CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The firing alone was news. The boss of more than a thousand Mecklenburg County workers – one of the largest departments other than the schools.
But the timing left County Commissioners scratching their heads – Tuesday, the first day of the long-awaited Democratic National Convention. And County Manager Harry Jones contributed to the mystery by not taking questions about his reason for sacking DSS Director Mary Wilson right in the midst of the DNC .
Jones hired Mary Wilson as the first African-American to lead the DSS in 2008 just as the county sailed off into the great recession.
One of her first decisions was to redecorate her office to the tune of about $20,000. It included new crown molding, furniture, curtains and a flat panel television. Wilson told the I-Team the office had not been redecorated in years and, “My thought was to really make it more welcoming.”
It was not the last questionable expense. Wilson invited all eleven hundred DSS employees to a holiday party at county expense held at her church – Friendship Missionary Baptist on Beatties Ford Road. That party cost the taxpayers another $20,000.
Wilson courted more controversy by hiring the relatives of a series of high-profile local officials including the daughter of Charlotte Police Chief Rodney Monroe and the wife of then-councilman Anthony Foxx. Foxx was then running for Mayor and his wife was hired after the six-figure job was posted for only one day.
More recently there were other signs of internal problems at DSS. The head of Youth and Family Services began reporting directly to a General Manager at the County, bypassing Wilson. A county spokesman called it a “personnel issue” and declined to give a reason.
Even so the firing in the midst of the DNC caught Mecklenburg County Commissioners off guard.
“I was floored,” said Commissioner Bill James. “I was really surprised – not so much that these things don’t happen – but that such a high level, African American member of the leadership, one of the top five, would get sacked right in the middle of the Democratic National Convention.”
Jones is not talking about the reason behind the firing calling it a personnel matter.
And Wilson is apparently planning to appeal her termination.
“When people ask me, ‘Did Mary do her job?’ from my perspective she did,” said James.
The County is withholding documents and records including the termination letter pending the completion of the appeal, according to a county spokesman.