by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

Items from across the Triad and beyond’ 

Finances of farmers market support group under scrutiny

As the city of Greensboro seeks outside vendors to run the Farmers Curb Market, a group of boosters known as Friends of the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market has come under scrutiny for its handling of finances related to support events. City Manager Rashad Young told Mayor Bill Knight and members of council in a Jan. 14 memo that he has requested an audit of Friends of the Market’s records, is discontinuing contracts with the group and is “having all held proceeds turned over to the city until we finalize the future management of the market per the RFP that is currently pending as well as receive the results of the audit.”

Parks and Recreation Director Greg Jackson said in a Jan. 12 memo that the Friends of the Market has run a pancake breakfast fundraiser for the market as part of a verbal agreement with city staff. Under the arrangement, the Friends paid for operating supplies for the pancake breakfast and sought donated supplies, while the parks and recreation staff took responsibility for advertising. The net proceeds were to be held until the Friends and staff could determine together a way to use them to the benefit of the market. Jackson’s memo indicates that the Friends’ “donations account has a negative balance of $358.30,” and that staff would request that the Friends reimburse the city to bring the account back into the black.

The account given by Alex Amoroso, president of the Friends of the Greensboro Curb Farmers Market, varies significantly.

Amoroso told YES! Weekly that the Friends incorporated as a nonprofit in early 2010, and established a separate account. Amoroso said Dan Maxon, an administration division manager, proposed spending the remainder of the money in the city-controlled account on shopping bags to be given out as membership gifts, and that as a result the city-controlled account came up in the negative. Amoroso said that, considering that the Friends group always intended to pay for the bags, they agreed to reimburse the city. Mary Hess, treasurer for the Friends, said she hand-delivered a check for the amount on Jan. 11.

Amoroso is the proprietor of Cheesecakes by Alex, a bakery in downtown Greensboro.

Amoroso said that, in fact, the Friends group does not intend to turn over funds from its nonprofit account to the city, but would hold off on spending the funds for projects such as improving the signage outside the market until the city selects a private vendor to operate the market.

Assistant City Manager Denise Turner emphasized that the city intends to take control of the money raised by the Friends.

“The city manager listed in last week’s IFYI his intended next steps as it relates to the city and the Friends of the Market,” she said. “And those were an audit, ending contractual relationships, and returning any funds that are net proceeds of events the Friends of the Market managed on behalf of the city.

“We will discuss with the city attorney the appropriate way to move forward, with the manager’s direction,” Turner added. “In our expectations, those funds are the city’s funds because they were raised on behalf of the city market.”

The Friends group and its involvement with the market has come under withering scrutiny from The Rhinoceros Times, and District 4 Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw has expressed concerns to staff about the way the market has been operated. Amoroso said the Friends readily agreed to the audit. “It’s all about disclosure for us,” he said.

“There’s been so many things said over the past year that is so outlandish and wrong,” he said. “We’re glad to submit to an audit. We are a nonprofit group. We are there to support the market. We’ve got nothing to hide. Opening up to a city audit is not a big deal to us.”

Chief hopes to divert offenders through electronic monitoring

Greensboro police Chief Ken Miller, who began leading the department in September, said that going forward he would like his agency to be able to make fewer arrests.

“I want to see that we’re doing the right kind of intervention so that we’re seeing the arrest rates and crime rates go down,” he said. “If we arrest a multitude of people for felony offenses, it makes it more difficult for those people to land jobs. If they’re not landing jobs, many folks revert to criminal behavior. We don’t want to do that. Especially with young people, we don’t want them to get off on the wrong foot before they even get started in life. It’s almost like a vicious circle.”

That kind of interventionist policing phi losophy is part of the impetus behind the priority offender program. The Greensboro City Council was expected to consider a proposal to approve the expenditure of $160,000 in US Justice Department funds to contract for technology for the purpose of electronically monitoring priority offenders, including those who commit homicides, robberies, aggravated assaults and gun crimes. With the council’s approval, Miller said he plans to create a sixperson priority offender squad by reassigning five officers from the warrant squad, leaving only one officer there.

“I expect the division to identify those warrants [for] those individuals that quite frankly create threats,” the chief said. “I think we can still get the work done as well or better. I don’t think we need five people calling people up to tell them to turn themselves in.”

The goal of the program is to prevent offenders out of pre-trial release from committing more crimes while awaiting. Members of the proposed squad would work with prosecutors to prioritize offenders and with judges to set higher bonds while monitor offenders.