Sunday, October 17, 2010

Scott Yost on Steve Arnold, Brenda Fox Jones, Billy Yow, Paul Gibson, Skip Alston, Sharisse Fuller and Kirk Perkins

"Cries of County Cronyism Grow

...[Paul] Gibson isn't afraid to come right out and accuse Guilford County Manager Brenda Jones Fox of simply creating the high-paying new position specifically for Arnold – while the county has been cutting positions and leaving positions unfilled for two years straight.

"We ought to be impeached if we let this happen," Gibson said of the county commissioners after he first found out about the situation.

...[Brenda Jones Fox] said the new position should be beneficial to the county.

"Hopefully this will make us a lot more efficient..." Fox added.

...[Billy] Yow, who like Gibson, was obviously highly agitated, asked Fox: "With the state of the economy, laying people off, is this the right time to fill this position?"

"I think it is," Fox said.

...According to Yow, before this position was created, he had asked Fox about the planning director position, after it had remained unfilled for a while, and she told him at that time that the county was leaving it unfilled to save money. However, Yow said, suddenly, right before Arnold steps down from the Board of Commissioners, this new position pops up out of nowhere on the county's website and Fox is suddenly very gung ho about filling it.

Yow said the timing is extremely suspect. He said that, in the past, a position such as this one would always be added as part of the budget process in the summer, never in the middle of the fiscal year.

"I'll bet you they've never created any job like this," he said. "They don't typically start midstream with something like this."

Yow added that this is occurring when activity in the Planning and Development Department is very low because of the economy.

"Permits are down," Yow said.

He also said that, typically, county job announcements are advertised with a salary range. However, this want ad merely states that the salary is "negotiable."

A check of the county's website of all jobs being advertised by Guilford County shows that, of the 26 positions listed for Guilford County, all of the positions have a salary or salary range listed – with the exception of the land use director ad.

...Yow said the secretive nature surrounding the creation of the position is very suspicious.

"There's too many things wrong with it," Yow said of this bizarre process in which the third most powerful position in Guilford County government was created without some county commissioners even being aware of it.

...When [Sharisse] Fuller was asked for a list of all the places the land use director position had been advertised other than on the county's website, she said no ads had been placed anywhere else.

When Guilford County was looking for a county attorney – the last very high-level position the county filled – they had an ad campaign that included newspapers, legal publications, internet sites and the county highly publicized that position.

In the case of the land use director job, the position was quietly created and put on the county's website. There was no public announcement – and even some Guilford County commissioners only learned about the position by reading about it in The Rhinoceros Times that came out the morning of the Oct. 7 meeting.

...Not all of the commissioners are outraged.

Guilford County Commissioner Kirk Perkins said Arnold had every right to apply for the new job, and he said that, if Arnold does get the job, he had no doubt that would have only happened at the conclusion of a fair hiring process.

...It is true that Arnold would have to go through the same process as any other applicant before the decision of who to hire was made by Fox, one of his closest friends who he's backed doggedly through the years in many political battles.

Alston has said publicly that he backs Fox's decision to fill the position now – saying that having someone in that role could more than pay for the salary by savings in construction costs due to added oversight, and by saving the county money in other ways because it could operate more efficiently.

Yow commented on how interesting it was that Arnold and Alston teamed up and led the charge to get rid of the top county officials in late 2008 and then moved to put Fox and Fuller in as the top two, and now Arnold may get this job through a decision from Fox and he may have Alston's blessing.

"They were all in this together," Yow said. "Now they are trying to scratch each other's back. And it's not right."

Yow said the public outcry is already very loud and he added that this should be completely unpalatable to taxpaying citizens, so he isn't surprised by the angry reaction.

"People know the difference between right and wrong," Yow said."

Scott D. Yost
Rhino Times

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