An agenda item for the first day of a three-day planning conference for Mecklenburg County commissioners is described as a briefing by a UNC-Chapel Hill government professor on the county-manager form of government.
The Wednesday briefing might have been included because the board has four new members. But it comes as the divide between some commissioners and County Manager Harry Jones grows ever wider.
Some commissioners, including Chair Pat Cotham, have been critical of Jones and his management team for not keeping them adequately informed about some issues.
Those issues include high-profile problems with the 2011 revaluation, the countys troubled social services agency, and the near loss of more than $200 million in federal and state money for mental health services.
Much of the criticism has been focused on a lack of oversight by Jones and his managers.
There have been more fires to put out than I expected, said Commissioner Trevor Fuller, one of the four new board members. I hope we can stop putting out fires and put our energy into moving things forward in a positive way.
My hope is that this conference is a big step toward moving ahead, rather than looking behind.
It will start Wednesday with an 11 a.m. closed session called by Cotham to discuss a personnel matter 1 1/2 hours before the conference is to start. Cotham, also new to the board, declined to talk about the subject. But a series of emails between commissioners shows that Jones is not invited.
Initially, hed said he had family commitments on Wednesday and wouldnt get to the conference until the conference begins. But on Monday and Tuesday, Jones sent Cotham emails that said his conflict wouldnt keep him from attending the closed session.
Thank you Harry, Cotham responded Tuesday, however I would like you to attend (a closed personnel meeting) on Feb. 5, not the one this week.
Jones didnt return a call from the Observer.
This meeting is just for the commissioners, Cotham told the Observer. Hopefully this will give us time to discuss our relationships among the board members, and between the board and staff. I want the commissioners to feel free to say whats on their mind.
Cotham had wanted to hold the conference at a county park and recreation facility, which would have been free and more accessible. But Jones scheduled it at the Foundation for the Carolinas uptown, which Cotham said will cost the county $800 and is less accessible.
Other agenda items include working effectively, getting an economic forecast for the county from UNC Charlotte Economist John Connaughton and Michael Brown of Wells Fargo Bank, learning about the financial status for fiscal year 2013, and planning a new county budget.
View the full agenda for the commissioners retreat at http://bit.ly/WxzFbt