Topics
Publishers
Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
Rhino Times - 2017-08-24
Magazines / Newspapers | Government 2017-08-24 00:00:00
Page 1 of 4
  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 1

    Vol. V No. 34 Greensboro, North Carolina www.rhinotimes.com Thursday, August 24, 2017 Eclipse Event Not Spoiled By Clouds Scott D. Yost County Sniffs Around For Animal Shelter Director Who Will ‘Stay’ plus Under The Hammer, Uncle Orson Reviews Everything AND MORE

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 2

    2 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, August 24, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com THE WEEKLY Hammer The Weekly Hammer by John Hammer There are certainly more prestigious golf tournaments than the Wyndham Championship but there can’t be a friendlier golf tournament on the PGA tour. Every year I’m impressed with how nice people are. Now some of the signs that used to say “Quiet Please” say “Shhhhhhh.” It’s a nice touch. One of the best perks of a press pass is parking. The shuttles from Wyndham Musings the media lots to the Irwin Smallwood Media Center are from Christian Tours, and they must have a company policy against hiring surly drivers. Driving a shuttle back and forth from one parking lot to another while everyone else is enjoying golf seems like the kind of job that could make a fellow surly, but these guys are always cheerful and go out of their way to be helpful. Riding the shuttle in on Sunday, I wasn’t in the best mood because on the way out to the tournament I’d had a flat tire and discovered that I don’t have a spare tire. Not a great way to start any day. But on the ride in, the shuttle driver stopped so we could all see three deer grazing in a yard near the golf course with buses, cars and golf carts all whizzing past. It brightened my day and for the rest of the ride the talk was not of golf but about deer. It seems everyone has a good deer story. It’s amazing how society changes. The whole time I was at the golf tournament, I saw just two men smoking cigarettes. It doesn’t seem that long ago that half the crowd appeared to be smoking cigarettes. I saw more cigar smokers than cigarette smokers. And of course there were a lot more vapers than smokers. I seem to always be running behind even when I’m not dealing with flat tires, and when I get out to the tournament I’m anxious to get out on the course and see what’s going on. But the place to find out what’s going on is the media center, where the real golf writers hang out watching the tournament on television. It makes sense – if you have to write about the tournament – to watch it on television because you can follow all the leaders instead of just two. The golf writers do get out and watch some live golf, but unlike other sporting events where the writers want to be as close to the action as possible, golf courses are too big to be close to the action, unless you have some supernatural powers and you know where the action is going to be. Since I’m not a golf writer I don’t have to worry about missing a great shot or spending too much of my time following a golfer who isn’t going (continued on page 9) Eclipse Viewing Not Spoiled By Clouds by John Hammer Everything was great about the solar eclipse in Greensboro, except the clouds. But even the clouds offered a moment of joy in Center City Park on Monday. Early on, the sky was clear, and with the eclipse glasses being handed out in Center City Park by XXX, you could see the moon biting into the edge of the sun. Then the clouds came, and with the eclipse glasses on you couldn’t see anything. So people sat on the grass and chatted or wandered around looking for people they knew. It was a lighthearted friendly crowd, biding their time, confident that the clouds would clear in time to see the eclipse. All at once, a cheer went up from all across the park as the sun, or what was left of it, peaked out between the clouds and people hurried to get their eclipse glasses on to see. After about 30 seconds – but more than long enough to find the pocket the eclipse glasses were in, get them on your nose and stare up at the sun – it was gone. Unfortunately that was the only time the clouds parted for the folks in Center City Park, but we’d seen it, not all of it, not the 94 percent eclipse we were supposed to see, but it seemed to be enough to satisfy most folks who continued to hang out in the park until after 2:42, when the height of the eclipse was reached here. The streetlights did come on and it was darker, but with the clouds obscuring the two stars of the show, it didn’t seem as remarkable as most of us were hoping for. I attend a lot of events about community building, and judging from the crowd in Center City Park, I think one of the best community building events I have ever attended was the eclipse viewing. So more eclipses would lead to more community building, but I understand they are a little hard to schedule. I kept hearing that the last total eclipse was 99 years ago, which made me think I was older than I am because I remember the last one and I’m pretty sure I’m not over 100 yet. The last total solar eclipse in North The clouds parted briefly during the eclipse at Center City Park Carolina was March 7, 1970. I remember the one in 1970 because I didn’t see it. I was in Chapel Hill for a high school swimming meet, which I still think should have been postponed for the solar eclipse because Chapel Hill only got a partial solar eclipse, while a few miles east it was total. So now I’ve missed two solar eclipses in North Carolina, but it looks like there will be another one in 2024, so I’m getting ready. Photo by John Hammer

