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UPDATED: The roof, the roof, the roof…

By Anthony Noel

UPDATE, AUGUST 7, 11:14 a.m.: The confidentiality charges of Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas, PGV Executive Director Jerry Vickers and Councilor Dennis Mitchell, questioned here yesterday as politically motivated (original post below), just lost what modicum of credence any thinking Greenville resident might still have assigned them. As this clip shows, Mr. Vickers himself, at Thomas’s urging, “broke confidentiality” over the airport’s efforts to recruit a second airline at a public meeting in January.

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The clip opens with Mayor Thomas introducing a report to Council by the airport authority with a little needling about additional air service. Fast forward to 11:07 (36:42 if you’re watching the linked video instead of the embedded one) and he’s at it again, this time pressing Executive Director Vickers himself:

Thomas: “Jerry, you know what I’m going to ask you. Talk to us about the, going forward potential – I know we do set some funds aside – I mean, what’s our strategy for trying to pick up maybe another destination?”

[snip]

Vickers (at 12:05, or 37:40 at the link): “…so we think we know the airline and hub that’s the best fit for us, we’ve had conversations…” And at 38:18 (12:43 at the link): “One of the things that disappoints me is that out of nine commercial service airports in North Carolina, we’re the only airport that doesn’t have the Delta and US Airways combination.”

Thomas: “Right.”

Vickers: “And we would quite frankly like to fix that.”

ORIGINAL POST (8/6):

There’s been much ado in what passes for Greenville’s fourth estate today about an item which appeared last week in Councilor Calvin Mercer’s constituent newsletter.

Mercer shared the news that Pitt-Greenville Airport (PGV) might be getting additional commercial air service in 2014–more likely 2015–if everything goes just right.

Makes sense. Growing city + growing university = the need for more people to get to and fro.

Sadly, Greenville’s boy mayor, Allen Thomas, apparently had enough time in his busy schedule–one packed with praying on the courthouse steps and ill-conceived “town hall meetings”–to get airport Executive Director Jerry Vickers and failed-businessman-cum-Councilor Dennis Mitchell righteously “upset.”

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IMHO

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I talked to Mercer today. He said the mayor called him after his newsletter went out “to warn me about a firestorm. He told me people were upset that I’d mentioned the airport effort, and that Mr. Vickers accused me of breaching confidentiality,” Mercer said.

All of that happened over the weekend, but the media circus got rolling today. Vickers said Mercer’s newsletter item would have no effect on the effort, but repeated his charge that Mercer had breached confidentiality, and Mitchell echoed that in his own newsletter.

Trouble is, the airport’s pursuit of an additional carrier is on Council’s agenda this week, and was put there four days before Mercer’s newsletter went out. That pretty much renders weightless Vickers’, Mitchell’s, and anyone else’s claims that Mercer should not have discussed it. It’s called transparency, and businesspeople clamoring to work in the public sector had best get used to it or find other work, because it comes with the job.

So what’s really happening here? Politics.

fire

Thomas’ and Mitchell’s reactions to Mercer’s sharing of good news with his constituents betrays their real problem with him: Mercer is more transparent than both men put together. Further, by aiding and abetting such political hackery, Vickers calls his own transparency into question.

I, on the other hand, have nothing to hide: I donated to Mercer’s 2011 campaign, and it’s clear to me that this whole trumped-up mess signals nothing more than an early start to “silly season.”

With Mitchell and the mayor up for re-election in November, and with Mitchell and Mercer wrangling for the same seat, Mitchell and Thomas were eager to paint their efforts as key in the progress toward a second airline at PGV. Instead, Mercer – simply by doing his job of keeping constituents informed – rained on both men’s parades.

Rain is often accompanied by thunder. Thunder is born of lightning. And lightning, of course, has been known to start fires.

But this “firestorm”–already doused–was clearly the work of two self-aggrandizing arsonists.

Anthony Noel, an award-winning journalist and editor, is co-founder of The Greenville Guardian. His views do not necessarily reflect those of The Guardian, its writers or editors.

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Responses (11)

  1. Jackie Wyman says:

    AMEN!!

