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Mecklenburg County Commission Wants More Active Role In Governing

Robert Lahser
Charlotte Observer

  Mecklenburg County commissioners are now looking for a new county manager after they fired Harry Jones Tuesday night.  One thing is clear in the shake-up: the new manager won’t have as much autonomy. 

County government has had its problems of late.  For starters, there was the botched 2011 property revaluation.

“This is a special situation and so every part of it, in my view, we must do carefully,” said Commissioner Trevor Fuller at a meeting in December.

Commissioners were discussing a contract with a company to improve customer service in the tax assessor’s office.  He wanted the manager to hold off on the deal until the board met with the firm’s CEO.  That did not go over well with Jones. 

“It feels exactly like micromanagement to me,” replied Jones.  “We have an existing contract with this company and I have the delegated authority to approve that contract without this board’s approval.  This item was placed on the agenda to be transparent with you.”

It was not a good start and relations between Jones and the board, especially commission chairman Pat Cotham, did not improve.  Tuesday night, the board voted 6-to-2 to fire Jones. 

Several commissioners have clearly been irked with Jones over the past few months.  For example, back in January, the board was surprised to learn the state was having second thoughts about the county’s ability to oversee money for behavioral health services.  

Cotham says she wants the board to have more of an active role in county government.

“People deserve to know what is happening in county government,” says Cotham.  “We need to have that information and so we’ll be aggressive to set up some new things to make sure we do get the information we need and so the people are represented.”

Cotham says there’s a plan to ensure commissioners are more in the loop.  Part of that involves creating two interim positions that report directly to commissioners. 

Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.