March 21, 2013
The Guilford County
Board of Commissioners is set to name Brunswick County Manager Marty Lawing as Guilford County
's new manager this week, and that decision by the board's five Republican commissioners is causing some grumbling among the four Democrats, who favored another candidate over Lawing.
Several Democrats on the board are complaining that the Republicans changed the scoring method for the candidates at the end of the selection process, and they said that, if the Republican commissioners had stuck with the original scoring system, the other finalist would have been chosen as the next Guilford County
The Republican commissioners, on the other hand, say that the original scoring method was never supposed to be used as the last word for choosing the manager. When the board interviewed candidates earlier this year, the nine commissioners asked each of the candidates the same 10 questions. Commissioners ranked each candidate's answers on a scale of 1 to 10.
Those score sheets were turned over to interim Guilford County
Manager/Assistant Manager/ Human Resources Director Sharisse Fuller, and Fuller or her staff tallied those results. That process gave an average score for each candidate – out of a possible high score of 100 – and, at the start of the process, that ranking was used to decide which candidates got further consideration.
However, when the Board of Commissioners was down to choosing between the two finalists, the runner-up apparently had a numerical ranking higher than Lawing's. Despite that, the five Republican commissioners decided to make Lawing the offer.
Commissioner Hank Henning said he considers the current complaints by the Democratic commissioners unfounded since there was never any question that, in the end, the decision would come down to a vote of the Board of Commissioners.
Henning said that, while methods such as a numerical ranking of candidates may be a useful tool in helping the board decide, some commissioners were mistaken to presume the board would rely on a raw numerical count to make its final decision.
Henning said that, if the board just went by that scoring method, a minority of Democratic commissioners could have determined the outcome simply by assigning high scores to the answers of the candidate they liked and low scores to the one they knew the Republican's preferred.
According to Henning, in the end, the choice of a new county manager comes down purely and simply to the will of the majority of the board.
"It's the same way the county commissioners vote on a budget," Henning said. "Five commissioners may vote for it, and you don't go with the choice of the other four just because they have more intensity."
He also said each commissioner had his or her own subjective "baseline" for the candidates, so it wouldn't have been fair to just go by a raw score.
"One commissioner might have five as the baseline and another might have nine," he said. "What's fair about that?"
Henning stressed that it comes down to how five or more commissioners choose to vote.
"It doesn't matter how many points you have," Henning said. "We are a nine-member board that makes decisions with five or more votes; it shouldn't be based on arbitrary numbers."
Commissioner Carolyn Coleman, a Democrat, has made her dissatisfaction with the selection process known both publicly and in closed session. After the Board of Commissioners selection of Lawing, she said she was disappointed that decision, like many other board decisions recently, had fallen along straight party lines.
Coleman said that, when the three new Republican commissioners joined the board in December, they promised to work with the Democrats in a bipartisan way, but she added that the board is now resorting to politics as usual with Democrats on one side and Republicans on the other.
Coleman said that was true even when it came to something as simple as a recent dispute over whether or not the commissioners should continue to have their individual names on signs in front of their parking spaces in the lot beneath the Old Guilford County
Court House. When the board did away with individual spaces, however, it made an exception for Coleman and so now it is she, not a Republican, who is the only commissioner with her own parking place.
With the selection of the county manager also coming down to party lines, Coleman said it's clearly on both big and small issues that the board is split along party lines.
Coleman said two weeks ago that she wouldn't vote to approve Lawing as manager, and Commissioner Bruce Davis, also a Democrat, sounded recently as though he wouldn't vote for Lawing either.
In fact, there's reason to think the new manager might get the job on a thin 5-to-4 vote by the board – though, once the writing is on the wall, Democratic Commissioners Coleman, Davis, Kay Cashion and Ray Trapp might vote to hire Lawing so that he starts off with a strong show of support.
Even former Commissioner Skip Alston, who was chairman of the board for four years in a row before Commissioner Linda Shaw took that job in December, said he had questions about Lawing.
"He doesn't have many minorities in his administration," said Alston, who added that he knows Lawing.
Alston made no comment about the kind of job Lawing was doing, just a comment about the skin color of those who work for him.
Shaw said this week that she's been encouraging the board to show unified support for the next manager in the vote, and Shaw said she's still optimistic that at least some of the Democratic commissioners will come around in the end.
On a positive note, while the Democratic commissioners have said they support another candidate, all of them also have said that they're willing to work with him to see that he's a success as manager.
Shaw said The Rhinoceros Times hurt the cause of the Republicans on the board by printing the name of the candidate in the Thursday, March 14 edition of the paper. She said she was "disappointed" The Rhino would make known the name against the wishes of the board. It is not known if Shaw is also disappointed that Starbucks employees have been selling Starbucks coffee to the public.
Shaw was at a committee meeting on Thursday morning, March 14, right after that issue of The Rhino Times hit the streets, and Shaw discussed the story at the start of the committee meeting.
Shaw had just heard the news shortly before she arrived at that meeting.
"I'm a little dazed," she told Board of Education members and fellow commissioners at the committee meeting.
Shaw said this week that Lawing hadn't informed his board or his staff of the opportunity in Guilford County
and so Brunswick County officials were taken off guard by the story in The Rhino Times.
That may be true, however, last summer Lawing was a finalist to take the job with Horry County, South Carolina – home of Myrtle Beach – as that county's top administrator, and it was public knowledge at that time that he might take that job. Horry County commissioners chose another candidate, but since then it has been well known that Lawing was looking to jump to a larger county....continued on page 2