A day after Mecklenburg commissioners fired County Manager Harry Jones, board members said Wednesday more staff shakeups are possible.
Among them is a proposal to hire retired BellSouth executive Krista Tillman to help guide the county in the search for a new manager and to lead a study on effectiveness and efficiency of government operations. She’d be paid $250 an hour and work at least eight hours a week under the proposal.
Some commissioners also want to hire a former Union County tax administrator to lead the county’s assessor’s office, which has faced criticisms after the flawed 2011 revaluation.
Republican commissioner Bill James said more changes in management are up for discussion. “There will be a discussion about whether the people in their jobs should continue doing their jobs,” James said.
Some board members say they think bringing in new leadership could help restore public confidence in county government. But at least one commissioner has questioned the way some of ideas have been rolled out.
Democrat Dumont Clarke said he did not learn details of the plan to hire Tillman until after the board appointed Bobbie Shields as interim manager. He voiced concern about language that Tillman would be expected to provide “executive leadership” to Shields and other county workers. He questioned why the proposal – which he said appeared to essentially create a “super manager” – wasn’t discussed with Shields before his appointment.
But supporters say the transition manager would offer guidance to commissioners and staff without adding another layer of management.
Tillman dismissed suggestions that she would be seen as the de facto interim manager. She estimated that less than 10 percent of her time would be devoted to performing as a resource for Shields and other employees.
Commissioners Chairwoman Pat Cotham, a Democrat, said the proposal for the transition manager comes after “serious financial and operational failures” such as the revaluation and misspending at a former mental health contractor.
If approved by commissioners, Tillman also would oversee the efficiency study, help in the search for a new county manager and launch an independent review of the county’s Department of Social Services.
Republican commissioner Matthew Ridenhour said he thinks it would be a good idea to bring in someone who has an outside perspective and the type of business experience Tillman has. “We’re looking for a new direction with the county,” he said.
But Clarke disagreed with how the plan was rolled out to the full board and to Shields. He stressed that his criticism wasn’t directed at Tillman.
Clarke also cited the potential costs of the position. The proposed job description calls for Tillman to work at least eight hours a week. But Clarke said “it’s hard for me to see how someone can be very effective in this broad set of duties unless they spent a lot of time.” A full week’s worth of work could cost $10,000, he said.
Tillman stressed that she and the county are still in discussions about her possible role. She said the board hasn’t finalized a contract offer and she has not accepted a position.
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