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Government & Politics

Handling of Anton Black Death Investigation Seeps Into Local Election

Photo courtesy Town of Greensboro

Two challengers competing for seats on the Greensboro Town Council are running on platforms of better transparency and communication for residents – motivated, they said, by what they see as the town’s mishandling of Anton Black’s death investigation.

“They absolutely fouled that up in the worst way,” Ronald Deel, a business executive challenging Mayor Kevin Reichart in next Tuesday’s election, said of Black’s officer-involved death investigation. “What happened should not have happened. … It wasn’t handled properly at all.”

Crystal Anders, 40, who is vying for a council seat, said two cases – Black’s and sexual harassment allegations against a sitting commissioner who isn’t up for re-election – has made for a rough couple of years for Greensboro residents.

“There was a lot of information that needed to come out that didn’t,” Anders said. “I know the residents are upset.”

Since Black’s death after being held in police custody in September 2018, two Greensboro Police Department officials have left their positions. Former Greensboro Police chief Mike Petyo resigned in January, and Thomas Webster IV, the first responding officer on the scene that night, lost his police certification from the state – though for reasons not related to the African-American teenager’s death.

Black’s family, made up of a large contingent of parents, siblings and cousins, regularly attended monthly Council meetings in Greensboro, pushing for a speedier response in the officer-involved death investigation. After they received no answers from police or town officials for four months, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) stepped onto the scene, publicly calling for a quicker conclusion for the family.

Town officials hosted a candidate meet and greet for Greensboro residents on Oct. 17, but staff would not release any candidate information to the public prior to the event, including candidate registration forms.

In mid-October, Greensboro’s newest town clerk, Wendy Dixon, said voters who decided to attend the meet and greet would have the opportunity to listen to the candidates answer questions randomly selected by staff.

Deel, a 24-year resident of Greensboro and a business development manager at Mid-Atlantic Organic Resource Company, said he thinks town officials owe more to their constituents.

“The taxpayers deserve to know more about what’s being done with their money,” Deel said, describing the current town leadership as “weak” and possessing a “good old boy” mentality.

He said the water and sewer system needs to be replaced and called the condition of the roads “ridiculous.”

Deel said in his line of work at an organic compost manufacturing company, he works closely with Hogan, as well as with the state’s secretaries of Agriculture and the Environment.

“These things can be changed and not necessarily at the Greensboro’s people’s cost.”

Reichart, the incumbent mayor, did not respond to requests for comment. He was appointed to his position in April following the departure of former Mayor Joe Noon, who resigned due to health reasons.

On a candidate form provided by town staff, Reichart lists increasing the number of police officers, increasing communication with residents and continuing to implement the establishment of a citizen advisory committee as some of his campaign goals.

Greensboro officials promised Black’s family a citizen advisory committee would be considered as part of their efforts to work with the family.

Incumbent Councilman Angelo DeSimone, who was running for re-election, withdrew his name from the race Thursday, citing personal reasons, according to an announcement by the town. DeSimone did not respond to a request for comment.

Of the town’s four council seats, two are open this election cycle. Vice Mayor Michael Mackey and newly appointed commissioner Elouzia “Loge” Knight are not up for re-election.

DeSimone’s departure creates one council vacancy. Incumbent Councilman Robert “Bobby” Harrison, who was sworn in to office April 18, is running for a full term.

Remaining council candidates are for the two seats up next week: Anders, Brandon Cunningham and Victor Reynolds, according to the Greensboro town website.

Greensboro is a town of approximately 2,000 residents with about 1,500 registered voters.

Voting will be open from 7-9 a.m. and from 3-8 p.m. at the Town of Greensboro Commissioners meeting room.

Glynis Kazanjian is a freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].