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Taxpayers Foot Bill For MeckCo Manager Tattoos


Harry Jones has logged more than a decade of history as manager of Mecklenburg County, complete with a wide-ranging mix of achievements and blunders, public acclaim and high-profile controversies that are all but certain to leave a lasting mark on local government.

Last fall, though, Jones left a mark of a different sort; or more specifically, 3,000 of them. That’s how many decal tattoos of the county manager were handed out during Mecklenburg County’s 2012 Employee Fest at Freedom Park, designed to recognize and reward the work of county employees.

“It’s not the worse thing I’ve seen people do, but I’m not sure it was one of the smartest, either,” Commissioner Bill James said of the tattoos and their widespread distribution to county employees. “It’s more humorous than anything else.”

James was more critical of the $60,204 bill racked up for the Employee Fest, with taxpayers picking up all but $3,750 covered by event sponsors.

“You know,” James said, “government can’t do anything on the cheap anymore.”

The tab for half-day event, which featured an array of live music, games, prizes, a barbecue lunch and awards for employee achievement, included nearly $25,000 for food, $17,00 for giveaway prizes, $4,000 for American Coach transportation buses and, last but not least, $350 for Harry Jones decal tattoos, which were the brainchild of an Employee Fest planning committee comprised of members drawn from various county departments, according to county spokesperson Rick Christenbury.

“It was a committee that made the decision (to commission and distribute the tattoos),” Christenbury said. “Mr. Jones was not part of that committee and had no part in the decision.”

The tattoos were simply a caricature of their boss, he said, and were designed to extend congratulations to county employees and express appreciation for their work.

How many kudos Jones is receiving in return, however, remains up for debate. In the wake of myriad controversies that have made for awkward headlines and often pitted Jones at odds with his bosses on the county board, commissioners have more than once recently discussed Jones’ future with Mecklenburg County, according to sources familiar with the talks.

Some commissioners have floated a proposal to offer Jones three more years at the helm, while others have argued for replacing him with an interim candidate from outside the county loop and launching a national search for a replacement that would exclude any internal candidates.

Which begs the obvious question: What will have a longer shelf life in Mecklenburg County’s immediate future, Harry Jones’ tenure as manager or one of his decal tattoos?

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