replacement for Brunstetter. Any executive committee member from either of the local party organizations who lives in the district will be eligible to vote. The actual appointment will be made by Gov. Pat McCrory. — JG !

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