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Harry Jones Hush Money


Forget about whether County Manager Harry Jones exceeded his authority in authorizing a resignation settlement of more than $60,000 to former Area Mental Health Director Grayce Crockett, without first informing county commissioners.

It’s a convenient cover for a more troubling issue, specifically why was Jones so worried about Crockett possibly suing the county, as he claims is the case, that he secretly cut a $60,000 deal to get her out the door. Quietly.

Crockett wasn’t fired; she was allowed to resign after massive oversight failures at Mecklenburg Open Door, one of the county’s largest mental health contractors, which could end up forcing the county to reimburse nearly $500,000 to the federal government. Part and parcel of the Open Door fiasco, its former executive director was charged with embezzling more than $145,000 from the agency.

Throughout the whole ugly ordeal, Jones claimed ignorance, that he wasn’t being sufficiently updated by Crockett regarding potential and ongoing problems at Open Door. Yet she wasn’t fired. She was placed on paid leave and, after collecting a nice sum for not working, resigned. Quietly and with check in hand.

According to Crockett’s attorney, she wasn’t threatening any legal action against the county. Yet Jones not only negotiates a covert $60,000 settlement to send Crockett off, but also tries to obfuscate the deal under the guise that it was made as part of a payment for accrued vacation and sick time owed Crockett.

Is $60K the payout these days for getting thrown under the bus to protect the county manager, hiding his own possible culpability and gross mismanagement in a blow-up like Open Door; and how many other similar cases, if any, have there been? That’s the question commissioners need to be asking when they meet for a closed-door meeting next week with Jones.

Here’s another: Is it time for commissioners to finally step up to the plate and fire the county manager, instead of yet again excusing his failings as simply a lack of communication?

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