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Did the Greensboro City Council do so without a public hearing?

On Dec. 17, the Greensboro City Council unanimously passed a resolution enabling it to apply for a $250,000 Department of Justice grant to the Greensboro Police Department, High Point Police Department and Guilford County Sheriff’s Department. But to get those funds, the cities and county may have to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The resolution passed without any mention of those issues, and without anything resembling the public hearing required of municipalities applying for the grant.

This title of Item No. 46 on the meeting’s agenda was “Resolution to Conduct a Public Hearing on December 17, 2019, to Receive Public Comments on an Application for the 2019 Justice Assistance Grant in the Amount Of $250,102.” As At-large Representative Michelle Kennedy acknowledged on Wednesday morning, this wording makes it unclear as to whether the council was voting to hold a public hearing at some point in the future, or if the vote taken on Tuesday night was supposed to be the hearing itself. If it was a hearing, it was one without council discussion or public comment.

On the morning of Dec. 19, YES! Weekly sent Mayor Nancy Vaughan a request for clarification. When asked what passing the resolution achieved, the mayor responded: “it gives us the ability to apply for the grant.” She also texted that it “was a public hearing,” but that “no speakers were signed up.”

The grant in question is the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program award and is described as such at the ID 19-0772 file linked to the online agenda. The JAG Program Fiscal Year 2019 Local Solicitation found online at the Bureau of Justice Assistance website (BJA.gov) is a 38-page PDF document. On page 27, section (b) of Appendix B states:

Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal, State, or local law, no person or agency may prohibit, or in any way restrict a Federal, State, or local government entity from doing any of the following with respect to information regarding the immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual:

(1) Sending such information to, or requesting or receiving such information from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

(2) Maintaining such information.

(3) Exchanging such information with any other Federal, State, or local government entity.

This suggests that, if the City of Greensboro receives this grant, it must comply with ICE, and not adopt “sanctuary city” policies designed to protect immigrants not charged with violent crimes from deportation.

In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Session announced that the Justice Department “will only provide Byrne JAG grants to cities and states that comply with federal law, allow federal immigration access to detention facilities, and provide 48 hours’ notice before they release an illegal alien wanted by federal authorities.”

Attached to Agenda Item No. 46 is a DOJ document dated September 20, 2019, informing city manager David Parrish that Greensboro is approved for the funding amount as long as it abides by the stipulations of the contract.

Clicking on ID 19-0772 of the online agenda opens not only a link to that document (JAG Application.pdf) but one containing the following “Legislation Text” originating from the Greensboro Police Department and listing Chief Wayne Scott as “Contact 1.” The text’s headers also list an “advertising date” of “By December 5, 2019.”

PURPOSE: A public hearing has been advertised for December 17, 2019, for City Council to receive public comments on an application for the 2019 Justice Assistance Grant.

BACKGROUND: Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program awards are formula-based, non-competitive federal criminal justice funds which do not require a match. JAG funding allocations are based on violent crime statistics and population. The local unit of government award allocations are based on their proportion of the state’s 3-year violent crime average. The Greensboro Police Department will serve as the lead/fiscal agency for the FY 19 JAG for the award period of October 1, 2018, through September 30, 2022.

This grant is a disparate allocation between the Greensboro Police Department, High Point Police Department, and Guilford County Sherriff’s Department. A disparate allocation occurs when a city or municipality is allocated more funds than the county, while the county bears more than 50 percent of the costs associated with prosecution or incarceration of the municipality’s Part 1 violent crimes. These agencies have agreed to reallocate $250,102 in JAG funds to the City of High Point for $50,992; to Guilford County for $61,034.80 and to the City of Greensboro for $138,075.20.

BUDGET IMPACT: This is a reimbursable grant, and no match is required. Any expenses exceeding the JAG funding will be absorbed by each agency’s budget. If approved and awarded as proposed, the Greensboro Police Department will leverage $138,075.20 in federal funds.

RECOMMENDATION / ACTION REQUESTED: City Council is being requested to hold a public hearing to receive public comments on an application for the 2019 Justice Assistance Grant.

Here’s what the city council can be seen and heard doing on the video of Dec. 17’s meeting:

At 01:47:50, Mayor Vaughan reads aloud the description of the agenda item, and asks, “Do we have any speakers on Item No. 46?” Receiving no answer, the mayor asks, “Do we need to make a motion or anything on that or are we just accepting public comment?” She then asks, “Is there action required?” The motion then passes 9-0 with no further comment or discussion from the council.

Googling “Greensboro” and “2019 Justice Assistance Grant” produces only two hits, both on the Greensboro.legistar.com site. One is ID 19-0772, quoted in bold above, the file for which was created on Nov. 7 and placed on the agenda of the Dec. 17 meeting. The other is ID 19-0690, a file created on Sept. 24 and placed on the agenda of the Nov. 19 meeting. These are near-identical drafts of the same resolution and link to each other.

These online files, and Agenda Item No. 23 at the Nov. 19 city council meeting, appear to be the only “advertising” this resolution has received.

As the video of the Nov. 19 meeting shows, at 00:08:06, Mayor Vaughan says, “We have a consent agenda for items 1-29, which are a grouping of agenda items that are voted on with one simple vote to expedite what are believed to be routine and non-controversial items.”

The consent agenda then passed unanimously with no discussion of Item No. 23, “Resolution Calling a Public Hearing for December 17, 2019, to Receive Public Comments for the 2019 Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Application in the Amount of $250,102.” There was no further mention of it at public city council meetings until the Dec. 17 vote that, despite the absence of council discussion or public comment, was allegedly the required “public hearing.”

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