by Sam Hieb
As a speaker from the floor was addressing the question of who will get a contract for managing the revenue of the special downtown tax district, the council suddenly got up and left. The speaker, downtown businessman Eric Robert, had alleged that Downtown Greensboro Inc. was allowed to modify its bid after it was submitted. In the middle of Robert’s remarks, Councilman Mike Barber moved for a recess and the council dutifully marched out of the chamber. Robert was left to face a row of empty seats.
Talk about a pregnant pause.
…In a place like Greensboro, where conspiracy theories run wild, why even create the impression that you’re hiding something? While it is true that reporters were allowed to follow the council into its recess, why have a recess at all at that point? Why not explain the need for further investigation of the DGI contract from the dais?
The question of DGI is especially sensitive. Its CEO, Zack Matheny, is a former council member. What’s more, before Matheny got the job in 2015, a DGI administrator alleged that a councilman — Barber — had pressed the nonprofit’s board to hire Matheny or risk losing city funding. Robert also has a history with the council, having sued it over a federal grant.
Meanwhile, alt-weekly Rhino Times cites a memo from City Manager Jim Westmoreland and City Attorney Tom Carruthers to Mayor Nancy Vaughan and the rest of the council:
The memo states, “In addition, State law does not mandate a specific process when a request for proposals is used to select a contractor. The City elected to use the Best Value Standard of Award and City policy allows for clarifications of requests for proposals.”
The memo states that the city did ask for a clarification with respect to one attachment in the DGI bid. DGI had included its entire budget in the figures used for the RFP and the city asked that it be revised to reflect only the BID money.
According to the memo, the request for proposals (RFP) states that the city selection committee may ask contractors to provide additional information, and in this case the city asked that of DGI.
The memo states that the process used complies with state law and the RFP guidelines and “The recommendation remains to award the contract to Downtown Greensboro, Inc.”
Fair enough—and DGI president Zack Matheny was at the meeting ready to present his bid. Matheny’s a controversial figure here in Gboro politics, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and submit he would have answered any questions the council has about his bid.
If indeed the council had any questions about his bid—it could have very well rolled right over their heads that DGI’s bid was higher than the allotted amount of tax money. And for his part, council member Mike Barber—who called for the controversial recess—-cited the city’s legal history with opposing bidder Eric Robert as reason to postpone the issue, to which I say so what?
I hardly ever agree with the N&R, but this an exception—(once again) out City Council “isn’t looking so good.” Which in turn makes me wonder why our local paper of record believes this council is qualified to set a citywide minimum wage above the state level for private employers.