CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The North Carolina Metro Mayors Coalition has denied that it worked to plan the introduction of new nondiscrimination ordinances in cities across the state, following a WBTV story on Monday.
Documents provided by the City of Charlotte in response to a public records request show Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and City Attorney Patrick Baker have been leaders in an effort to plan for a new ordinance.
A similar ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council in 2016 prompted the legislature to pass the controversial House Bill 2.
A compromise bill passed by the General Assembly in March 2017 repealed HB2 and put a moratorium on any new local nondiscrimination ordinances through December 1, 2020.
Ahead of the sunset provision, Lyles was part of a conference call hosted by the Metro Mayors to discuss drafting a new ordinance. The call included a presentation from Equality NC.
In a statement to The Insider, a government-focused newsletter from the Raleigh News & Observer, the Metro Mayors said that, although it hosted the meeting at which Equality NC presented its plan for a new ordinance effort, it was not involved in such plans.
The Insider ran the following clarification on Wednesday, one day after linking to the WBTV report:
“An item in Tuesday’s Insider, on efforts to pass new local nondiscrimination ordinances once portions of House Bill 2 expire, referenced meeting notes that were largely based on a presentation from the advocacy group Equality NC. The views expressed did not represent the positions of the mayors who were present, according to the Metro Mayors Coalition, which hosted the discussion. City leaders attending did not advocate for statewide nondiscrimination legislation, and they did not make any claims about having support from the NC Chamber, according to the coalition.”
But emails produced by the City of Charlotte to WBTV show plans by the Metro Mayors, the City of Charlotte and other cities to actively work on drafting and passing a nondiscrimination ordinance.
Beau Mills, who runs the Metro Mayors Coalition, sent an email to mayors and city attorneys following the conference call on October 16.
The email started by pointing out the slides from Equality NC’s presentation on the call were attached.
“We will check in again on Friday, Nov. 6 at 10am. I will send an OUTLOOK calendar invitation for that under separate cover,” Mills wrote.
“I have included city attorneys in this email as well. Patrick Baker and Nick Herman have agreed to help with organizing the city attorneys…”
Herman is the attorney for the Town of Carrboro.
In a separate email sent on October 22, an attorney who works for the City of Durham reached out to Baker about the nondiscrimination ordinance.
“I will be working with Kim on Durham’s potential efforts to pass non-discrimination legislation after the Sunset of HB 142,” the email began.
The Durham attorney wanted a copy of the ordinance the City of Charlotte implemented in 2016.
Kimberly Rehberg, the city attorney for the City of Durham, took notes of the October 16 meeting and sent them to Baker after the call.
The notes say that Mills, the Metro Mayors director, “will reach out to local governments government relations divisions and the Governor’s office.”
The notes also show there was some discussion on the call about Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro being first to pass ordinances in their cities.
“Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro move together after January?” the notes said.
Mills continued to deny any effort by his group or any city when reached by WBTV and presented with the emails on Thursday.
“The Metropolitan Mayors Coalition statement regarding this meeting and its purpose was truthful and insinuations to the contrary are false,” Mills said in an email to WBTV about his statement to The Insider.
Mills did not respond to a follow-up inquiry asking for how his continued denial squared with the emails produced by the City of Charlotte.
A spokesman for Lyles and Baker has not responded to a request for comment regarding their plans to draft and introduce a nondiscrimination ordinance in Charlotte.
A spokesman for Equality NC did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.