Mecklenburg County Commissioners spent more than three hours behind closed doors on Tuesday to discuss the handling of a $60,000 settlement to former county mental health director Grayce Crockett.
Commissioners had questioned whether County Manager Harry Jones exceeded his authority in reaching the deal and said they were troubled that they did not learn of the settlement right away. Some also criticized staff for initially describing the money as just payout for Crockett's vacation and accrued sick time.
After emerging from closed session, Jones apologized for not communicating the deal well enough with the board. He also said he made a "lapse in judgement" in sending a weekend email with information on money Commissioner Jim Pendergraph received when he retired as the sheriff.
Commissioners issued the following statement late Tuesday:
"The Board has reviewed the actions of County Manager Harry Jones regarding the terms and conditions of former Area Mental Health Grayce Crockett’s resignation, including the payment of a negotiated amount to Ms. Crockett totaling $99,329.18. This involved a thorough review of County policy and the authority provided by the Board of County Commissioners to the County Manager. The Board also received and reviewed information on other negotiated resignations of County employees in recent years.
Based on this review, the Board believes the following:
1. The County Manager made a reasoned and sound decision in the best interests of Mecklenburg County taxpayers and had the authority to do so without prior Board approval.
2. The County Manager should have informed the Board in advance or immediately thereafter about the terms and conditions of Ms. Crockett’s negotiated resignation, including the amount paid to her in excess of what she was entitled to receive in accrued vacation and sick benefits, and the reasons he decided the payment was in the best interests of the County and taxpayers.
3. The County is limited by privacy laws regarding the amount and type of information that can be released to the public.
4. Although the information publicly released involving Grayce Crockett’s negotiated resignation was technically correct and was released in a good faith attempt to comply with North Carolina law, it provided a misleading impression to the Board and the public.
5. The County Manager erred by not timely correcting this misimpression.
6. The County Manager made a mistake by not informing the Board in advance or immediately afterwards about the terms and conditions of Grayce Crockett’s resignation. The County Manager understands and acknowledges this mistake.
7. The County Manager seriously erred when he released information from Commissioner Pendergraph’s personnel file that included some information protected by North Carolina privacy laws, although he did so without malice.
8. The County Manager understands and acknowledges he made a mistake when he released the protected information from Commissioner Pendergraph’s personnel file. The County Manager has apologized to Commissioner Pendergraph and Commissioner Pendergraph has accepted his apology.
9. The additional amounts of accrued vacation paid to Commissioner Pendergraph at the time of his retirement were for benefits he earned during his service as Mecklenburg County Sheriff.
10. The County Manager must improve communication with the Board on personnel and matters of public interest.
11. The Board will work with the County Manager to establish clear expectations for how similar matters will be handled in the future.
The Board will put this statement in the County Manager’s personnel file and intends to take all of the above into consideration when conducting the County Manager’s annual performance evaluation later this calendar year."