Emotions Running High Over Museum Money

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Indecision. Confusion. Finger pointing.

That's not what you would expect from the Greensboro City Council or an internationally recognized museum. Tuesday night, the council decided not to sign the updated contract with the Civil Rights Museum.

And as for the $750,000 check the museum is expecting, there's no decision what to do about that.

City council members spent at least two hours trying to get to the bottom of what's going on with taxpayers' money at the museum. It caused a heated debate over who's to blame and what the council is going to do to get it right.

"You have a problem and it needs to be fixed," demanded Greensboro resident Ben Holder.

"The contract, the one that I was given, had all kinds of discrepancies on it," said Councilman Zack Matheny. "It was probably one of the worst contracts I've ever seen."

Council members wanted to know why the contract wasn't signed before former city manager Denise Turner Roth cut a check. They also raised questions about a deadline extension nobody seemed to know anything about. "If she did extend the conditions of the contract, without notifying council, why is there no record of that extension?" asked Councilman Tony Wilkins.

Turns out, Roth approved the extension, but didn't tell the council and didn't make a record of it. Matheny tried to freeze what's left of the money they gave the museum, but council instead voted to require a signature before the city cuts any checks in the future.

"I think this is the first time that I've voted on this council to legislate common sense," said Wilkins.

"We're not hiding from this," added Mayor Nancy Vaughan. "We're going to learn some lessons and we're going to look at process failures within the city as well and to figure out what we can do to prevent this from happening on another occasion with another group."

Some council wanted to take back the $200,000 that's left of that $750,000 check, but they decided not to go after that money.

We've emailed former manager Denise Turner Roth. We want to know why she didn't tell the council she granted the museum an audit extension. And why did she okay a check for a contract that no one signed? We'll let you know if she responds.


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