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 3

    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, August 24, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 3

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 4

    4 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, August 24, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com RHINOSHORTS by John Hammer There was a meeting on Tuesday for the public to review and comment on the preliminary designs for the portion of the four-mile downtown Greenway that runs between Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Gate City Boulevard. The Downtown Greenway is becoming the project that will never end. After 16 years of planning, according to the city the design for this part of the Greenway is about 50 percent complete. Maybe by 2033 the designs will be 100 percent complete and by 2049 the construction will be completed. But that is assuming that the Greenway doesn’t hit any roadblocks and construction continues at its current pace. The Greenway, for all its hoopla, is no more than an extra wide sidewalk. How long does it take the city to design and build a four-mile long extra wide sidewalk? The answer is, we don’t know, but we do know that it takes more than 16 years. There are a multitude of efforts by well-intentioned people to provide schools, teachers and students with school supplies because the schools can’t afford school supplies, and that got me thinking If the $9 billion spent on public education by the State of North Carolina and the $200 million by Guilford County is not enough money to provide adequate school supplies for the schools, imagine what the school administrators must be going through. Everyone in education says that students, teachers and classrooms come first, so certainly the Department of Public Instruction has put all of its money for supplies into the classrooms. And yet it still isn’t enough, which means the poor administrators must be buying their own pens, pencils, pads and copy paper. And when you consider all the reports have to be printed in triplicate, or maybe even quintuplicate, imagine how much paper they go through. They probably are making their own Post-it Notes with scrap paper and old toothpaste. (It’s surprisingly sticky.) No doubt the administrators either have to buy their own computers or are using computers that still have green screens and use the big floppy disks from the 1980s. I am starting a drive to collect office supplies for school administrators – the Administrative School Supplies (ASS) drive. So once you have paid your taxes, given money for school supplies for students, teachers and schools, I ask that you reach into your pocket one more time and write a check to ASS to help the poor school administrators. Who knows if they even have office chairs and desks, since every possible dime is going to the classroom. And it does make me wonder if the big-wigs from Raleigh, who frequent the school administrative offices across the state to make sure every form is filled out and box checked, have to hitchhike from Raleigh. Certainly if they don’t have money for school supplies for classrooms they don’t have money for cars for bigwig administrators to drive around the state to make sure their forms are being filled out properly. If we have any money left over in the ASS fund, after we provide office supplies for all the administrators in the state, then we’ll buy bus tickets for them, so they don’t have to hitchhike. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I got lost going to Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown on Tuesday. I knew the roads out there had changed, but I didn’t realize how much they had changed until I found myself driving past Ragsdale High School. I suppose I wasn’t really lost because I knew where I was, what I didn’t know was how I had gotten there. Photo by Scott D. Yost Emma Carper of Brown Summit, who just turned 10, got some well deserved recognition from the Guilford County Board of Commissioners at the Thursday, August 17 meeting. After seeing a sign at the Guilford County Animal Shelter saying that donations of food, pet toys and other items were needed, Carper decided to forgo receiving presents for her birthday and instead asked her friends to bring pet food and other donations for the shelter. She also made a video her mother posted on Facebook asking for donations, and so far she’s collected over 1,500 pounds of pet food and other needed items.

