GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The International Civil Rights Center and Museum made its deadline to turn in a second round of questions from city leaders, on Wednesday.
Some answers were missing but accusations were plenty.
The museum's board chair says the museum is getting "special attention," but Councilman Zack Matheny says when you accept public money - you should expect public questions.
"If this was any entity, we'd be asking the same questions. This is $750,000 of public, taxpayer dollars, and in this case, it just happens to be about this museum," explained Councilman Zack Matheny, Greensboro.
Museum Chair Deena Hayes-Greene thinks the museum is being treated unfairly. In the letter addressed to Greensboro City Manager, Jim Westmoreland, she questions why financial information from the performing arts center and downtown hotel are not posted online like the museum's.
She also goes on the offensive, writing, "You can understand how a museum that was founded because four young A&T students courageously put themselves at risk so they, and others like them would be treated equally, could ill-afford to acquiesce to be treated differently by a government and still maintain any sense of self-respect."
She also wrote she would be happy to provide information the city requests but noted, "we decline to have our private information published on the city web page unless the other recipients of city money do also."
In this new response, the museum still did not provide a requested explanation about how the museum's multiple LLCs are related and how money flows between those LLCs.
Thursday, the City of Greensboro sent a letter to Deena Hayes-Greene signed by Mayor Nancy Vaughan and City Manager Jim Westmoreland.
"Thank you and the International Civil Rights Center and Museum staff for your follow up to the second set of questions provided by the City. We wanted to offer clarification to some important points you raised in your response as it relates to the City, public records, and our processes.
All records and information provided to the City and its officials are public and subject to public records laws. If there are certain items that the law provides that should be maintained as confidential, the City will work with the Museum to remain within the confines of the public records law.
With regard to this process, the questions and requests are a compilation of items asked by the Greensboro City Council. There are indeed instances where the information related to the questions and follow-up answers may have previously been provided to the City. However, full responses from the Museum to any questions asked are important and we greatly appreciate the efforts of the Museum and its staff to provide them in this case. If information cannot be provided due to its private nature or confidentiality, we would expect it to be noted in the response to the question.
We do not agree that we are treating the Museum any differently than we do other organizations that receive City funding. Regarding the proposed downtown Wyndham hotel, the City did not offer $10 million. Instead, the City agreed to a $1.975 million performance based on incentive grant and agreement that requires the project developers to provide an expected level of M/WBE participation on the project, significant private investment, and an expected number of new jobs. The $1.975 million will not be paid until all of the conditions of the incentive agreement are met, the hotel is fully operational, and would only be paid over a three year period.
The City has required a similar level of detail from Downtown Greensboro Incorporated (DGI). The organization recently went through a permanent change in leadership and term limits for board members were imposed. The City is requiring additional changes over the next two years to make the board even more inclusive. We also required that they reduce the number of entities that function under the DGI umbrella, and to make the board meetings open and transparent. Additionally, DGI's funding from the City was held until its contract was finalized.
The efforts of City Council and City staff are committed to ensuring the Museum operates as a successful and sustainable organization. We feel that because taxpayer dollars are being used, it is highly imperative that both the City and Museum communicate and share information in a very open and transparent manner. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact either of us. Thank you again for your leadership of the Board and continued cooperation."
Councilman Matheny said, "If we get back responses that I would call in some cases a slap in the face to city, and the taxpayers face, then I think we've got to be a little more than just asking questions nicely."