"Schools Not Crazy About Construction Czar
Members of the Guilford County Board of Education aren't brimming with joy at the idea of having Guilford County Commissioner Steve Arnold help them out.
...The idea of a construction czar with a mandate to look into school construction is anathema to the school board, which doesn't want anything but money from the commissioners.
...When asked about the construction czar position, and the possibility of Arnold filling it, school board members questioned the statutory authority of the county commissioners to create such a position, the appropriateness of offering it to Arnold, and the wisdom of spending an estimated $99,000 to $168,000 a year on the position.
...school board members' reactions ranged from doubt to outright hostility.
"It's the county commission's business," school board Chairman Alan Duncan said. "I think our facilities staff is working very hard to manage these jobs as we're sitting here now. We already have personnel in place to conserve the county's money, and we're working hard to do that."
...School board member Garth Hebert was the most vocal critic of the county creating the new position and of the possibility of Arnold filling it. Hebert said the county already has building inspectors and that he thinks the new position is merely a way to reward Arnold...
"I have a big problem with leaving a political office and taking a job that was influenced by it," Hebert said. "I don't give a flip about party affiliation. There's no need for that position."...
Hebert said the county would be spending money to create the position at a time when it should be making every effort to save money.
"I'm kind of curious what it's supposed to accomplish, other than to get money to Steve Arnold," Hebert said. "That's kind of disgusting. I'm sorry, that's a waste of taxpayer money. And it's not like we can afford to throw it around." He added, "You can call it the fair employment act for former county commissioners."
School board member Deena Hayes said Arnold wouldn't be her top pick for the position.
"I thought Steve was just stepping back so he could regroup professionally," Hayes said. "Given the concerns about some of his other transactions, I don't think that would be an effective alliance."
Hayes said that, to her knowledge, Arnold has no experience in school construction. She said, "I'm not aware that he has any expertise in that area."
...Arnold was denied the protection of bankruptcy by the courts because of fraudulent activity.
School board member Nancy Routh said the idea of creating the construction czar position raises 50 questions she can't answer.
"I would just like to know how that was created, and what it is that would establish that kind of position – whether that's a county decision, why it hasn't been like that in the past and what there is now that allows that change," Routh said. "Certainly, those are things that the school board would expect answers to. I would expect to have it explained to me in detail and have some indication of where the authority came from to do that."
School board member Kris Cooke...said if the construction czar position was created for Arnold, the county needs to acknowledge that fact.
"You don't want to keep things like that quiet," she said. "It's the people's money, and it needs to be out there."
School board member Paul Daniels said the creation of the construction czar position raises issues of cronyism and secrecy.
"I'm disappointed that our county commissioners would create a job that appears tailor-made for one of their own who's leaving," Daniels said. "Especially someone who in his 20 years on the board has trumpeted small government and conservatism. If it turns out that the county commissioners have designed a job for which Steve Arnold is the perfect candidate, I think that's bad news for Guilford County government. That's not anything I would ever want to be involved in, because it undermines public confidence, which is the worst thing that can happen to public officials."
Guilford County is now run by Arnold, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, Guilford County Manager Brenda Jones Fox and Assistant County Manager Sharisse Fuller."
Paul C. Clark