Accusations fly at Meck County Commissioners meeting - | WBTV Charlotte

Accusations fly at Meck County Commissioners meeting


It started as a meeting on Budget Public Policy but it ended with some Mecklenburg County Commissioners launching verbal attacks at each other.

"You go back to the old time as white men sitting in rooms making decisions for poor people" Commissioner Vilma Leake told one of her colleagues.

The meeting deteriorated when Commissioners George Dunlap and Dumont Clarke questioned the Chair of the Board, Pat Cotham, about recommending a consultant be hired to help the board with the recruitment process for a new County Manager, and also to examine the current management structure.

The two commissioners say Chairwoman Cotham didn't discuss it with all commissioners.

This is the first meeting Commissioners had since they fired long time County Manager Harry Jones last Tuesday night.

From accusations of ineffective leadership to sexism and racism, county commissioners didn't hold back.

"I want to make sure I get this right" said Commissioner George Dunlap. "Your leadership style is to talk to people who agree with you. Is that your leadership style?" Dunlap asked Chairwoman Cotham.

As Cotham paused, Dunlap demanded "answer the question."

"No" said Chairwoman Cotham. "That is not my leadership style."

Chairwoman Cotham said the consultant has not been hired, and she intends to have commissioners vote on the potential hire.

But the Board Chair acknowledged she didn't have preliminary discussions with Commissioners Dunlap and Clarke, and Vice Chair Kim Ratliff.

"Because you made it clear you were supporting the manager" Chairwoman Cotham said - referring to fired County Manager Harry Jones. "We're not talking about the manager" Dunlap replied.

Dunlap accused the Chairwoman of talking only to commissioners who support her agenda.

"I haven't had the pleasure of you calling me the way you call the rest of them" Dunlap told Cotham, who said "I talked to members of the board who have an interest in something new."

Commissioner Vilma Leake told the group "I'm listening to this dialogue. I hate that we have come to this juncture in the process and procedure."

Then Commissioner Leake said "I have never seen a male that sat in that seat to be harassed and dealt with as has happened here today."

When Commissioner Dunlap interjected "it's not harassment", Commissioner Leake fired back "I'm not talking to you. I'm talking to the body. We didn't ask for any questions."

Leake told her colleagues "we need to respect each other in this process, even in our tone."

And to Commissioner Dunlap she said "although you may not like us as women, I've never seen this happen before. And it's not about Pat. I'm talking about what's going on."

Leake then turned her attention to Commissioner Clarke, who earlier in the meeting told Chairwoman Cotham he was "disturbed" that the Board had no discussion about engaging a consultant.

"I mean you feel like you have the support of sufficient number of commissioners to do what ever you want" Clarke said. "But I think you have to follow some process... code of ethics."

Commissioner Leake told Clarke "you are one who sits here all the time, never speaks to people and always talking about what we don't do as if you are law and order. You go back to the old time as white men sitting in rooms making decisions for poor people. I refuse to accept it."

During an earlier part of the meeting, interim County Manager Bobbie Shields gave a report on his 7 days on the job so far.

Shields told Commissioners he's focusing on three areas: employees, service, and relationships.

Shields said "there's a degree of stress within the organization" for employees. He said county workers are hearing a lot of "negatives and they feel they're painted with the same negative brush."

Shields says he wants to make sure the county is focused on high quality service and professionalism. He's also looking to building and maintaining relationships internally and externally.

At the end of the meeting, his words were apparently forgotten.

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