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by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

LEGAL MANEUVERING ENSUES OVER GAME-CHANGING SOLID WASTE VOTE

Greensboro interim City Attorney Tom Pollard’s opinion last week that Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan no longer holds a conflict of interest on the city’s solid waste deliberations set off a legal skirmish.

Vaughan’s husband does legal work for Waste Industries, one of the vendors angling for a city contract to operate the White Street Landfill. Considering that Waste Industries is no longer under consideration, Pollard determined that Vaughan should vote on a proposal to award the contract to competitor Gate City Waste Services. Vaughan has signaled that she would oppose reopening the landfill, and her participation would result in a 4-4 vote that would keep the landfill closed.

A quartet of council members, led by Councilwoman Trudy Wade, immediately protested Pollard’s opinion, and the interim city attorney said he would revisit his decision.

Stephen J. Levitas, a lawyer for Gate City Waste Services with Kilpatrick Townsend law firm in Raleigh, urged Pollard to rescind his decision in an Aug. 24 letter.

“Waste Industries has a strong interest in seeing the council not make the final award to Gate City or, if it does so, to impose the most burdensome terms possible,” Levitas wrote. “If the council were not to make an award to Gate City, the city will have to go back to the drawing board in determining a future direction for solid waste management services, which would give Waste Industries another opportunity to be selected as the city’s contractor.”

Chris Brook, a staff attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in Durham who represents landfill opponents, urged Pollard to affirm his prior conclusion in a letter on Monday.

“Fearing it might lose the game Gate City has decided to complain about the rules and the referee,” Brook said. “The rules are clear: Councilwoman Vaughan’s only conflict relates to Waste Industries. And the referee was right: Councilwoman Vaughan is compelled to vote on this matter of great importance to her constituents.”

Lost in the discussion is the fact that Waste Industries was only the third lowest bidder on the request for proposals, and another company, Florida-based Advanced Disposal submitted the lowest bid.

Wade telegraphed landfill proponent’s legislative strategy in a confrontation with Vaughan during a briefing session last week.

“If you vote against Gate City, we’re going to have a very serious problem picking anyone but Waste Industries because that would be the only way you couldn’t vote on it,” Wade said, “and you know what the vote is right now.” — JG

Joines agrees to work with CHANGE Homeless Caucus

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines agreed to appoint people who have either been homeless or are currently homeless to city boards and commissions dealing with homeless issues during a meeting of Communities Helping All Neighbors Gain Empowerment, or CHANGE, on Aug. 22.

David Harold, chair of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Council on Homelessness, agreed to appoint two seats on the council to those who have either been homeless or are currently homeless during the meeting. Harold agreed that the homeless members of the council would receive a stipend for their service. Gaining the input of homeless citizens has been an objective of the council for some time, Harold added. Joines touted the success of the city’s Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness, which began in 2006. Joines said the city is 65 percent of the way toward achieving its goal of building 600 new housing units for the homeless by 2015. Also, BB&T recently pledged $500,000 to the construction of a shelter for homeless veterans.

“We need someone to speak for those who don’t have a voice,” Joines said. “[City council] will continue to support programs for the homeless.” CHANGE estimates that on any given night there are approximately 500 homeless people in Forsyth County. In comparison, Mecklenburg County has 2,431 homeless individuals on any given night; Wake County had 1,140 homeless individuals; and Guilford County had 1,034 homeless individuals, according to a survey conducted between 2008 and 2010. — KTB

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