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Missteps, clashes with board cost Jones
County manager fired by bosses after 12 years
 
Published Wednesday, May 8, 2013 2:12 pm
by Herbert L. White

 

The long saga of Harry Jones’ exit as Mecklenburg County manager was as dramatic as the final years of his tenure.

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PHOTO/DANIEL COSTON
Harry Jones, who was Mecklenburg County manager for nearly 13 years, was fired by county commissioners on Tuesday by a 6-2 vote. Bobbie Shields was named interim manager.


County commissioners fired Jones on Tuesday by a 6-2 vote in closed session, ending a 12-year run as Mecklenburg’s chief administrator where he oversaw 4,400 employees and a $1.3 billion budget. Jones was replaced on an interim basis by deputy Bobbie Shields.


 “I just got fired, and guess what? I’ve still got calm and peace in my soul,” Jones told reporters. “I feel good. I feel good about what we’ve accomplished here in Mecklenburg County and I feel good about the staff that I put into place, that’s going to shepherd forward programs and services into the future.”


Jones, 63, has been a lightning rod of controversy in recent years. His appointment  and subsequent firing of Mary Wilson as Department of Social Services chief roiled public opinion over DSS’s operation amid allegations of cronyism and misappropriation of funds. Jones also rankled his bosses by not alerting them to a $60,000 settlement to former mental health director Grayce Crockett in 2011 and releasing information in former commissioner Jim Pendergraph’s personnel file.


Jones, who was hired in 2000, kept Mecklenburg’s financial house in order during the recession, balancing new construction during his early years and shepherding a new program that controlled the county’s debt and preserved its AAA bond rating.


Rancor over how Jones executed his duties and relationship with the board became frayed and commissioners reacted. It was exacerbated last year when the county was roundly criticized for a botched property tax revaluation and commissioners refused to give Jones a raise. Jones, who joined the county in 1981 as community development director and was named assistant manager in 1991, insisted he planned to stick around until the end of his contract in 2015 despite battling pancreatic cancer.


But that won’t happen now.

 

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