Harry Jones' problems keep piling up

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On the heels of yet another report detailing yet more lax management and poor oversight by the county, additional damning information has now come out about Harry Jones’ reign as county manager. Today’s Observer reveals a series of e-mails that offer a distressing peek inside county management, this time related to Jones’ dealings with a new library system steering committee. As with most governmental in-house disputes, the details are overly intricate, convoluted and wrapped in championship-caliber egotism, but overall, they point, as usual, to King Harry's high opinion of his self.

The short version is that Jones pitched a fit when the steering committee was set up, but not in the way Jones wanted. He griped that library leaders and UNC Charlotte chancellor Jim Woodward took part in the meeting, and accused them of a “bait and switch” and trying to take control of the committee’s mission. Jones’ e-mail was answered by library trustee Bob Sink, one of the people whose attendance so irritated Jones. Then Jones' top aide, John McGillicuddy, chimed in. You can read the entire series of e-mails here, but what we found most striking — other than a capacity for excess verbiage — is the sense of self-importance evinced by Jones and McGillidcuddy. Jones uses a bullying tone in his e-mail, and he doesn’t just object to how the steering committee meeting was held, he finds it “a personal affront to me” and threatens “withdrawing my support for the process.” McGillicuddy reminds Bob Sink that “I have ample experience in such matters and am speaking from this direct experience,” and that organizing committees is “one of my areas of expertise.”

In a way, those e-mails are standard governmental in-house macho posturing. What’s different, though, is that the bullying tone and threats come at a time when many people are fed up with Jones’ management — the result of several publicized mistakes and botched maneuverings.

The county manager drew the community’s wrath when he accepted a $38K bonus on the heels of cutting county jobs and denying raises for everyone else who worked for the county. In addition, consider Jones’ slow, agonizing mismanagement of the county’s response to the DSS missing-money scandal; his attempt to silence a critic by forwarding the critic’s e-mail to the man’s corporate boss; the textbook poor management shown by waiting until the last minute to tell schools, libraries and parks that they had to make wrenching budget cuts; and the recent revelation of poor, or nonexistent, oversight of the Open Door nonprofit that handled more than $1.7 million in federal funds for the Shelter Plus Care program; add those up, and now add the reminder today of Jones’ imperious, prickly, bullying style. It’s no wonder that whenever more than a couple of people gather in Charlotte these days, and the conversation turns to local government, the one question that’s nearly always asked is, “How does Harry Jones keep his job?” As we’ve written before, that’s a great question, and someone — preferably Jennifer Roberts, chair of the county commission — needs to give a clear answer.

Harry Jones: It's good to be the king
  • Harry Jones: It's good to be the king

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