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 5

    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, August 24, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 5 table of CONTENTS 2 WEEKLY HAMMER BY JOHN HAMMER 6 DEMOCRATS DON’T LIKE MOST RECENT REDISTRICTING PLAN ANY BETTER THAN OLD ONE BY JOHN HAMMER 8 COUNTY SNIFFS AROUND FOR ANIMAL SHELTER DIRECTOR WHO WILL ‘STAY’ BY SCOTT D. YOST 9 NC SUPREME COURT RULES WRAY CAN SUE CITY BY JOHN HAMMER 10 COURTS SCRAMBLE TO HANDLE JUDGE SHORTAGE BY SCOTT D. YOST 23 YOST COLUMN BY SCOTT D. YOST 35 UNDER THE HAMMER BY JOHN HAMMER 4 RHINO SHORTS 17 REAL ESTATE 18 NYT CROSSWORD 19 SUDOKU 19 PUZZLE ANSWERS 19 CHILDREN’S SCHEDULE 21 SOUND OF THE BEEP 26 NEWS OF THE WEIRD 28 LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 15 UNCLE ORSON BY ORSON SCOTT CARD 16 HIGH POINT PITCHES BASEBALL PROJECT, COUNTY WANTS TO KNOW IF THERE’S A CATCH BY SCOTT D. YOST 12-13 Cover: Hundreds of people gathered in Center City Park on Monday to watch the eclipse. Photo by Elaine Hammer. More photos page 14 EDITOR-IN-CHIEF John Hammer managing editor ELAINE HAMMER PUBLISHER Roy Carroll GENERAL MANAGER Joann Zollo creative director ANTHONY COUNCIL county editor SCOTT D. YOST contributing editor ORSON SCOTT CARD advertising consultant DONNA GOODWIN 216 West Market Street, Greensboro NC 27401 P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro NC 27429 | (336) 763-4170 (336) 763-2585 fax | sales@rhinotimes.com | www.rhinotimes.com

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 6

    6 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, August 24, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com Democrats Don’t Like Most Recent State Redistricting Plan Any Better Than Old One Photo by John Hammer District 28 state Sen. Gladys Robinson from Guilford County and District 71 state Rep. Evelyn Terry (far right) from Forsyth County were on the front row for the public hearing on the newly drawn state House and Senate districts held at the Medlin Campus Center at Guilford Technical Community College on Tuesday. It was one of seven sites across the state where the public hearing was held simultaneously. by John Hammer The Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly have redrawn the districts for the state House and Senate seats, and the Democrats don’t like the new districts any better than the current ones. That is the gist of the public hearing held across the state on the newly drawn districts on Tuesday, August 22. The truth is that the Republicans don’t like it much either. The Republicans were satisfied with the districts as they were drawn in 2011. But the current districts were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and a a panel of three federal judges ordered that new districts be drawn by Sept. 1 The courts ruled that too much emphasis was placed on race in drawing the districts, and as a result some districts had too high a percentage of black voters. The argument is that if too many black voters are placed in a district that dilutes the electoral power of those black voters. It’s an intriguing argument that assumes if you have 20 percent black Democrats in an 80 percent Republican district that those black voters have more electoral power than the black voters in a district that is made up of 60 percent black Democratic voters. It’s tough concept to understand. For the most part, the newly drawn districts are more compact and split fewer precincts than the current districts. Only 28 districts in North Carolina were found to be unconstitutional by the courts. But it’s impossible to just redraw 28 districts because redrawing one district effects the districts around it, so you have a domino effect where most