Stuck with the tab
“It stinks. It absolutely stinks,” County Commissioner Justin Conrad said.
We couldn’t agree more. It reeks to high heaven.
Guilford County has been stuck with paying the bill for a court battle it had nothing to do with.
The county commissioners held their noses and voted 6-2 last week to pay the legal fees of plaintiffs in a lawsuit against an ill-fated attempt by a local state legislator to remake the Greensboro City Council.
The $425,000 (negotiated down from $710,000) will be paid to the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which joined with the city of Greensboro to successfully challenge a law, pushed in 2015 by then-state Sen. Trudy Wade, that would have changed the council’s structure.
When the suit was filed, the county Board of Elections was listed as the defendant, since it was responsible for implementing the state law. So, the commissioners had no choice. If they had sought to challenge the settlement, they probably would have wound up paying even more.
“My blood has been boiling over this issue ever since we got to be a part of it,” Commissioner Hank Henning fumed. “Since we followed the state law, we’re liable. ... The state should be paying this bill.”
Henning has a point.
The legislature had no business poking its nose into the affairs of a local government without being asked. Specifically, Wade, a Republican from Greensboro, had no business.
But other Republicans in the General Assembly went along, including two from Guilford County (we’re looking at you, John Faircloth and Jon Hardister). And all of this went down with the blessings of Senate leader Phil Berger of Rockingham County.
Wade, a former member of the City Council, pursued that bill like Ahab hunting his whale.
Threats were made and arms were twisted to force it through.
When the original version of the bill failed to gain traction in the House, Wade grafted it onto a separate bill involving another legislative overreach: changes to the Trinity City Council.
As they huffed and puffed about this injustice, none of the members of the Board of Commissioners, which is majority-Republican, mentioned any names.
Either way, taxpayers wind up having to foot the expense.
If the state had paid for this — as well it should have — at least the pain would have been spread. (As we’ve noted, Wade also ought to be writing a fat check.)
But making locals settle this tab only adds insult to injury. City taxpayers already have borne part of the expense in the form of the city’s legal fees related to the case. The city chose not to seek reimbursement for those costs.
So, Greensboro residents essentially will be on the hook a second time for Wade’s misadventure. It’s ironic and it’s downright unfair.
The state meddles, inappropriately, in a local community’s affairs — and that local community gets stuck with the tab.
As an old song says, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.”
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. The interim chancellor at East Carolina University seems to realize that now.
After videos surfaced of him having drinks and dancing with students in off-campus bars, Dan Gerlach was placed on administrative leave by interim UNC President Bill Roper.
Gerlach defended his actions by saying he was simply trying to be more “approachable.” But he also conceded that maybe this wasn’t the best way.
“I carried that too far, and I regret the distraction that’s been caused,” he said in a radio interview.
Certainly, we’ve seen UNC chancellors make efforts to mingle with students over the years. Linda Brady led cheers at UNCG basketball games. UNC-Chapel Hill’s Holden Thorp played in a jazz band and was OK with students addressing him by his first name. But there are lines.
Gerlach wants to be considered for the permanent job at ECU. This episode may not dash those hopes but it certainly doesn’t help. His heart may have been in the right place, but his better judgment had taken an early fall break.