Lightner threatens countersuit against City of Raleigh

March 8, 2012 4:09:17 AM PST
The son of civil rights leader and former Raleigh mayor Clarence Lightner has threatened to file a lawsuit against the city if it doesn't drop its lawsuit against him.

The whole thing has to do with money Bruce Lightner owes the city after he rented the convention center for Michael Jackson's funeral.

Lightner worked out a payment plan with the city after he rented out the building but he stopped paying that a few months ago.

It was supposed to be a tribute to Jackson but turnout was terrible and Lightner wound up owing Raleigh $24,000. He set up in a payment plan of just $50 a month and that was enough to get the attention of a concerned citizen, Joey Stansbury.

"They were giving this gentleman very preferential, behind the scenes treatment," said Stansbury.

The city says this is standard operating procedure -- get the money however you can.

"I have a hard time believing that," said Stansbury.

In a string of emails that Stansbury said he got through an open records request, Lightner does reference a special deal but not the payment plan. He said the remainder of the debt, $11,000, was supposed to be forgiven and he references former Mayor Charles Meeker.

"Was he speaking to Mr. Lightner behind the scenes and telling him he was going to try to get the City of Raleigh to waive an $11,000 debt owed?" asked Stansbury.

"No, he should be treated the same as everybody else," said Meeker.

Meeker said the question of whether Lightner should get preferential treatment did come up, but Lightner never got a sweetheart deal.

When asked if there was ever a plan to give Mr. Lightner special treatment or write-off that entire debt, Meeker answered, "I'm not aware of anything like that. I didn't discuss that."

Now, the city is suing Lightner to get that $11,000 back.

Lightner has tried to work out another deal. In one recent email to the city attorney, he appears to use race as a potential leverage point saying, "I also know that the new convention center, as was the old one, would never have been built if it were not for the support of Raleigh's Black community. If I recall correctly, you and others in the White community were against building either convention centers."

In another email, Lightner considered suing the city for potentially using his father's name, the late Mayor Clarence Lightner, for a new public safety building.

"I hope to bring Attorney Wade Smith on board," said Lightnerin another email, "if the city continues to disrespect me and my family, for him to prepare a lawsuit against the city for their unlawful use of my late father's name."

ABC11 spoke to Lightner on the phone Wednesday. He had little to say except that this would all be resolved by Monday. He wouldn't say what that meant.

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