of the districts in the state were redrawn. In Guilford County, the proposed new districts place two Republican representatives in the same district, called double bunking. District 59 Rep. Jon Hardister and District 61 Rep. John Faircloth are both in the newly drawn District 61, which includes most of Faircloth’s current district in High Point but also part of northern Greensboro where Hardister lives. It’s a little odd for the Republican legislature to double bunk Republican representatives. However, Faircloth, who didn’t attend the public hearing, said he was sure that he and Hardister could work out a mutually agreeable solution. Faircloth said, “When the dust settles, we’ll have time to sit down over a cup of coffee and work something out.” Faircloth added, “I do intend to run again.” Faircloth agreed that because most of the new District 61 is in High Point that it would be a difficult district for Hardister, who is from Greensboro, to win. But Faircloth added, “It appears the new District 59 is ideal for him.” Hardister was not available for comment, but Hardister is young and single and the new District 59 has no incumbent representative, so it may be that what will be worked out is for Hardister to move into District 59 before the 2018 election and that is all predicated on the assumption that the districts do not change. District 28 State Sen. Gladys Robinson, who attended the public hearing, said that not having all the information about the newly drawn map made it difficult to evaluate the new districts. She said, “It’s so unfair. If you don’t have the data packs it doesn’t do you any good to look at the maps.” She added that from what she had seen, although the percentage of black voters in her new district was lower than in her current district, it looked pretty good for her. What the Republicans had been ordered to do by the courts was to lower the percentage of black voters in the minority-majority districts, and in Robinson’s district that is what has been done. Many of the speakers at the public hearing, which in Guilford County was held in the Medlin Campus Center at Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, said that race should not be a consideration when drawing districts. This is a great idea, but the US Justice Department has determined that would be illegal as well. Districts cannot be drawn so that there is a likelihood that fewer black candidates would be elected to office. So, in drawing the districts, the legislators have to place the correct percentage of black voters in the districts so that the likelihood is that a black legislator will be elected, but if the percentage is too high then that is unconstitutional. What the courts have repeatedly refused to state is what that correct percentage of black voters is. Enough black voters have to be placed in minority-majority districts to give black candidates a good opportunity to be elected, but not so many as to “pack” the district with black voters. Only the federal judges know what that magic percentage of black voters is that is enough but not too much, and they aren’t telling. There were many complaints at the Guilford County public hearing about the size of the room where it was held. The room had about 60 seats and about 60 people were sent to the overflow room on the ground floor, where people could watch the same video feed as the people upstairs. What the people in the overflow room didn’t know was that the sound quality in that room was much better than upstairs in the main room. The only difference was that people who wanted to speak had to go upstairs to the main room. Some speakers suggested that it would be easy to draw districts, but if districts were drawn as (continued on next page)

