Sunday, July 1, 2012

Allen, Doug and Robin: "[Brend Jones] Fox’s stealth bonus"

Self-dealing is a form of conflict of interest.

...“a situation where one takes an action in an official capacity
which involves dealing with oneself in a private capacity
and which confers a benefit on oneself."

...“You work for government and use your official position
to secure a contract for a private consulting company you own”
or “using your government position to get a summer job for your daughter”.

Where a fiduciary has engaged in self-dealing,
this constitutes a breach of the fiduciary relationship.


"After more than 41 years of service,
County Manager Brenda Jones Fox plans to retire in early 2013.

But apparently she won’t be going quietly...

In a move unanimously approved by the county commissioners,
Fox will receive a $61,000 bonus when she steps down...

Standard practice had been to cap retirement bonuses for county employees
with more than 30 years on the job at $16,500,
but the limit was temporarily lifted.

Only a privileged few people seemed to know that.

The change in policy was blessed by the commissioners during a March meeting
as part of a consent agenda,
a catch-all list of generally routine items that involve no discussion.

Apparently, many weren’t paying close attention
and didn’t realize what they were voting for.

Commissioner Chairman Melvin “Skip” Alston obviously did know
and basically has told his colleagues, “Tough.”

“If they had read what’s in their packets,” he told the News & Record’s Joe Killian,
“there wouldn’t be any confusion.”

Board members ...should carefully analyze all credible information
that is provided to them.

Code of Ethics for the Board of Commissioners
of Guilford County, North Carolina

Yet, while it’s true that commissioners should have read the fine print of their agenda,
such a significant shift in standard policy deserved a discussion.

They were hoodwinked.

And both Fox and Alston knew it.

Avoid using your knowledge of contemplated action by you or your unit,
or information known to you in your official capacity and not made public,
to acquire a financial interest in any property, transaction, or enterprise,
or to gain a financial benefit that may be affected by the information
or contemplated action.

Avoid intentionally aiding another to do any of these things. (G.S. 14-234.1)

Code of Ethics for the Board of Commissioners
of Guilford County, North Carolina

So were the taxpayers,
who are being told by Fox that the budget is so tight that spending on libraries, public health,
programs for the homeless and other social service needs
will have to be reduced or eliminated.

...Fox appears to have played her cards skillfully.

She told the commissioners of her intention to retire on May 3,
after the deadline for the special retirement bonus expired.

But she told the county’s human resources department,
though not in writing, before the May 1 cutoff.

...When asked by the News & Record if she thought the bonus was excessive,
Fox said, after being literally chased for a comment, “That’s a matter of opinion.”

In our opinion, it is.

The act itself is wrong as is the sneaky maneuvering that preceded it.

The commissioners should reveal all of the pertinent facts about this cynical episode.

...Then the board should urgently act to rescind this calculated effort
to take the money and run.

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