Trials not over for vindicated officer Officer AJ Blake’s reinstatement to active duty in the Greensboro Police Department has been greeted with outrage among many citizens, and outright hostility inside the force.
Blake went back to work earlier this fall, following a decision by then interim City Manager Bob Morgan to overturn the officer’s termination by Chief Tim Bellamy.
Blake was acquitted of two charges of assault on a female by a Guilford County jury in July.
Uniformed police officers massed in city council chambers in early October during a special meeting held in closed session in which council members questioned Morgan on his decision. Blake said the Greensboro Police Officers Association wrote a letter to the City Manager’s Office and the city council objecting to the his reinstatement.
Blake angered fellow officers with a statement made at a press conference that Officer Christopher Schultheis “killed an unarmed man who was a distance away from him for advancing on him in an aggressive manner.” Blake noted that Schultheis was not charged with any crime, contrasting that Blake was charged with assault when he pushed Lorraine Galloway, a woman who was advancing on him at a drunken police party.
Schultheis, who testified against Blake, is a member of the executive committee of the police officers association. Wendy S. Raines, vicepresident of the executive committee, posted a comment on conservative blogger Joe Guarino’s blog defending Schultheis in late September.
Blake told YES! Weekly last month that since he returned to duty fellow officers have told him they won’t back him up on service calls, and that Capt. John Wolfe, commander of the investigative support division and the officer’s former supervisor, cursed him out in front of his fiancÃ©e.
The Rev. Cardes Brown, an African-American pastor who has publicly supported Blake and other black officers suing the city for racial discrimination, said Wolfe told Blake: “You are a sorry sack of manure.”
Brown added, “He did not say manure in front of his fiancÃ©e.”
Brown said Blake received a letter from internal affairs stating that Wolfe would receive counseling over the incident.
Wolfe told YES! Weekly he could not discuss the matter, citing personnel policy.
Blake, a black Latino officer of Honduran descent, is one of 39 black officers suing the city for racial discrimination.
Fulmore lawsuit allowed to proceed
A US magistrate judge in Durham has turned down a request by the city of Greensboro to dismiss a separate federal discrimination lawsuit filed by Officer Julius Fulmore. The ordered, signed on Nov. 6, also allows Fulmore to file a second amended complaint. The city had argued that in hiring an outside agency to investigate allegations of wrongdoing within the department and accepting the resignation of Chief David Wray, it “took affirmative steps to ensure that there was not a custom of discrimination in the police department.” The second amended complaint includes allegations concerning the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s investigation of Fulmore’s claim and its eventual finding of discrimination. The second amended complaint also adds allegations that the city manager and city council knew about discriminatory practices within the police department but failed to take appropriate action.
In a separate lawsuit filed by Fulmore and another black police officer, Lt. Brian James, against author Jerry Bledsoe and The Rhinoceros Times for libel, the parties are awaiting a decision from Wilkes County Superior Court Judge Edgar Gregory on whether the city must allow plaintiffs to review extensive audio recordings and transcripts of conversations between Officer Scott Sanders and others, including Wray and former Deputy Chief Randall Brady. If Gregory grants the officers’ motion, he would likely allow their lawyer, Amiel Rossabi, to review them under a protective order.
The Rev. Cardes Brown is calling on the city council to release the recordings to bring disclosure to the police department mess.
“Let the public hear the tapes,” he said.
County health department: no health risk to residents near landfills
A report released by the Guilford County Public Health Department last week concludes that there is no health risk to residents living near the EH Glass dumpsite, which is located near the White Street Landfill in northeast Greensboro. The report contradicts an earlier study released by the NC Cancer Registry that found that incidences of pancreatic cancer occur at more than twice the expected rate in the area. (The earlier report included the caveat that the higher rate does not imply causation.) The health department report noted that “blacks make up about 21 percent of the NC population, but 53 percent of the population of the study area. Rates of pancreatic cancer are known to be signifi cantly higher among African Americans, so this fact alone is likely to explain the ‘elevated’ incidence of pancreatic cancer in the study area.”
Woman accuses lawyer of acting on behalf of opposition Wesley Foust-Graham, an African-American woman whose marriage to a white slumlord twice her age, was annulled by a Guilford County judge in 2004, is suing her lawyer in that legal battle. Defendant Norman B. Smith is represented by his law partner, Seth Cohen. Cohen filed a motion to dismiss on Smith’s behalf on Nov. 4.
Foust-Graham alleges that Smith conspired with her former husband’s daughter and her lawyer to suppress the truth. As a result of the annulment, Foust-Graham lost a share of the estate of James Lester Goodwin.
In opposition to Smith’s motion to dismiss filed on Nov. 5, Foust-Graham alleges: “I saw Mr. Smith in late August this year on our beloved land of justice and I confronted him. He addressed me as ‘Mrs. Goodwin.’ I asked him why he wronged me. He said, ‘I did it for Kelly.’” Cohen denied that his client made the statement.
Housing authority investigation status unknown Michael Williams, director of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD’s Greensboro office, declined to comment this week on the status of his office’s implementation of recommendations by the department’s office of the inspector general to enhance oversight of the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem. The recommendations were published in a Sept. 29 report written by James D. McKay of the office of the inspector general after the housing authority “could not provide supporting documentation for more than $2 million in reimbursed capital fund expenses.” The report states that the housing authority had successfully completed projects with 2005, 2006, and 2007 capital fund grants, but more than $2 million in federal funds could not be accounted for in the agency’s coffers. The report concluded that a lack of adequate controls over the capital fund expense reimbursement process led to the $2 million gap. The report states that the Winston-Salem agency’s accountant said each director of finance processed reimbursements differently and she was not always sure what the reimbursements were for because there was no documentation attached. The authority is slated to receive $3.9 million for capital fund projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Based on the office of inspector general’s findings, the housing authority does not have adequate financial controls in place to achieve the economic stimulus package’s objectives of transparency and accountability. The federal agency began its investigation after HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan received a complaint that the housing authority was using unethical procurement practices. — KTB
Greensboro mayor-elect highlights business support
Greensboro Mayor-elect Bill Knight thanked his supporters in a Facebook message on Nov. 10, describing his victory over incumbent candidate Yvonne Johnson as “an emphatic yes to the need to restore forward thinking leadership in Greensboro’s city government,” and citing a “renewed sense of pride and a ‘can do’ spirit at work.”