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 7

    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, August 24, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 7 redistricting (continued from previous page) some suggested they should be – without consideration for race or party – those would be unlikely to be approved by the courts, which require considering race. The Republicans are going to draw districts that favor Republican candidates, just like the Democrats drew districts in North Carolina for over 100 years that favored Democratic candidates. It’s one of the privileges of winning the majority in the legislature. What none of the speakers in the first hour mentioned was that Republicans won control of the state legislature in 2010 in districts drawn by the Democrats to favor Democratic candidates. If the Democrats don’t like the districts, they need to win a majority in the legislature in districts drawn by Republicans. But the Democrats have chosen to go about changing the districts in a different way, through the federal courts that, after eight years of a Democratic president appointing Democratic judges, is heavily weighted toward the Democrats. The public hearing – which was held simultaneously in seven locations in the state – was, as one might expect, controlled confusion. All seven sites were connected electronically so that, theoretically, the people at all seven sites could see and hear the people speaking at other sites on large video screens. Some people couldn’t be heard. Some walked away from the microphone. At times the audio was garbled. After the first few speakers, it appeared most of the kinks in the system were worked out and for the most part the speakers who did speak into the microphones could be heard. But the problems are not unique to this public hearing, as some in the mainstream media have implied. At public hearings held in one room, it is often difficult to understand the speaker because they are either too close or too far from the microphone and because some people don’t speak clearly. The way this public hearing worked is that three speakers would speak from one of the seven locations around the state and then three speakers from another location and so forth. It meant that even if you were near the top of the list in your location, you might have to wait hours to speak. Many of the speakers appeared to use talking points provided by the Democratic Party or a liberal lobbying group and said pretty much the same thing, ending with some variation of the statement that voters should choose the legislators rather than have legislators choose voters. It’s makes for a good sound bite, but legislators do choose voters because the state constitution gives the legislature the responsibility of drawing the legislative districts. Several speakers had a solution to this problem – they suggested that the federal courts draw the districts. That would certainly be good for the Democrats, since it would be Democratic judges drawing the districts. But from a standpoint of being a self-governing people, is it better to have federal judges appointed for life drawing the districts or legislators who must go before the voters every two years and stand for election? Dist. 62 Rep. John Blust didn’t attend the public hearing but said that the problem with the current districts was that “the court changed the criteria from what it was a few years ago.” Blust asked, “How do you draw voting rights districts if you can’t consider race.” Blust said that there was a lot of talk by Democrats about nonpartisan redistricting, but, he added, “Nothing you could do other than to draw districts that favor the Democrats would get the people opposed to the districts in favor of them.” He noted that the courts had found that political gerrymandering is legal and one of the problems North Carolina faced was that because over 90 percent of black voters are registered Democrats, if you draw districts based on party affiliation the districts are also drawn based on race. The bottom line is that it is 2017, and districts that were drawn in 2011 are now being found unconstitutional and being redrawn, and will be redrawn again after the 2020 census. So it looks like the districts in North Carolina are going to change, and then after two elections change again, unless the courts find something wrong with the new districts – then it’s anybody’s guess what happens next. Tom Foolery CLEAN, SECURE, SAFE, INDOOR www.Beesafe.com on NC Highway 68 near I-40 • Loading dock available at the Battleground location Tom Foolery • All interior storage units are fully climate controlled • Sizes from 5’ x 5’ to 10’ x 30’ • Wine storage with temperature and humidity control • Wine storage units from 2’ x 2’ to 3’ x 6’ • Postal service available onsite at the Battleground location 3 GREAT LOCATIONS 1016 Battleground Avenue Greensboro, NC (336) 332-0123 4435 Jessup Grove Road Greensboro, NC (across from Proehlifi c Park) (336) 605-3202 NOW OPEN 704 Sunshine Way, Greensboro on NC Highway 68 near I-40 (336) 279-7100

