Government Accountability Project Asheville

The Buncombe County Commission meets this Tuesday, April 4th, 2023 at 5 pm. You can attend the meeting at 200 College Street, Room 326 in downtown Asheville. You can watch the meeting online via Buncombe County’s Facebook page. The full agenda is here.


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Use our prepared email template to take action on this week’s item.



Things of concern, more information needed

Asheville Environment and Safety Committee meeting March 28, 2023 (agenda)

Asheville Fire Department Assistant Chief Captain Patrick Crudup led a presentation on the Community Responder Pilot Program. The pilot is set to launch in May, and is intended to mesh with the County’s Community Paramedic Initiative. The goal is “to focus collective efforts to assist persons that are unsheltered and/or experiencing addiction or experiencing behavioral health issues.”

This appears to be a step in the right direction, but we would like to see a more detailed breakdown of how the program will work, and especially how the Community Responders will be trained. The presentation is light on specifics, and there is no reference to any racial equity training for the folks taking these new positions. Is that part of the vision? If it isn’t, we think it needs to be. And if it is, we’d like to hear more about how that training will be implemented.

Things to do

We encourage you to reach out to Asheville Environment and Safety Chairperson Maggie Ullman, as well as her two City Council colleagues who sit on the Committee, and Assistant Fire Chief Crudup, who made the presentation. Ask them whether there is any plan for training the new members of their Community Responder team around the racial issues that will inevitably come up as they do their important work.

We have prepared an email template that addresses this issue (see content below). You can (a) use our Committee Chair template link to open up an email to adapt, (b) copy and paste the content below, or (c) write your own message to,,, and

Follow Up: Asheville Business Inclusion office vacancy

In last week’s GAP Report, we raised questions about the Asheville Business Inclusion (ABI) office, which oversees the City’s outreach to Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) for possible contracted work. We noted that the Manager position at ABI had been vacant for some time, asked when the City planned to fill that position, and wondered whether there was a connection between that vacancy and the fact that the ABI had no performance data to share.

Several GAP subscribers received a response from the City’s Financial and Programmatic Compliance Specialist Tom Downing. A summary of his response: the City has revised the job description and increased the pay for the ABI Manager position and plans to post it in early April. The City has also hired a contractor to “assist with improving outcomes related to the City’s engagement with MWBE business.” (You can read Mr. Downing’s full response below.)

We are glad to hear that the City plans to post the ABI Manager position early this month, and that they have upgraded the compensation. We’re not familiar with the work of C. A. Construction Services (the hired contractor), but we appreciate that the City is giving some attention to improving its performance on engaging MWBE businesses. We’re still puzzled about why there is no performance data, and also why the Manager position has been left open for six months. We plan to monitor this situation and will update you as we learn more.

Things to do

We are not recommending action at this time. We will be monitoring the listing of open positions with the City of Asheville to see if the Asheville Business Inclusion Manager job is posted early this month, as stated by Mr. Downing.


You can open this email in your own email program by clicking here. To proceed manually, you can copy and paste the text below into an email and then address it to City Council Members Ullman, Kilgore, and Smith and Assistant Fire Chief Crudup (email addresses below).

Send to:

CC:,, and

Subject: Racial Equity training for Community Responders

Dear Council Member Ullman,

I read about the presentation at the last Environment and Safety Committee meeting from Assistant Fire Chief Crudup about the Community Responder Pilot Program. I’m encouraged to see this program moving along, but wondered whether there is a plan to include a racial equity training for the personnel being onboarded into these new positions. Could you share what you know about such a plan, or pursue that information, and then get back to me?

Thanks for your leadership,

Response from City on Asheville Business Inclusion questions

Thank you for contacting the City Council regarding the ABI Manager. I’ve cc’d the City Council on this email.

Please find the following information in response to your concerns regarding the continuation of the important work being done by City Staff to advance Asheville Business Inclusion goals.

ABI Manager

The ABI Manager position has been vacant since fall 2022. Since the position was vacated, duties have been distributed to other staff across the organization to ensure compliance with the City of Asheville Business Inclusion Contracting Policy. While every department has compliance requirements, training and technical assistance for the organization has been provided primarily by the Capital Projects Business Manager and Interim Assistant Director of Community & Economic Development.

Over the past month, the Community & Economic Development Department has worked with Human Resources to review the job description and compensation associated with the ABI Manager position and, due to the importance of the ABI program, have elevated the position to a higher pay band. The revised job description will be advertised in early April with a goal of filling the position as quickly as possible.

Disparity Study Update

Frank McGowan, our Interim Assistant Director of Community & Economic Development, will continue to serve as the primary staff support for ABI until the ABI Manager is filled. In his support of the ABI function, Mr. McGowan is currently serving as the project manager for the Disparity Study Update Project. The objective of this project is to determine the effectiveness of the City’s current ABI Program and recommend any necessary modifications and adjustments. Disparity studies are the primary means by which municipalities determine whether there is legal justification for the establishment, continuation or modification of programs designed to promote the full and fair participation of minority and women business enterprises (M/WBE) in government contracting. The City Council Equity & Engagement Committee will receive updates on the Disparity Study Project at their May 2023 meeting.

Business Engagement

Over the past week, the Community & Economic Development Department entered into an agreement with C.A. Harris Construction Services, Inc. (Carl Harris) to assist with improving outcomes related to the City’s engagement with MWBE business. Mr. Harris brings expertise in the area of analyzing projects, identifying methods to improve utilization of MWBE businesses, and then performing community outreach to engage businesses available to bid on those projects.

Staff will provide updates on the ABI Manager selection and the Disparity Study Update Project through future Agenda Briefings and the City Council Equity & Engagement Committee. You can find information on these meetings here.

You may notice from my email signature… that I work in the Finance Department. I’m temporarily helping out to answer emails while the City searches for a permanent staff member in the City Manager’s Office who can fulfill that role for the City Council.

Best wishes and kind regards,

Tom Downing
Finance Department; Financial & Programmatic Compliance Specialist