Friday, April 12, 2013
Source: Mike Ruffin to step down as Durham County Manager
Multiple sources at Durham County Government have confirmed that County Manager Mike Ruffin has expressed his intent to retire in July.
Ruffin is serving his second term as County Commissioner. He was first hired in November 2000 to replace former County Manager David Thompson who resigned due to disagreements with commissioners. He was fired during a closed-door session in 2004, after months of conflict with black members of the Board of County Commissioners. Commissioners Joe Bowser, Philip Cousin, Jr. and Mary Jacobs voted to terminate him. No reason was given for Ruffin’s dismissal. It was a vote split on racial lines.
Bowser said at the time that Ruffin’s “failure at act upon” allegations of favoritism were a motive for Ruffin’s dismissal. Charlie Hobgood, the internal auditor, alleged 11 instances of favoritism in offering raises and poor record-keeping under former Human Resources Director Jackye Knight.
Shortly after arriving in Durham, Ruffin was attacked for comments he made on the website www.devotions.com. The website, a part of Pen Holder Ministries, founded by Ruffin in 1996, posted columns written by Ruffin that supported teaching creationism in public schools, disputes that the separation of church and state is a principle found in the Constitution, and that homosexuality is a sin.
Ruffin was reinstated as County Manager in 2005 after Lewis Cheek defeated Joe Bowser as a member of the Board of County Commissioners. Again, the vote was split on racial lines.
The last act of business for Ruffin is the approval of the 2013-14 budget. This year’s budget process could be heated due to a number of issues facing members of the Board of County Commissioners. The county faces a large deficient due to the new courthouse and human services buildings. Major cutbacks from the state could force significant reductions in the budget for Durham Public School. Commissioners have to find a way to overcome a $16 million difference between revenue and cost.
Ruffin had proposed a five cent increase in the county’s property tax rate. He recently offered a three cent increase for the coming year, with an additional two cent increase in fiscal year 2014-2015. The debate over the budget could stir serious tiffs between Ruffin and commissioners. Ruffin and Commissioner Brenda Howerton recently engaged in a quarrel after Howerton suggested Ruffin is a dictator for limiting public input in the budget process.
Ruffin and the commissioners have refrained from raising property taxes in the past, but may be forced to do so to offset the threat of losing the county’s AAA rating. County taxes haven’t been increased since fiscal year 2010-11.
Sources say Ruffin plans to close Durham’s Youth Detention Center. The proposal would save the county roughly 500 million, but the plan has been met with strong opposition. Critics of the plan are concerned that the cost to ship youth from the center to other sites may burden the system more than the savings are worth.
Ruffin hoped to make the announcement after the approval of the 2013-14 budget.