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 8

    8 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, August 24, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com County Commissioners Sniff Around For Animal Shelter Director Who Will ‘Stay’ by Scott D. Yost Now that the Guilford County Board of Commissioners has selected a site for the county’s new animal shelter, the county still has to find a major piece of the puzzle – a new Animal Services director – in order to complete the picture. County offi cials are searching hard but it now looks like Guilford County will hire an animal services management fi rm to help run the shelter until at least the end of 2017. In addition to providing a temporary director, that fi rm is also expected to review the shelter’s programs, practices and procedures. Last week, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted Photo by Scott D. Yost Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips recently showed the Rhino Times around the property the county purchased at 979 Guilford College Road for the new $9 million animal shelter. The shelter is expected to open in 2019 but clearly quite a few trees will have to be removed first. Phillips said that the next day he had some chigger bites on his ankles from his trek through the woods. unanimously to purchase land to build a new $9 million shelter at 979 Guilford College Road. That 12-acre tract of heavily wooded property in unincorporated Guilford County is on the west side of Guilford College Road between Greensboro and High Point. The commissioners didn’t discuss the land purchase for long at the board’s Thursday, August 17 meeting before taking a vote. However, in the two years leading up to that decision – especially behind closed doors – they’ve talked with each other until they were blue in the face about where the county’s new animal shelter should go. With that decision now out of the way, Guilford County offi cials have turned to helping staff fi nd a director who doesn’t quit or get fi red soon after taking the job. It’s not something they’ve had much luck with in recent years. Director Marsha Williams was removed in mid-2015 when state investigators found widespread animal abuse and neglect at the shelter. After that, Sheriff’s Department and Animal Control staff took over many of the responsibilities. For a while, Logan Rustin held the job, but Rustin eventually threw his hands up in the air and said publicly that it was too hard to please all the parties involved. Guilford County then hired Drew Brinkley, who came very highly recommended from Orange County Animal Services, but Brinkley resigned last month after state investigators found dogs at the shelter had been left without adequate protection from the sun on a hot summer day. One county offi cial said that, in addition to the infractions discovered last month, there was a feeling that Brinkley was “reactive” rather than proactive in running the shelter. In the periods between other directors, the role of running the shelter has also been fi lled by Deputy County Manager Clarence Grier – who’s now handling those duties again in the wake of Brinkley’s departure. Given the history of the shelter, some commissioners are worried that the best candidates will not want to come work at a shelter with such a troubled history – and one that remains the target of constant criticism on Facebook and other social media platforms. Guilford County is conducting a nationwide search for a new director but County Manager Marty Lawing said that the county is considering enlisting the help of a management fi rm to run the shelter until a new director is named. “We also looked at it from several other angles in case we were not successful in getting the applicants at the level we need,” Lawing said of the current director’s search. “We talked to a recruitment agency to see what they may offer. We also talked with a couple of fi rms that provide experienced animal services directors on a temporary, short-term basis.” Lawing said that might be the county’s best strategy until a permanent director can be found. He said he and other county staff are reviewing fi rms that handle those duties and may make a selection soon. In the meantime, he said, the search for a new Animal Services director continues. “We’ve been advertising for the last several weeks,” Lawing said. “HR has sent probably 25 candidates to myself and Mr. Grier, ones who meet the qualifi cations.” In all, the county had received 78 applications by Monday, August 21, though most of those do not meet the minimum qualifications. Lawing said that he and other county administrators will get together and see which of those applicants should be interviewed. When Brinkley was hired, the search was conducted and overseen almost entirely by county staff, but, given the recent concerns, some county commissioners want to have more say in the process. Both Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips and Commissioner Justin Conrad, who is chairman of the Guilford Animal Services Advisory Board, said this week they want to keep a close watch over the selection process. Grier said a likely timeline would be for the county to use a service for a period of six-months. “We should be able to fi nd a director by then,” the county’s deputy manager said. Conrad said he calls Grier frequently and, he added, he appreciates the job Grier has done fi lling in running the shelter on top of his other duties. “I usually know real fast where he is when he answers the phone,” Conrad said, no doubt referring to the sound of dogs barking and cats meowing in the background. The new Animal Services director position has a salary range of $90,000 to $120,000. Currently, there’s no closing date on applications. Brinkley’s salary was $90,000 during the time he worked for the county. The job listing states that the position calls for a “Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Public Administration, Animal Science or a related fi eld, and fi ve to seven years of progressively responsible experience in Animal Welfare Administration, Management, and/or Animal Control with supervisory experience; OR High School Diploma or GED and nine years of progressively responsible experience in Animal Welfare Administration, Management, and/ or Animal Control with supervisory experience.” The listing also states that the county prefers applicants who are certifi ed as animal welfare administrators.

