Wednesday, January 4, 2012

DSS Dispute Requires More Than a Re-Vote to Fix

I’m confused by the recent decision to set Gayle Perry’s salary at $129,000. Perry, interim Social Services director in Durham, was hired by the Board of Social Services on July 27 after board members axed Gerri Robinson during the same meeting. On Monday, board members decided to approve Perry’s salary after hearing a report that concluded the board may have violated a state law.

After what can best be described as an old fashioned shouting match between the two black male board members (as the young folk say, SMH) members of the Board of County Commissioners decided to hire an attorney to evaluate the way Perry was hired. Perry was a member of the DSS board the night Robinson was fired and she was hired. Jimmie Hicks, Jr., the attorney hired to review the matter, says the hiring of Perry is a conflict-of-interest due to her being a member of the board that appointed her to serve.

Board members decided to approve Perry’s salary at Monday’s meeting due to the conflict regarding the way she was hired. The recommendation passed 5-0, leaving an unresolved issue on the table. What has been established now that an attorney hired by the county has substantiated the claims of concerned citizens? Hicks stated that it is his judgment that the action lacked criminal intent; however, the lack of intent doesn’t settle the concern that it was wrong.

Hicks‘ findings have been passed on to the District Attorney. By violating a state statue those involved face criminal charges. The breach is punishable as a misdemeanor. The board’s conduct related to this matter sends a clear message that they want to clean their hands and keep it moving. The re-vote on the salary was designed to repair the lousy handling connected to the hiring of Perry. Since it wasn’t legal, they had to vote again to make it right.

Obscured in all of this is how Perry reaped the benefit of a salary that was disbursed after an illegal vote. By stating there was no malcontent intended, the attorney for the county and members of the board expect this to go away after Tracey Cline, Durham’s district attorney, decides not to press it any further. We’re expected to treat the handling of that July meeting as no more than a hiccup.

Sorry folks, it’s not that simple. This is a complicated matter that needs to be placed within a context that allows us space to view this beyond the emotions that strip people of good judgment. The war, and I call it that for a reason, among members of the Board of County Commissioners led to the appointing of an attorney and an internal audit. Now that both reports have been released, it’s critical that actions be taken to bring credibility to the way the board functions.

If the law was broken, albeit unintentional, what can be done to right that wrong? Keep in mind that Robinson lost her job at that meeting, and she has filed a lawsuit against the county. The internal audit undermined the allegation that fueled the movement to remove her. Commissioner Joe Bowser has cited poor morale and high staff turnover as reasons for Robinson’s termination. The audit found that staff turnover is no higher than with previous directors.

Does this mean Robinson lost her job based on hearsay? Can we conclude there was a lack of documented evidence to substantiate the board’s decision? If that is true, combined with the illegality of the meeting, it will take more than a vote to approve a salary and a hand slap from the DA to make this one go away.

I’m incensed that no one on the board had the insight to suggest that maybe Perry should not be maintained given the way the vote was conducted. If her initial appointment is undermined due to a conflict-of-interest, her continuing to serve is clouded by that first vote. As sad at that may be given the great work she is doing, someone has to pay for the misdeed of July 27.

The vote to hire Perry was illegal. I suppose it’s acceptable when those involved don’t know any better.

The bad news is that doesn’t work in the court of law. I tried that the last time I got a traffic ticket. It cost me 300 bucks.


  1. I'm glad to read at least one other Durham citizen is upset by this. I don't care if no legal charges are filed as a result of this, you are absolutely right that the concerns the audit was designed to investigate have been upheld: that the firing of Robinson, the hiring of Perry, and Perry's part in this were unethical and probably illegal. Also and especially both Bowser & Reckhow proactively engineered this on what it now looks pretty certain were trumped up charges--probably giving merit to any lawsuits Robinson files and costing us money. I think any damages awarded Robinson should come from their pockets. And the next election can't come quickly enough. Bowser especially has got to go.

  2. Why would BOCC suggest that Perry leave? That would mean they are wrong and of course they would never admit a wrongdoing. Reckhow and Heron still hiding in their dark corners and putting THE MOUTH (Bowser) out front to be the mouth piece for them- why should they look stupid when they have Bowser? Shades of Herman Cain????

    How many other back-door dealings has this crew done and shoved under the rug? Everyone knows about a long-term contract at DSS that made hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years that was never mentioned. Maybe an investigative reporter for a national news show should look into this. Dateline? 60 minutes? Small town BIG NEWS.
    For Real

  3. Robinson was a problem before she ever went to Durham. She caused problems in Baltimore and Nashville in her previous employment. At least one federal discrimination complaint was filed against her a few years ago. Robinson should have never been hired, with her poor and questionable performance history.

  4. Mrs. Perry cannot be as bad as Mrs. Robinson. Mrs. Robinson has left behind her a sad trail of failure, mistreatment of others and deceit.