A day after he was elected Mecklenburg County Commissioners chairman, Democrat Trevor Fuller said that the search and selection of a new county manager will go on as planned, despite his outspoken criticism that the search process has been flawed.
The full board had been preparing to interview a slate of five final candidates when it decided Tuesday night to remove Democrat Pat Cotham as chairwoman and replace her with Fuller.
The county has been without a permanent county manager since May, when the board fired longtime manager Harry Jones.
During the nominating speeches, Republican commissioner Bill James, a member of the manager search committee, said he was concerned that some of the candidates would drop out if Cotham was replaced, or that Fuller would use his newfound authority to start the process over.
Wednesday, Fuller dismissed James comments. Bill likes to make incendiary comments. Theyre entertaining for him. I just dont get bent out of shape by what people say when theyre scared or angry. Bill knows better. He knows exactly what hes doing.
Fuller said hes looked at the paper credentials of the final five candidates and they appeared to be well-qualified. He said he wouldnt invoke the power of the chair to scrap the list, adding that the probability is high that Mecklenburgs next manager will come from that final group.
He also said he didnt expect candidates to withdraw because he is board chairman now. If theyre scared off by that, theyre in the wrong business, Fuller said.
Cotham, who chaired the search committee, said Wednesday that the finalists are all professionals and know that boards or councils change all the time. I would think this is nothing surprising to them it comes with the territory.
She said shes satisfied with Fullers remarks that he wont try to undo what the committee submitted to the full board.
In recent weeks, Fuller was critical of Cothams leadership on the search committee, saying the full board should have conducted all interviews after an original list of 17 candidates was cut to nine.
I am just concerned that so much time has been consumed by this, and I would hate to have to go back and redo anything, he said. The concerns I expressed earlier were when the search was in the hands of a few who were excluding the rest.
Now the whole process is with the full board.
During the vice chair election, which Democrat commissioner Dumont Clarke won, James said the effort to oust Cotham was based on race, with the board split between black Democrats and a few white liberals.
I am less concerned about the vice chair than I am about racial profiling on the part of the new junta, he said.
He added he was concerned that new leadership would follow commissioner Kim Ratliffs earlier comments that she preferred a white man not be hired as county manager. Ratliff later said she misspoke and meant to say she wanted a diverse list of candidates.
James remarks brought a response from Democrat George Dunlap: I had tried real hard to stay out of this debate. It becomes increasingly difficult especially at a time when were selecting a new county manager and especially when commissioner James sat on the committee that excluded many of us especially in light of the fact that there is not one African-American candidate.
The lists racial makeup was supposed to be confidential. But on Wednesday, Dunlap said he used it to show that James was race baiting because he knew there were no blacks among the list of finalists.
James acknowledged Wednesday that he was blunt, but felt he needed to prod Democrats to force out the truth about why they ousted Pat.
He said he thinks the board is now on the edge of rigging the county manager selection. Whether they pull the trigger and manipulate the final list remains to be seen.
Dunlap and Clarke said theres been no discussion to change the list.
The only time Ive ever heard anybody bring it up was when Mr. James insinuated that that might happen, Clarke said. Ive never heard anybody suggest it or even bring it ever. It was just a wild and baseless insinuation.