GREENSBORO, NC — Institutional racism is not just a catchphrase. It has real manifestations. I encountered an unfortunate but obvious one today. The City of Greensboro denied my request for copies of audits of Downtown Greensboro Greenway, LLC, the organization the City does business with to help build and help maintain the City’s Downtown Greenway.
The City said that such records are not public records under state law. This position is legally ignorant and inconsistent with the City’s treatment of the audits of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.
State law says public records are records “made or received pursuant to law or ordinance in connection with the transaction of public business.” A private party may not be compelled under law to make its audits public, but once a city comes to posses them in the course of doing business with the third party, then they are public records unless some special legal circumstance applies.
The City of Greensboro has proven as much. It publishes financial audits obtained from the International Civil Rights Center and Museum on the City’s website.
Yet, the City will not provide the same type of records for the Greenway.
When you have a double standard like that, where an African-American non-profit is subjected to a degree of (lawful) public scrutiny, but an organization headed by white people is given special (unlawful) protection from scrutiny, that is institutional racism. And it is wrong. All non-profits doing business with the City of Greensboro should be treated equally.
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The City’s denial of the request for the Greenway audits:
You requested any audits of Greensboro Downtown Greenway, LLC in the possession of the City.
According to Legal, the information requested in PIRT 6734 may be withheld as it is not a public record pursuant to NCGS § 132-1. Greensboro Downtown Greenway, LLC is a project which falls under the umbrella of Action Greensboro – a non-profit organization. Since this non-profit entity is not an agency under the public records law, its records are not subject to that law. According to David Lawrence (the leading authority on Public Record Law), “this is true even when all or nearly all of the revenues of the non-profit entity come from one or more governmental contracts.” However, we will provide you with the portion of the audits which reflect the financial activity of the City of Greensboro.
My understanding is that staff is also working on an updated version, which we will provide to you upon its completion.
Katherine Carter, Public Records Administrator