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 9

    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, August 24, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 9 NC Supreme Court Rules Wray Can Sue City by John Hammer Greensboro has spent over $500,000 in legal fees arguing in court that former Police Chief David Wray couldn’t sue the city over legal fees, and the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled against the city and in favor of Wray. What that means is that Wray’s lawsuit against the city can go forward, and, if it chooses, the city can spend another $500,000 or more on trying to keep from paying Wray $220,000 in legal fees. The Greensboro City Council adopted a policy in 1980 stating that the city would pay the legal costs of city employees who were sued for actions taken in the course of their jobs. In January 2006, Wray was first locked out of his office by then City Manager Mitch Johnson and then forced to resign. Later, Wray and other city officials were sued by Greensboro police officers for racial discrimination. The city paid the legal fees of the other city employees who were sued but refused to pay the legal costs that Wray incurred because of the lawsuits. Wray then sued the city for his legal expenses, which, according to Wray, he was entitled to because of the 1980 policy – the same policy that provided for other city employees who were named in the same lawsuits to have their legal expenses paid. More recently, Wray filed and then dropped a slander lawsuit against Mayor Nancy Vaughan and City Attorney Tom Carruthers because both had said that Wray’s legal fees were not paid because of his “malicious” behavior. According to the city’s policy, that is one reason why the legal fees for an employee would not be paid. After making the statement, Carruthers did offer an explanation stating that he was attempting to summarize the policy and did a poor job of it. Vaughan said she was simply quoting the city attorney. It appears that what actually happened is that it had been so long since the city had decided not to pay Wray’s legal fees that the city forgot the reason. At the time the reason given was that Wray acted outside the scope of his office. Since Wray was being sued by police officers for actions he took while police chief, it may be a tough argument to win in court – that he was acting outside the scope of his office. City Councilmember Tony Wilkins asked for all the documents in the city’s possession about why Wray’s legal fees had not been paid. The city was unable to produce any such documents. According to the policy, the city manager has the authority to make the decision on whether to pay an employee’s legal expenses or not. The city manager who made the decision in Wray’s case was Mitch Johnson, the same city manager who locked Wray out of his office and then forced him to resign. It appears that by claiming that the city had governmental immunity and, therefore, Wray couldn’t sue the city, the city was attempting an end-around. If the courts had decided in the city’s favor, then the case would have ended and the city would have never had to go to court to attempt to justify the decision made by Mitch Johnson not to pay Wray’s legal fees. Now, unless the city and Wray can reach an agreement, Wray will get his day in court to prove that the actions for which he was being sued were in fact part of his job as police chief. It appears the city will have to go to court and argue that hiring, promoting and investigating police officers who have been accused of misconduct are not the job of the police chief. It should be an interesting case. hammer (continued from page 2) to win. Besides, I’ll find out what I missed when I get back to the media center. The tournament has been improving every year since it moved to Sedgefield in 2008. There seem to be more top golfers each year and the facilities for fans are constantly being upgraded. Having attended the tournament since I was a kid in shorts, back when men didn’t wear shorts, and having worked at it as a Jaycee, I have some idea of what goes into hosting thousands of people on a golf course for a week. It’s not easy, and little things matter. This year I noticed that an area near the 18th green that, in the past, by Sunday has been a mud hole filled with pine straw, now has rubber mats. It’s not an improvement that is going to win any awards, but it’s the kind of attention to detail that makes a difference. I deal with words a lot, and some words will jump off the page at you no matter how quickly you look away. I was flipping through the program for the 2017 Wyndham, which is what writers do when they are putting off writing, and after I was already a couple of pages past page 44, because I was flipping, not reading, I had to go back because I was sure I had seen my name. So I turned back and looked at the page. It was the “Volunteer of the Year” page, and Rick Cory had been named volunteer of the year. I don’t know Rick Cory, so that didn’t help me much, but there over on the left-hand side of the page, listed with all the previous volunteers of the year was, “1983 John Hammer.” I have to admit I didn’t know I was volunteer of the year; in 1983, they called it the Green Coat Club Award. But awards are hard to come by and I’ll take any that are offered. I do remember winning the award because it was more of a shock than finding my name in the program. I was a brand new Jaycee, and through an unlikely series of events, I ended up running one of the largest concession stands at the tournament. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as the Green Coat Club Award until I was told I had won it.

