Politics & Government

Whistleblower says he was fired from Mecklenburg health department for raising alarms

Whistleblower says he was fired from Mecklenburg Health Department

Dell Adams, a health technician at Mecklenburg County for more than a decade, said he was fired after raising red flags about the agency.
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Dell Adams, a health technician at Mecklenburg County for more than a decade, said he was fired after raising red flags about the agency.

A whistleblower with the Mecklenburg County Health Department said Friday he was fired after raising alarms about issues at the agency, including botched test results and short staffing.

At a news conference outside of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, ousted health technician Dell Adams said he alerted the county manager, county commissioners and health department director Gibbie Harris about the problems.

"I reported a lot of misbehavior," Adams said, adding he saw false reports and patients waiting hours for services. "I saw things that shouldn't be considered professional and as a human being, my job was to report them."

Health director Harris said in a statement Friday that consultants have recommended changes in lab services, including more supervision, tighter processes and protocols and possibly outsourcing the service. The health department has passed all scheduled and unscheduled lab inspections during the past year, she said.

"Changing the culture of an organization as large and diverse as public health is not an easy task," Harris said. "However, we are doing just that, and I am confident that with continued hard work, the hundreds of dedicated public health professionals who serve the public every day will succeed."

Harris did not address Adams' firing in her statement.

Adams, who worked for the health department for more than a decade, had support at the news conference from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP. Adams' firing was part of a pattern of discrimination against minority employees who work for Charlotte and Mecklenburg government, NAACP officials said.

"I receive dozens of complaints from African American men and women who have been threatened, harassed and working in hostile environments," said Corine Mack, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP. Mack called for the firing of Mecklenburg County manager Dena Diorio and said if county commissioners don't fire Diorio, then they should be voted out.

Diorio won't be fired, said Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham. "That's not how we do that," she said.

Instead, the county manager will give more details and commissioners will ask questions about the health department, Cotham said.

The health department has been in the news over the past year for failing to notify nearly 200 women about abnormal Pap smears.

Adams raised red flags about issues at the health department to officials and "those concerns were not responded to and they definitely were not fixed," said Mack of the NAACP.

Instead, the response was to fire Adams, "terminate the man who shows compassion, care and professionalism for the job that he does," Mack said.

Adams said he was fired on Thursday for insubordination because of an email he had sent to Harris.

In mid-March, Harris requested to meet with Adams, he said. Adams responded that he would not agree to meet unless county commissioners were present, he said. He was then placed on paid leave until Thursday, when he was fired.

Adams' willingness to risk his job to raise red flags, gets county commissioner Cotham's attention, she said, adding "he's been a dedicated employee."

Cassie Cope: 704-358-5926, @cassielcope