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Local News

Board Chooses Not To Discipline Jones Over Crockett Settlement

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Mecklenburg County Commission prior to going to closed session.

http://66.225.205.104/LM20110216.mp3

Mecklenburg County commissioners decided last night not to discipline County Manager Harry Jones over the $60,000 settlement to former Area Mental Health Director Grayce Crockett. But they did scold him. They said he should have consulted them about it. They also said he misled the public by describing the settlement as vacation and sick leave. The board's verdict came after two closed door sessions which totaled three hours. One was before the commission meeting and one after. When commissioners came out shortly before 11:00pm, they had a page-long statement, which Chairman Jennifer Roberts said the whole board agreed on. The statement says Jones should have consulted commissioners about the settlement, but that ultimately he did have the authority to negotiate it without their say-so. They said the information released about Crockett's settlement was technically correct and made in "a good faith effort" to comply with state law, but they said it was misleading. Deputy County Attorney Tyrone Wade had said the county paid her $99,000 in accrued vacation and sick time, when most of that money was actually part of a settlement. Jones waited several days to correct that. Furthermore, the statement said Jones seriously erred when he released what the board called protected information about Commissioner Jim Pendergraph's payout when he retired as sheriff in 2007. Commissioners say he did it without malice. Jones has said he was complying with Commissioner George Dunlap's request. Jones apologized for his handling of Crockett's settlement. "In addition to my apology to the board of county commissioners, I publicly apologize to the public for any information you might perceive as incorrect and misleading," said Jones. Jones called the release of Pendergraph's retirement information a "lapse in judgment." Afterward, Jones wouldn't say why he thought it was in the best financial interest of the county to settle with Crockett. Crockett's lawyer says no lawsuit was threatened and a federal audit faulted her for mismanaging a contractor. "There are some issues relevant to the matter that I'm not prepared to talk about. This was a negotiated resignation and we'll leave it at that," said Jones. In the statement, commissioners said Jones must improve communication on personnel and other matters of public interest. They say they'll take this incident into account in Jones's annual performance evaluation this summer. Jones has apologized two other times in the past year-and-half for communication problems. In 2009 he forwarded a citizen's complaint about alleged misspending at DSS to the man's employer. And last year, he sent an email questioning whether library officials were trying to unduly influence a task force. Last night, commissioners also got a budget update. Jones mentioned there could be costs associated with planning for the DNC next year. He says he doesn't know at this point what they would be, but he said they could include remodeling the county's arrest processing center.