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Several commissioners called the secret deal "a mistake" by Fox.
On Thursday, Dec. 24, 2010, The Rhinoceros Times revealed many disturbing details regarding actions by Fox and Arnold in the county's purchase of a building at 325 E. Russell Ave. in High Point.
The commissioners had voted to construct a new Department of Social Services building on the governmental campus in downtown High Point, on land the county already owned.
However, Arnold objected loudly and repeatedly, even months after the board voted to construct the building, and after an architect had already begun work on the design.
Arnold offered to drive around High Point himself and look for a better location. Arnold convinced the board's two High Point commissioners to consider buying the Russell Avenue building, and they did. The two commissioners went along with Arnold, which then meant the majority of the board went along with the wishes of the three High Point area commissioners on the High Point project.
The building belonged to Arnold's friend and former business associate Wayne McDonald and the real estate agent who showed commissioners the property was Brigman, who was working for McDonald at that time.
The county bought the giant vacant building and it's the only known Guilford County
purchase of a building in modern history in which no appraisal of the property was conducted before the purchase.
Grantham told The Rhinoceros Times that Fox and Arnold instructed him not to negotiate a lower cost, as he always had in the past whenever the county purchased property.
Instead, Grantham said, Fox and Arnold told him that McDonald's asking price was fair.
McDonald also got a lucrative contract to renovate the building. That contract was never put out for bids – unlike almost every other major renovation contract Guilford County
has entered into. Grantham also said that Fox and Arnold instructed him to pay McDonald even though the project had not been finished as promised.
Social services staff now complain constantly that the building purchased from McDonald is inappropriate for their needs. They also complain that the roof leaks, and that noise travels so easily through the building that employees in the building are told not to wear high heels because of the loud clicking sound when they walk. The building has also had problems with ants, rats and other pests.
In May 2011, The Rhinoceros Times reported on something Fox had done while she was finance director for the county in late 2007 and early 2008. After conducting a competitive bid process for a $5 million loan for the county to purchase the BB&T building in downtown Greensboro, Fox secretly allowed Wachovia Bank to raise its bid after the bid process was closed and Wachovia's low bid had won. That inexplicable move cost the county about $200,000 in additional interest on the loan.
As more and more scandalous information about Fox came out, Fox sent all county department heads a memo called a "Code of Conduct" – which Commissioner Bill Bencini said should instead be referred to as a "Code of Silence." The memo stated that county employees and department heads with any concerns should address them only to the manager's office and not to county commissioners.
Last year, it became known that Fox's actions were the focus of an investigation of both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service.
In more recent scandals, Fox stopped paying rent on one of the Sheriff's Department's satellite offices because, she said, the owner of the building owed back taxes to the county. Fox isn't the tax director and she does not have a legal right to stop the county from paying its bills. Sheriff BJ Barnes, whose department has the duty of evicting those who don't pay rent, began get notices that his department's rent was past due.
Fox, with the help of Arnold and former Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, also alienated City of Greensboro leaders and brought about the end of water and sewer contracts, parking agreements and other city-county deals that had been in place for decades.
Fox also went behind the commissioners' backs in a strange attempt to have Guilford County
open and run a NC Division of Motor Vehicles license tag agency. The commissioners unanimously voted down the idea after the plan was revealed in The Rhinoceros Times. However, that was only after countless man-hours had gone into the effort, and it meant county citizens had to wait months longer before a new much-needed DMV tag office opened in the county.
On her way out of Guilford County
government, Fox implemented a $61,000 retirement bonus for herself along with big bonuses for other longtime employees. The language that granted the bonuses was buried in the items the commissioners approved without realizing it and, when the board found out they had approved the bonuses, they voted to rescind them. Fox then threatened to sue the county.
It should also be kept in mind that those lists are only the things that citizens are aware of. It has been Fox's policy to run the county with as much secrecy as possible, so there are no doubt other things that would have been major controversies if they had been discovered.
Hopefully, the new Board of Commissioners will hold the next manager accountable, unlike the previous board, which kept Fox as manager no matter what she did. With the exception of a few commissioners who were in the minority, the Guilford County
commissioners simply made excuses for Fox and looked the other way through one scandal after another. They provided no oversight of Fox, in direct violation of the oath they swore to uphold when they became commissioners.