Late Tuesday night, the Greensboro City Council reopened a heated debate about nonprofit transparency.
Last week the council asked for staff salary information from all the nonprofits Greensboro funds. Councilman Tony Wilkins wanted the salaries of the top two employees, but the council didn't agree to that.
Councilman Mike Barber, who wasn't at last week's council work session when the issue was discussed, said the council's request "put a number of organizations in our community in a tailspin."
Barber, who runs the nonprofit First Tee Triad, said it was an arbitrary and false measure to get the top two employee salaries. Barber requested that the city instead ask that the nonprofits provide Greensboro their most recent tax forms and be willing to meet with a city finance employee to answer questions about the nonprofit's viability.
Councilwoman Yvonne Johnson, who leads the nonprofit One Step Further and who also was absent last week, seconded Barber's motion. (First Tee and One Step Further aren't among the nonprofits regularly funded by Greensboro.)
Wilkins said he was very disappointed in Barber.
"Just explain to the public why you want to hide this information," Wilkins said to Barber.
Barber said he didn't agree with the premise of the question and he didn't intend to hide anything.
"I don't want to take challenges with one or two nonprofits and continue to create more ordinances, more regulations, more staff challenges for all of those incredibly successful and effective economic impact drivers that we have that are nonprofits in this community," Barber said.
The debate got hotter from there, with council members interrupting each other.
Johnson said the council couldn't make a decision like that in a work session. Councilwoman Nancy Hoffmann said she didn't understand why the council was going on a fishing expedition.
"What are you afraid of?" Wilkins asked.
At one point, when Wilkins and Barber got into a particularly long, loud back-and-forth, Mayor Nancy Vaughan threatened to gavel them down.
The men later apologized.
"Tony, I made a commitment to myself I wouldn't lose my temper and I did," Barber said. "I apologize."
"Likewise," Wilkins said.
At the end of the debate, all the council members except Wilkins agreed with Barber's request.
It's worth pointing out that the tax forms Barber was talking about are already publicly available under IRS guidelines, although the information doesn't always include specific staff salaries. And the city already visits nonprofits annually to review their financial information.