  2. Carol Collins says:

    1. Funny, for years we have heard from time to time rumors that another airline might come to Greenville. Calvin’s constituent newsletter merely stated what was already an agenda item and sounded much like past rumors I had heard. Having read his subsequent reply in another constituent newsletter that cited e-mail Calvin and Vickers exchanged, I see no evidence of any breach of confidentiality and I do not see how Vickers could have concluded such. Is it possible that DR misquoted Vickers? Imagine, a front page piece in the DR about ….. nothing!

    2. Funny part of article was Mr. Mitchell’s comment about Calvin self agrandizing. This comment is from a person who held a town meeting (aka campaign event) extolling the progress made in the city but the projects Mr. Mitchell cited (except the parking deck), were all begun (including the Taft project with Georgetown and CSX switching yard) years ago, before Mr. Mitchell was on council and before Mr. Thomas was Mayor. Yet, in that town hall (campaign) meeting, Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Thomas did not give credit to their predecessors. (At that meeting, Mr. Thomas did ask people to wait for two more years to see progress….a Freudian slip admitting that he and Mr. Mitchell had done little?) Moreover, Calvin merely listed what was coming before City Council and why that item was important. No self agrandizing; just his continued efforts to keep citizens in the loop as he always does before each and every council meeting.

  3. Dennis Mitchell says:

    It is sad, the way the truth gets skewed. The airport is not on the agenda for this week. Credit can be given to anyone who deserves credit for any project but the truth is that his council funded the parking deck in this years budget which made it happen, the truth it was the newly adopted economic development policies of this council that made the Taft project a reality this year. It seems the GG was masterminded to be an election tool for the Mercer machine. Mrs. Collins comments do cut deep. She was an earlier supporter of mine.

    • Lisa Wilbourne says:

      Regarding Councilor Mitchell’s assertion that the airport is not on the council agenda for this week, I offer this portion of the Aug. 5 agenda. While “the airport” was not an item of new business, it was included in the minutes to approve in the consent agenda from January 14 during which meeting the Pitt-Greenville Airport Authority gave their yearly presentation to council (the video above comes from the same January meeting). The second page of the document reads, “A huge effort that PGV has is to continue to recruit an additional airline, which would be an economic boost, serving PGV with a second hub connection.”

      • Anthony Noel says:

        Thanks, madam editor, for the clarification, and thanks to Mr. Mitchell for helping us sort out the distinction. Clearly the “disclosure” that’s been the at the crux of this (non)story was included in minutes proposed for approval at the August 5 meeting, and therefore “disclosed” prior to the publication of Mr. Mercer’s newsletter, as the column has held. I find it interesting that the mention of Delta clearly made by Mr. Vickers on the video is not included in the minutes proposed for approval, but it’s obvious from reviewing the tape that everyone on this council heard mention of Delta at the meeting – and this video has been available on the city website to anyone who cares to watch it.

        Besides Delta’s omission, all this of course prompts another interesting question: Why council is approving minutes eight months after the fact. But I’ll save that for another day.

      • Carol Collins says:

        Editor Lisa, Thanks for all you do to keep citizens informed about all that goes on! You are excellent at keeping your factual pieces factual and your editorials as editorials. We are clear on which is which, and all are well written and thought provoking. I have recommended The Guardian to my friends.

    • Carol Collins says:

