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Text messages show fractured relationship of Charlotte’s top leaders after removal of homeless residents of ‘Tent City’

WBTV Investigates: The messages come from Mecklenburg Manager Dena Diorio during the removal of 150 homeless people from Tent City last February because of a rat infestation
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 3:29 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - New text messages uncovered by the WBTV Investigates team raise questions about whether two of Charlotte’s top leaders can work together.

The messages come from Mecklenburg Manager Dena Diorio during the removal of 150 homeless people from Tent City last February because of a rat infestation.

WBTV Investigative Reporter David Hodges reported extensively on the controversy between the city and county during the Tent City crisis and first asked for these text messages nearly a year ago, but it wasn’t until recently that he received them.

Related: Miscommunication and lack of plan marred Tent City abatement order

The messages show egos and disagreements started to get in the way of last year’s effort to relocate more than 100 homeless people from a makeshift camp called Tent City.

Related: Commissioners praise Tent City response while also pointing out it wasn’t perfect

One text just about summed up attitude from Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio during the Tent City abatement order.

Diorio wrote, “The city is useless!”

Related: Charlotte homeless encampment ‘Tent City’ cleared out following abatement order

Assistant County Manager Anthony Trotman responded “Very useless! We need to call them out.”

To which Diorio responded, “Agreed.”

Texts between Diorio and Trotman show agreement on "calling the city out."
Texts between Diorio and Trotman show agreement on "calling the city out."(WBTV)

“I was surprised, and quite frankly, very disappointed,” Diorio said in a subsequent news conference.

The messages, – produced by the county in response to a public records request, shed more light on the extent of the disagreement between Diorio and her counterpart, City Manager Marcus Jones.

Related: Meck. Co. manager cites ‘community problem’ as Tent City forced to clear

With Diorio’s animosity coming to a head over the city’s refusal to provide buses to move the Tent City residents – unless Diorio called Jones directly.

Diorio wrote, “This is bull***”

Texts between County Manager Dena Diorio (blue) and Assistant County Manager Anthony Trotman...
Texts between County Manager Dena Diorio (blue) and Assistant County Manager Anthony Trotman (grey) show a reluctance to ask Marcus Jones for help after previous disagreements.(WBTV)

Related: Mecklenburg County issues Abatement Order for homeless ‘Tent City,’ few answers given on enforcement

More text messages from county employees show continued irritation with the city response and a fractured relationship.

One employee wrote “They will (sic) obviously be upset and make excuses and present an image that we didn’t understand or we had poor planning. Which is not true.”

A text message from former Public Health Director Gibbie Harris shows the beginning of an...
A text message from former Public Health Director Gibbie Harris shows the beginning of an agreement for transporting the homeless from Tent City but it would require an "ask" of Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones.(WBTV)

WBTV Investigates asked if the text messages showed a relationship beyond repair and whether there would be issues with the City Manager and County Manager working together in the future.

County spokesperson Danny Diehl wrote, “No, the working relationships between the city, county and all local government agencies are strong and we are very prepared to handle emergencies now and in the future.”

This example is one reason why some local elected leaders, including city councilmember Malcolm Graham, have publicly expressed a desire for a consolidated government but currently, there’s no push to make that happen.

Despite the disagreements between the city and county, ultimately public officials were pleased...
Despite the disagreements between the city and county, ultimately public officials were pleased with how the relocation happened with the help of outside organizations.(WBTV)

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