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 10

    10 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, August 24, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com Courts Scramble to Handle Judge Shortage by Scott D. Yost The Guilford County court system has a desperate need for more judges, is struggling hard to keep up in light of the current judge shortage and just lost some valuable help that it had been getting from the state in the form of temporary judges. That’s according to Guilford County Chief District Court Judge Tom Jarrell and other county court officials who are feeling the pinch in a big way after state lawmakers sliced the number of “emergency judges” serving North Carolina. Those are temporary, traveling judges – often retired judges – who are sent to court systems where they’re most needed to fill in for a while. According to Jarrell, judges in Guilford County, on average, handle larger caseloads than any other judges in the state, and the county’s current allocation of 14 District Court judges simply isn’t enough. Now, with a reduction in the number of emergency judges – which the Guilford County court system has relied on in the past to keep its head above water – the system is really feeling the strain. In legislation that went into effect last month, state lawmakers cut the number of emergency judges serving in the state from 78 to 25. The change simultaneously toughened the criteria that determines whether a county can be assigned one of those judges. Jarrell said the emergency judge program, which has cost between $600,000 to $1 million per year in the last five years, wasn’t expensive compared to other state programs, and, he said, considering the immense benefit it provides the courts systems across North Carolina, he doesn’t understand why the program was gutted. He pointed out that the most recent state budget funded Richard Petty’s custom car business expansion and the North Carolina Symphony while cutting the emergency judge program. This year, the state gave $250,000 to Richard Petty’s business and $2.4 million to the NC Symphony. Jarrell said that, given that Guilford County is always understaffed when it comes to judges, the county is struggling even more than others to keep up now that emergency judges are in very short supply. He said Guilford County’s judges are doing what they can but it’s not enough to keep the court cases flowing like they should. “The first way we try to keep up is that we have judges covering multiple courts, which means you don’t get a lunch and you certainly don’t get your 15-minute recess, and you work pretty much non-stop all day,” Jarrell said. “I can tell you there are more days than not when I eat a pack of peanut butter crackers and have a Diet Mountain Dew from a vending machine downstairs as my lunch.” “The second way,” he said, “is we’ve had to cancel some courts and consolidate others. We’ve canceled or consolidated courts in Greensboro and High Point.” “The third way is that we just have judges coming to work sick,” Jarrell said, adding that judges routinely endure things like head colds and stomach viruses and keep working. “When we cancel these courts, we just get further and further behind. The judges come to court sick and are infecting everyone in the courthouse. I wish they would just stay home – but we don’t have a lot of choice.” According to Jarrell, in light of Guilford County’s current judge shortage, he and other judges sometimes type up reports at home. He said he often uses Sunday afternoons or Sunday nights to get caught up and, like other judges, he’ll often end up staying late at the courthouse. Jarrell said judges in Guilford County are feeling overwhelmed by the current situation that just got worse with the state’s cut that Jarrell said came as a big surprise to many. “They slipped this in the budget at the last minute,” he said. He also said things could have been even worse because there was some discussion among legislators of ending the emergency judge program altogether. “Nobody seems to be hurting as much as we are,” Jarrell said. “Guilford County is on the top of the needs list in terms of work load.” He said Guilford County, the state’s 18th Judicial District, has a major need for a permanent new District Court judge. Jarrell said that, given existing caseloads, 14 elected judges isn’t enough. From July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017, the 14 District Court judges in Guilford County disposed of an average of 9,811 cases each. Jarrell said the next highest in the state is Wake County, where each judge on average disposed of roughly 8,600 cases. He also said there are fewer reasons under the new rules for a court system to be provided an emergency judge. Jarrell said courts now will not qualify for an emergency judge if a sitting judge is sick or on vacation, or because a regular judge’s mother died. Now emergency judges are assigned only in situations such as the death or the incapacity of a judge or in a few other very serious situations. According to Jarrell, just having one extra emergency judge can make a big difference. When the state assigned one to Guilford County for the first six months of 2017, he said, the county used that extra help to open a DWI court, which was a major success. “I was able to add the emergency judge,” Jarrell said. “It was almost like I had 15 judges every day – but the emergency judge went away in July.” When the county had the extra judge, it made major headway in reducing its backlog of DWI cases. The county had carried that big backlog for years and that led to some cases being dropped because of the length of time it took to deal with them. At the start of 2017, Guilford County implemented the DWI court that focused on those types of cases. Jarrell said the arrangement worked very well and the special court helped reduce the backlog. Now, he said, he worries that that number is going to creep back up since the county is shorthanded again. “Everybody ended up liking it,” he said of the DWI court. “When it started I thought there would be some (continued on next page) RHINO TIMES BUSINESS AND SERVICE DIRECTORY For information to advertise in our Directory call (336) 763-4170 Have Medicare questions? I have answers. Bruce Bailer Licensed Sales Representative 425 Spring Garden Street Greensboro, NC 27401 336-275-2651, TTY 711 www.MyUHCagent.com/ bruce.bailer

Page 1 of 4

Please wait