Mecklenburg commissioner calls on chair to resign - | WBTV Charlotte

Mecklenburg commissioner calls on chair to resign


There is more drama with the Mecklenburg County Commissioners.

This time a commissioner is calling on the Chair of the board to step aside. It comes on the heels of Commissioners firing Harry Jones, the long time County Manager.

Commissioner Dumont Clarke, a democrat, sent an email to fellow democrat - Chairwoman Pat Cotham - telling her "you need to seriously think about stepping aside and letting someone else lead this county commission and speak for us."

Chairwoman Cotham tells WBTV she's not thinking of stepping down as Chair. She says she has" the support of majority of the board", and in her view - "they're moving forward."

This all started Friday when the Charlotte Business Journal ran an article about the commissioners terminating Jones.

The article quotes Chairwoman Cotham as saying "Harry was just part one," Cotham said. "This is the big part. I see a lot of waste and I see a lot of people who are under-challenged. Why are we paying somebody $60,000 to do a $30,000 job? This is what I'm seeing (at the county) and I'm going, 'What the hell are they doing?' "

Commissioner Dumont Clarke apparently didn't like the Chairwoman's comments.

WBTV obtained a copy of the email in which he wrote, "If I were counseling a corporate client on labor relations and I saw a comment in the press like yours copied and pasted below from today's Charlotte Business Journal by the Chairman of the Board about the corporation's work force, I would have apoplexy

Commissioner Clarke's email continues, "If you want to alienate the County's entire work force, you could not do a better job than to keep up what you are doing.  It's labor relations 101. What you are doing can have major repercussions for current and future county management and the taxpayers of this county.  After reading this comment, I frankly have come to the conclusion that you need to seriously think about stepping aside and letting someone else lead this county commission and speak for us."

Commissioner Clarke was not available for an interview with WBTV.

During an interview with WBTV, Chairwoman Cotham says "I certainly received a lot of good emails. And Dumont has the right to speak as all commissioners do. But I can't control what the media puts out there."

Cotham says she wasn't belittling county workers.

"As I talk to employees I don't think they feel like that way" she says. "And certainly I had a lengthy discussion with the Business Journal and they put in what they chose to put in and I can't control what they put in."

Commissioner Cotham says on terminating Harry Jones: "I've heard from so many employees. I met with some this morning in my office. I've had supervisors and directors say now we can finally talk to the Board. So I'm excited about the future."

Does she think some county workers are overpaid?

"I don't know what everybody makes. I haven't really checked all that" the Chairwoman says. "I think there's a lot of people who could - want to do more than they do, and have skills, abilities and training that they could."

 Commissioner Cotham believes her colleague's call for to step aside as Chair is not just about the news article. She thinks some of it has to do with Harry Jones' termination.

Commissioner Clarke was one of two who voted against firing Jones.

"I think everything has blended together" she says. "He didn't support our decision. He did not support who we wanted as interim manager."

Cotham says she's not surprised Commissioner Clarke asked for her to step aside. But she says she's not going anywhere.

Chairwoman Cotham says "the people are telling me - I'm hearing from the people - I'm getting tremendous support. I feel very positive about that."

In another email WBTV obtained Monday afternoon Commissioner Clarke writes to Chairwoman Cotham,

"Pat,  During our discussions with Bobbie Shields on Tuesday night about the board appointing him and his accepting the position of Interim County Manager, you told him that "We" want you to promote two current county employees (who you named) to specified senior positions in connection with his assumption of the duties of county manager on an interim basis.  At no time during our earlier discussions Tuesday evening about interim management  (or at any other duly called and held meeting of the board) did you or any other commissioner bring up for discussion or action by the Board the subject of these two board-directed personnel actions.  

The six of you who voted to fire Harry Jones Tuesday night must have agreed in your earlier private meetings or discussions on a plan to direct the interim county manager to make those personnel changes, but that non-transparent, secret decision making by a majority of the board does not constitute board action giving you the authority to tell the manager the board wants him to do something.  And please do not try to tell me that you were only speaking for the six of you who voted to fire Harry Jones when you used the pronoun "we."  When you use that term when speaking as the chairman to the manager at a meeting of the board, you are speaking for the board unless you make it abundantly clear you are speaking only for yourself or a subset of the board.  And you did not do so.

 Leaving aside the lack of any proper authorization by the Board for what you did, I have serious objections to the Board directing the manager to take these or any other specific personnel actions.  The board's role is to appoint the manager and let him make personnel decisions as he deems appropriate.  The two persons you named Tuesday evening are highly qualified individuals whom I respect greatly, but, regardless of their merits, politicians should not be making personnel decisions (or leaning on the manager to make them) other than the hiring and firing of the manager.  Once we cross that line, we not only undermine the authority of the person the board has appointed as manager (interim or otherwise), we greatly increase the risk that personnel decisions will become merely a function of who's in favor with the right group of politicians.  And will they really have the full respect of their peers when it becomes known, as it inevitably will, that the politicians, or in this case, a subset of them,  directed the manager to promote them to their positions. 

Rest assured, that I will continue to be both a trouble maker and an obstructionist - as I have recently been characterized - if you and your allies continue to go down this path now or in the future.  


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