04/05/17 — Council talks diversity in city leaders

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Council talks diversity in city leaders

By Rochelle Moore
Published in News on April 5, 2017 9:59 AM

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Members of the Goldsboro City Council exchanged words Tuesday night about diversity in city leadership, rental fees for a mobile stage and one councilman accused the other of deleting the police chief's Facebook site.

During a back-and-forth disagreement about mobile stage rental fees, Councilman Antonio Williams accused Councilman Mark Stevens of deactivating Police Chief Mike West's personal Facebook account.

The Facebook page came under scrutiny in January after a President Trump likeness photo was added as West's profile picture and West wrote "Making Goldsboro PD Great Again."

Williams claimed that deactivating the account was "illegal."

Mayor Chuck Allen attempted to stop Williams from raising the issue during the council's Tuesday work session.

"We are going to talk about it," Williams told Stevens. "You took the police chief's and you took and erased something you knew was under investigation. You erased his personal Facebook."

Stevens shrugged off the discussion.

"How can you prove that?" Stevens said.

Williams shot back with, "How can I not prove that?"

"Prove it," Stevens said.

After the work session, Stevens said the accusation is not true.

"It's all rumors and speculation," Stevens said. "I find it to be very funny, though. Tech is used by everybody. It doesn't need somebody who knows tech."

West's social media activity stirred controversy, led to requests that the chief be disciplined and NAACP leaders called for the city manager's resignation after no disciplinary action was taken. West issued a public apology, and the city manager concluded no city policy was violated.

The exchange between Williams and Stevens took place during the middle of a discussion about whether to charge all nonprofits, including the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp., a daily $400 fee for use of the city's mobile stage.

Allen said DGDC is nonprofit but also an extension of city government, due to its support of downtown development and public events. City Manager Scott Stevens said no decision had been made on whether to charge DGDC.

Williams and Mayor Pro Tem Bevan Foster said DGDC should be charged the same fee as any other nonprofit. Williams added that the stage should be available to groups throughout the city.

"If DGDC doesn't have to pay, no one else should have to." Williams said. "There's other entities in the city who want to have some sort of entertainment or some type of worship, so (they) need to have access to that, too."

At first, Councilman Gene Aycock said the stage should be available at no cost.

"I can't see why we would even rent it out," Aycock said.

Aycock eventually made the motion to charge all nonprofits, including DGDC, the $400 fee, which covers the city's cost of setting up and taking down the stage. Stage rentals will only be allowed in the downtown area.

Foster also raised several other issues during the work session, including diversity in city leadership, a proposed review of the city's code of ordinances and the structure of council boards, commissions and committees.

Foster said there should be more African-Americans leading the city departments, after asking City Manager Scott Stevens how many are city department directors.

Stevens said three of the city's 15 departments are led by African-Americans. The directors oversee close to 25 employees out of a city workforce of more than 400 people.

"You're talking about 20 or so employees that have African-American department heads," Foster said. "I just think that there's some issues when we have very well qualified African-Americans, Latinos out here that aren't getting jobs."

Foster said some people believe they have been passed over during the job application or promotion process.

He said some people have felt as though they have higher qualifications, including education, but are being passed over while applicants without the experience are being hired.

Foster didn't produce any evidence of the claims. He also said the city needs more defined qualifications for jobs.

"Because we don't have standards in place, we don't have any kind of qualifications or anything, it's the wild wild west," Foster said. "We have no standard here, so we hire who we want to hire."

Councilman Bill Broadaway said he is open to working on hiring standards, as long as city leaders don't develop a system similar to the employment racial quotas of the past.

"I don't have a problem with it, but I'm telling you, I'm not going back to the '70s and '80s when those of us had to manage and lead in the middle of quotas and standards," Broadaway said.

"We've got to have standards, but let's don't talk about quotas because people got hurt with quotas of both races."

Foster said all races are getting hurt now.

No council decision was made regarding employment standards.

Foster also asked if the council could review and update the city's local ordinances.

"I think we've got to go back and look at our rules and regulations for the city because they've been in place for a while," Foster said. "I feel they're outdated. Some of them, I feel like they could be enhanced."

Foster asked if the task could be completed within the next month, but other council members balked at the suggestion. The city's code of ordinances include hundreds of pages.

"I read them the other day," Foster said. "We should know them as a board already."

After the meeting Broadaway said the council could revisit the city's code of ordinances but it would take time to read and discuss the documents.

"You can't go over all our rules and regulations within 30 days and come in with a consensus," Broadaway said. "I think you can review them, but you can't change all of them. Reading them is like reading the back of a hymn book."

No firm timeline was established, but Allen said the council could discuss the issue in the future.

Foster also asked the council to revisit its established structure for council-appointed boards, commissions and committees.

The council plans to review current policies, in an effort to ensure the boards and its members are following established rules of order.

Foster said some of the city's boards don't have a chairperson and city department directors are leading the boards instead of serving as board secretaries.

" . . . our directors should only be the secretary of these boards and board members should be coming and reporting to us, not the directors," Foster said. "That is how our ordinance is set, and we haven't been doing that. We're just in the wrong."