      I was disappointed about how you handled this issue. If indeed you felt that the vague material Mr. Mercer said in his newsletter should not have been disseminated, you should have done everything to see that it was contained. Instead your actions resulted two front page articles in the Daily Reflector (DR), whose contents contain not just the vague references Mr. Mercer made, but also a huge amount of additional specific details. If you believed Mr. Mercer’s information was damaging to the airport project, we should have seen the DR quote you as saying, “I had hoped that all of this information would be contained, and thus I apologize that my actions resulted in even more information being disseminated to an even greater number of people.” But your major concerns were about Mr. Mercer as a council member candidate. First, you accuse Mr. Mercer of undeserved self promotion in his constituent e-mail. I got that initial e-mail. He takes no credit for anything regarding the airline project. It seems clear that he was taking the trouble to keep citizens informed about what Council would discuss that night. Second, you claim he has a “lack of knowledge of how economic development works”. Given your business problems with Restart being shut down and with back federal payroll taxes exceeding $600,000 owed (March 13, 2013 edition of the Daily Reflector), I am surprised that you would criticize others on their business acumen. (This is not a pot shot of opinion, but a fact, which I would not bring up except that your own statement raised this as a campaign issue.) In conclusion, your comments in those DR articles seem merely fatuous campaigning. But it gets worse! Now that I am aware of the clips cited above (Guardian UPDATE, AUGUST 7, 11:14 a.m.), I understand now that at least you and Mr. Thomas were aware that Mr. Mercer had NOT violated a confidence, and had indeed NOT shared any nonpublic information about the airline project, and that the information in Mr. Mercers newsletter was already public! To think that Mr. Vickers publicly accused Mr. Mercer of breach of confidence, when all three of you knew (or should have known) better! (As you say above, “it is sad the way the truth gets skewed”.) In conclusion, I would feel an idiot not to infer that your (and Mr. Thomas’) primary interest in this matter was to get some free campaign publicity, and strangely not very good publicity either. In my final analysis, I believe you used the Daily Reflector and Mr. Vickers to get some campaign mileage but instead shot yourselves in the foot.

      I am sorry you feel cut; but I bet my pain is at least as great as yours from my own disappointment in you. I expected better. I am indeed sorry for us both!

  4. Dennis Mitchell says:

    You can always tell that when a person can not win a policy argument they resort to negative personally attacks. I knew Calvin could not do it himself, so I was just waiting to see how he would inject my personal life into this campaign. Shameful and limitless.

  5. Cindy Reed says:

    Mr. Mitchell, I have to question your motives. I have not seen or read anything that Mr. Mercer has sent out that has attacked you or questioned your “personal life”. I have gotten his letters and yours and from my perspective you seem to be on the defense. I voted for you in the last election but based on how this campaign has started with you being very negative, right out of the starting gate, my vote will be going elsewhere this year.

    Negativity from so called professionals is a big turn off!

    Cindy Reed

    • Jackie Wyman says:

      Very well-said, Ms. Reed!

    • Carol Collins says:

      Cindy, I too have received Mr. Mercer’s informative newsletter and for many years. I have never read anything that he has written in these that has attacked Mr. Mitchell or his personal life. (In fact, in those newsletters, he attacks no one.) He is very careful to verify facts before he includes them in his newsletter, and not attack anyone. Clearly, his purpose in those letters is transparent government and an informed citizenry.

      One of the main reasons I have voted for Mr. Mercer in the past is that not only does he believe in transparent government in which all citizens participate, but he goes to an extraordinary mile to make this a reality. Those newsletters alone (written before and after Council meetings and in between) show the extraordinary effort Mr. Mercer makes to promote transparent government for an inclusive and informed citizenry throughout Greenville. These letters go to people all over Greenville, not just in his district, and not just to his supporters! Wow!

      He further promotes transparency in government and an inclusive and informed citizenry via his work directly with Council, including his voting record. For example, Mr. Mercer fought in Council to be sure that certain citizens were not excluded in the budget process in both 2011 and 2013 as the majority of council tried to do in 2011. If you recall in 2011, Council voted (Mr. Mercer dissenting) to create a limited membership workshop (that is some council members would not be participating). Mr. Mercer then successfully fought to allow all Council members to attend if they wanted and reminded all that the workshop had to be public anyway so any Council member could attend. Mr. Mercer further stood up for transparency in what followed. A couple of days after the public hearings on the final proposed budget, Council met to adopt the budget, at which time a few Council members, Mr. Mitchell included, decided to vote themselves a pay raise. These Councilors could have proposed a pay raise for themselves at the public meeting a couple of days before. (Note voting oneself a pay raise is illegal for the U.S. Congress and the N.C. Legislature.) Mr. Mercer voted against the entire budget because of that inclusion of the pay raise, and Mr. Mercer has not accepted any of that voted increase in pay for himself. In 2013, Calvin successfully fought to have the workshop meetings in a room where they could be televised so that citizens could view the proceedings at home.

      Mr. Mercer has proved by his constant and diligent work that he truly embraces inclusive, transparent, responsible government. Mr. Mercer focuses on good government not attacking individuals. Mr. Mercer has my trust and respect because he has earned it with not only words but deeds! Thank you, Mr. Mercer!

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