County Manager Harry Jones told county employees Tuesday that he intends to stay on the job through 2015, brushing off speculation that he may retire earlier.
Jones had planned to talk about proposed revisions to his contract with Mecklenburg commissioners in closed session before the boards regular meeting Tuesday evening. The Observer reported Monday that some commissioners said Jones was expected to talk about his future, and could offer a proposal to step down before 2015.
But Jones contract is still being written by his attorney, and the subject wasnt discussed.
After the Observer story, the county manager spent part of Tuesday morning addressing the speculation about his future in an email to staff: my stated intentions have not changed. I plan to remain as county manager until I retire in the last quarter of calendar year 2015, he wrote.
I recognize that speculation in the news media can be distracting. However, I also know you will be able to set aside such distractions as you continue to focus your attention on serving the citizens of Mecklenburg County.
Charlotte lawyer John Gresham, who represents Jones on his latest contract, told the Observer Tuesday the latest document states that Jones plans to retire on Nov. 2, 2015. Jones will be 65 then.
The county manager has not indicated to anyone that he was planning to leave anytime before the date he had stated he wanted to retire, Gresham said. With Harrys health issues and with the new county commission, were trying to put together a contract that addresses every eventuality.
Jones contract has been revised six or seven times in the past 13 years, Gresham said.
Jones has been battling pancreatic cancer, but his treatments havent kept him from his job. If they should, there is a provision that both parties can be comfortable with, Gresham said. Harry monitors his health and his doctors tell him hes fully capable of performing his duties.
And I think almost every county manager has a provision that deals with finances if a commission decides they dont want someone.
Gresham said he is working with County Attorney Marvin Bethune to clarify some language in the proposed contract and it is not ready yet to be presented to commissioners. That is why it wasnt discussed during the closed session.
Its not any attempt to delay things, Gresham said. We want to be clear so that when it is presented to the board there wont be any ambiguities.
On Tuesday, commissioners Chairwoman Pat Cotham said she was disappointed that Jones told his staff about the proposed contract before the commissioners, his bosses.
Traditionally, a CEO would share information like this with his board of directors, in this case the board of county commissioners, Cotham said. But Harry opted to send an email to county employees and had his attorney call the newspaper to announce his hopes for a new contract.
I expected a more traditional discussion out of respect to the commissioners.
That likely will come during the boards first meeting in April, Gresham said. He said he will request that he be allowed to attend that closed session so we can deal with any questions that come up about the contract.
Jones and other top county administrators have faced intense scrutiny in recent years, and tensions have grown between the manager and some commissioners recently.
This is at least the second time in recent years that Jones has sent messages to county staff to address speculation about his future. In February 2011, amid criticism over a payout to the countys former mental health director, Jones said he remained committed to the county and had not and will not consider resigning, and have no plans to retire in the immediate future.
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