Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Triad City Beat; "Downtown Greensboro Inc. board purges critics"

Eric Ginsburg

"Downtown Greensboro Inc. confirmed a new board that won’t include two members who went against the grain.

...As Eric Robert and Simonne McClinton see it, the board of Downtown Greensboro Inc. is just window dressing. All the real power lies with the executive committee, they said, and the rest of the board is just there to rubber-stamp its choices.

...Sam Simpson, the outgoing board chair, was scheduled to continue serving in a seat held for the past board chair but officially resigned, citing professional time restraints. New board chair Gary Brame of Jules Antiques said an exception to board rules was made to allow past chair and developer Dawn Chaney to remain in the role given Simpson’s departure.

Three board members — Brittany Atkinson, Mark Hewett and Tom Philion — abstained from approving the slate...

..."I didn’t feel like we were educated on what the list was,” Atkinson said. “I think [my abstention] is the Quaker in me wanting to encourage more discussion.”

Hewett, who owns Area Modern Furniture on South Elm Street, said he didn’t know much of anything about who was on the slate or why they were chosen.

...The whole affair makes Hewett wonder if DGI is “really going forward,” agreeing that it is a problem to have a small portion of the board making the decisions.

...Brame and past board chair Dawn Chaney both did not comment directly on the decision not to invite McClinton and Robert to return.

...The new board includes Mark Gibb of Gibb’s Hundred Brewing, downtown resident Paula Pierce, small-property owner Marsh Prause, small-property owner James “Smitty” Smith, Lotus club owner Paul Talley and Brian Wise of the Carroll Companies.

Some of the openings were created by board members hitting the six-year service limit, including Al Leonard of the Carroll Companies. Downtown resident Teresa Yon was invited to return despite missing several meetings last year.

“They’re definitely stacking it up to get the desired outcome,” Robert said, naming Yon specifically.

Brame said Yon missed too many meetings but said it is up to the board chair’s discretion — then Sam Simpson...

Vaughan takes issue with a procedure that could be unevenly enforced.

“I think board members have to meet a standard and that includes showing up for meetings and working on committees,” she said, “and I don’t think that should be at anybody’s discretion.”

McClinton said it is emblematic of what is happening on the board.

“DGI does not want our opinions,” she said. “They don’t want board members to rock the boat.”

The executive committee operates in isolation, she said. In more than two years on the board, McClinton said she didn’t have any one-on-one discussions with an executive committee member, or Cannon, with one exception, that she didn’t initiate.

“It’s an organization that is backtracking,” Robert said. “Gary Brame and Dawn Chaney made all decisions last year, and this year they will keep going and making all the decisions with a more amiable board. It’s wrong on so many levels, and again, they take my money. If they didn’t take my money they could do whatever they want, but they do. The fact that the city is letting DGI get away with this and that they’re putting the civil rights museum under the microscope is a little messed up.”