Friday, January 18, 2013

To shut up or not to shut up?

Parks Helms and Pat Cotham.
Democrats are atwitter over whether one of the area's top Democrats of the past 20 years told fellow Democrat Vilma Leake "to shut up." The bigger question, though, is whether Pat Cotham should shut up, which was the intended message.

Parks Helms, a former chairman of the Mecklenburg County commissioners, met with a group of Democrats Friday, including commissioners Cotham, Leake and some past board chairs. Helms was concerned about friction between Cotham and county staff, and wanted Cotham to dial back her aggressive approach toward County Manager Harry Jones and his crew.

The aftermath has focused on whether Helms shook his finger in Leake's face and told her to "shut up and don't say anything," as Leake alleges. All in attendance agree words got heated, and Helms acknowledges "I speak with my hands." Accounts differ on whether he told Leake to shut up.

More important, however, was what Helms wanted to convey to Cotham. She is the new chairman of the Mecklenburg board, and has been ruffling the staff's feathers in questioning how things have been done in the past. Helms said he wanted to impress upon Cotham the importance of "a good working relationship with the management team."

"I wanted us to give Pat some suggestions and advice about how she might avoid what I call unhealthy tension," Helms told Observer reporter David Perlmutt. "... I was trying to say that the public perception of how you conduct meetings and business is very important. The reports we're hearing indicate that the public does not have a good perception of what you're doing."

Not a good perception? The public hasn't had a good perception of commissioners for years when they repeatedly rolled over as county staff mishandled an embezzlement case, lied to the public over a severance agreement, mismanaged the Department of Social Services, botched a property revaluation and lost control of more than $200 million in Medicaid money.

Maybe Helms had good intentions in advising Cotham to smooth things over with Jones. But a little tension between commissioners and staff is long overdue.

-- Taylor Batten



whitehawk said...

Parks Helms is one of the greater problems which has created so much divisiveness and distrust of government in this County.

Chmn. Cotham will do well to distance herself from him and his cronies. She is her own person and needs to rise or fall on her merits. Here's looking forward to her hopefully, probable success without the advise of Helms, Roberts,Cogdell, etal.

Leading the commission will not be easy but she certainly deserves a chance without troglodites and Harry Jones syncopants becoming albatrosses around her neck.

As for Vilma: Yes, please! Shut your mouth and park your race card where the sun doesn't shine!

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

It's been sad that the public conversation has focused on the antics of Vilma Leake and not the real issue.

The real issue that needs to be publicly discussed is why would Park Helms, who was last in the public eye in regards to a scandal with the ABC Board accepting improper gifts would be steering a meeting to talk to the current Chair of the county board on proper ways to conduct business with county staff?

That Helms, Codgell, and Roberts all basically conveyed a message to Cotham (the boss) and not to Jones and Lancaster-Sandlin (the employees) on the importance of working together (since it was Jones and Lancaster-Sandlin who are the ones who acted improper) speaks volumes about how ineffectual past county chairs have been, and implies just how great and overreaching is the sphere of Jones influence.

Personally - I think it is time for Jones and his closet staff to go. They have set a tone that they do not answer to the county commissioners and their chair who as elected officials represent the citizens. In other words - Jones and staff feel they do not answer to the public.

This is the real issue.

It is one that has been going on for too long. It is also ancedotally proven by the recent Helms debacle of an inappropriate meeting as it highlights the track record of previous county chairs feeling they answered to county staff and not the other way around.

I close by reminding all that it was Jones and his staff that messed up the MeckLink situation with the state. It is Jones and his staff that need to answer for it without excuse and without feigned offense of being asked.

That County tax payers are facing the loss of millions of County Tax payer money already spent on salaries and office space for MeckLink which may now be never used (and staff subsequently laid off) requires hard questions and direct answers. I'm glad Cotham is doing it.

Willy Loman said...

"to shut up and don't say anything"......??? misquote.

Vilma, go away. You are a cancer. At what point do you understand that it is YOU that is the common link in every single situation where "tension" is involved. Unfortunately, you are the typical, stereo-typical government worker that does NO WORK, but excels at pointing fingers, causing trouble, not allowing anyone else to get work done, then saying your feelings were hurt, you have been attacked, people are being rude to you...blah blah blah. We have all seen your type. You would be the perfect union worker (or even shop steward). No work done. Keep filing EEOC charges after EEOC charges. More and more and more and more until management caves in (knowing you cannot be fired while you are doing no work whatsoever) and just promotes you to get you off the floor and away from the people that the company needs to actually do work.

Anonymous said...
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Ettolrahc said...

Get back to your attacks on Bill James, we all know he is the problem.

Why even he offended our Velma along with a long list of others, but we just need to get back to attacking him or he will will bring out more malfeasance in our government you can not ignore observer.

Wiley Coyote said...

Typical Democrats. They will do anything to get power and when they do, the don't know what to do with it.

What's really pathetic about all this is the catalyst, Harry Jones. This inept manager should have been fired 20 times already yet Democrat cronyism (or unless Jones has the goods on the power brokers) keeps him in the job.

You get what you vote for and you people keep electing these "Good Democrats".

Cornelia said...

What good is an open meetings law, if Parks Helms(who, though disgraced, apparently is still the Dim boss in Mecklenburg) can assemble the majority of the BOCC at a private country club and dictate how they conduct business? Harry Jones has proven himself over and over to be either incompetent or corrupt or maybe both. Why would the boss of the local Dims want to protect him and his equally incompetent lieutenant? Does the county keep up Parks Helms property or something?

Observer editorial board said...

Apparently 4 of the 9 current commissioners were part of this meeting. Since that is not a majority, the open meetings law does not apply.

Observer editorial board said...

Willy Loman,
You say it's a misquote.
Are you saying the Observer is misquoting Vilma Leake, or that Vilma Leake is misquoting Parks Helms?

Cornelia said...

Thank you, CO, for finally shining a light on Mecklenburg County government's significant problems. Something is obviously rotten in Mecklenburg and sunlight is the best disinfectant. What I cannot understand is why the entire local Democratic Party appears to condone Harry Jones' and his staff's highly visible incompetence. The mismanagement of county resources has been obvious even to me for 10 years. Harry's trying to stifle the BofA employee's criticism of Harry's performance as a public servant was as an egregious an act of intimidation of a private citizen as one can imagine and was as reminiscent of Gestapo tactics as I ever care to see. This county's well being depends upon a vigilant and courageous newspaper to protect its citizens from abuse by ill-intentioned politicians and the staff they oversee. It is also past time Charlotte's behind-the-scene leaders step up and apply pressure to take care of this situation before all trust in local government has been destroyed.

Cedar Posts said...

I can't think of a better reson for city - county consolidation than Harry Jones and Vilma Leake

Wiley Coyote said...

Cedar Posts,

You got 50% correct. Vilma Leake is in a protected district and will never leave until she decides to and Harry Jones can be fired, whic should have been done years ago...

Redlight said...


Your last two paragraphs are right on target.

I was hoping I had heard the last of Parks Helms.

Garth Vader said...

Look at those pictures - an alky and a zombie.