Nothing like a little "Survivor" style reality show drama to make life in the Queen City interesting. The continuing fallout from the County's DSS fiasco has mandated more back stabbing, scheming and plots than Cedar Posts can detail in what should be a short blog post but here goes:
Mecklenburg County's manger Harry Jones went on the offensive Saturday using his alliance with the Blue Tribe aka "Taxusumora" (tax-us-some-more-a) Commissioner George Dunlap in an effort to drop an email bomb showing that the Red Tribe "Nosoupforu" (no-soup-for-you) Commissioner Jim Pendergraph, walked away with a little extra in his pocket when he left the employment of the county back in 2007:
From Harry Jones To Members of the Board:
On Thursday, I received a request from Commissioner Dunlap to provide him the sick and vacation leave payout amounts for Commissioner Pendergraph upon his retirement in 2007. I provided (left it in his office) that information to Commissioner Dunlap on yesterday evening. I am uncertain if Commissioner Dunlap has seen the information yet. Nonetheless, earlier this morning I met with Jim and provided him a copy of the information. I share this information with you for two reasons: (1) because it will show that I provided an exception for Jim’s vacation leave payout; and, (2) I don’t want you to be surprised if you receive questions about this from others.
This exception resulted in him being paid for an additional 147.76 hours above the 240 hours our policy allows.
Please let me know if you have questions.
It didn't take long for more emails to follow. Of course every "Survivor" reality show must have a "hottie" trouble maker in this case it's Nosoupforu Tribe's Commissioner Karen Bentley, who after talking to the WBT and taxpayers via the airwaves on Friday chirped up with this email on Saturday:
"What is the intent of asking for Commissioner Pendergraph’s retirement package details. Should we perhaps see the retirement packages from Commissioner Leake as well as Commissioner Dunlap?"
Taxusummorea Tribe's Dunlap replied:
I would be happy for you to see mine. I support both the city and the county’s policy for retirees. You should be concerned if I benefit from it and then say I don’t like it. You don’t get to have it both ways. If it’s wrong now, it was wrong then.
Of course no Survivor show is complete without an old out of shape guy, so on Survivor Mecklenburg County we have Nosoupforu Tribe Commissioner Bill James who "weighed in" with:
I would also like to request Vilma’s retirement package calculation from CMS as well. During the period she was with CMS as a teacher she was calling herself ‘Dr.’ and CMS provided additional pay (and therefore additional retirement money to those that qualified as having Masters or Doctors degrees. Based on what came out later, it turns out she wasn’t a ‘doctor’ and hadn’t finished her degree.
I will copy Peter Gorman and ask him to e-mail the board Vilma’s retirement package details now that it is possible to review them under open records law.
Glad you are OK with folks seeing yours George. Harry – can you ask the City to e-mail George’s retirement package info to the Board please?
As long as we are doing this might as well go ‘all in’. If the County’s packages are public then so are the City’s and CMS’. Let’s see them all.
Finally the grizzled old military type so necessary to the conflict, drama and the eventual outcome of the Survivor Mecklenburg County reality show, Red Tribe Commissioner Pendergraph responded:
This morning, after a meeting at the Ballantyne Hotel, Manager Jones gave me an envelope containing my sick leave/vacation payout info from when I retired November 2007. I was in Washington, D.C. when this paperwork was initiated, as I started a new job with Homeland Security on Dec. 1, 2007. This morning is the first time I have ever seen this paperwork with the attached form titled “Payout Exceptions For Retiring Employees”.
Manager Jones said Taxusummorea Commissioner Dunlap asked for this information and it was pulled from my personnel file. I question whether divulging information from a personnel file, without permission, is proper procedure. Manager Jones presented this paperwork to me as an example of other ‘exceptions’ he had made regarding payouts.
Now the facts:
1. This form and my retirement payout has nothing to do with the issue at hand regarding the decision by Manager Jones to payout Grace Crockett and his failure to inform the BOCC. This has nothing to do with his decision to continue to keep this payout of Grace Crockett a secret even after the media was reporting this huge sick leave payout with incorrect information provided by the county attorney and manager.
2. County policy, to the best of my recollection, states that if an employee accrues more than 240 hours of vacation, that on January 1 of the next year, the hours above 240 are converted to sick leave. An employee retiring in mid-year, as I did, is paid out all the accrued vacation hours upon retirement. This is a standard practice according to other county employees. Manager Jones commented to me, when he gave me the envelope this morning, that I had requested an exception for my vacation payout. I have no recollection of this conversation and did not need to make a request because this was a standard procedure. If it were not, why would there be a form for exceptions?
3. I have a concern this is an attempt to throw up a smoke screen to diffuse the issue at hand regarding the County manager. I don’t care to be the smoke.
Blue Tribe Leader Jennifer Roberts, tried to make nice saying:
I would like more information, including whether Jones acted within open records law when he released Nosoupforu Tribe member Pendergraph's information.
The otherwise quiet and reserved but always last to take blame Blue Tribe Commissioner Harold Cogdell, urged calm from all board members and Jones:
"We are better than this ... " Cogdell wrote in an e-mail. "The community expects more of us than to personalize any issue."
Earlier Taxusomemorea Tribe leader Jennifer Roberts who has often given Harry Jones the "Immunity Idol" stated that county policy only allows Jones to give settlements of less than $30,000 without consulting the commission. Roberts went on to say that:
"If it was a clear violation, I think there are going to be consequences.” Roberts admits that trust had become a factor with members of the public, but that she wants them "to feel like they can trust county government and we're going to do whatever we can to restore that trust."
At issue of course is Mental Health Director Grayce Crockett’s settlement of more than 90k in vacation, unused sick days and whatever else Harry Jones came up with to get her to volunteer to be his "goat" for the tribal council sacrifice.
More on Harry Jones Hush Money at Pundit House and Mark Pellin is here.
More from the "Local Paper" is here.
The real issue is that Harry Jones has lied again to the Mecklenburg BOCC and the taxpayers. As one might expect it seems the Taxusumora Tribe is once again going to give Jones the imunity idol, even though the truth is that 60k of Crockett's final pay has nothing at all to do with sick or vacation pay, it was simply hush money.
The Red tribe Nosoupforu may have started the process leading us all down this jungle path to the tribal council on Tuesday, but without a munity of at least one Tribe Taxusumora member there is little hope of Jones being voted off Survivor Mecklenburg County.
Cedar's money is on Roberts handing the Immunity Idol to Jones in the closed door session vs holding a vote in an open meeting.