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Monday, December 6, 2010

Jennifer Roberts Sadly Re-Elected, Pendergraph Vice-Chair: Pendergraph Is An Excellent Leader!

Jennifer Roberts Remains BOCC Chair In Surprise Vote: Dear Lord! Not Again!

Jennifer Roberts retained the chairmanship of the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners Monday night after challenger Harold Cogdell, Jr. withdrew his name in the interest of bipartisanship.

The tension between Roberts and Cogdell, both Democrats, had been building since last week when news first broke that Cogdell planned to challenge Roberts for chair with the help of the 4-person Republican minority on the Board of Commissioners. The move would have made newly-elected commissioner Jim Pendergraph, a Republican, vice chair.

Roberts had served as chairwoman, with Cogdell was vice chair, last term.

Instead, Cogdell told the board Monday night that his priority was seeing a Republican as vice chair, and suggested that Roberts remain chairwoman with Pendergraph as number two.

Cogdell denied that there was ever a "deal. "It seemed like I was the swing vote on this because everything comes down to partisan politics, and that was the point I was trying to make by this whole example," he said, "I'm sick and damn tired of Partisan Politics."

"There is no more surprised than I am at this moment," Roberts said, after the board voted her in unanimously. She went on to rip up a speech she had prepared, teasing Cogdell, "Next time you have an idea, please just call me back!"

Roberts said her initial anger at the Cogdell proposal was rooted in her concern that her colleagues were rejecting her leadership without explaining why. About Cogdell, she said, "I'm not bitter at all."

Cogdell ducked reporters after the meeting, saying "We all learned a lesson tonight."

"We had one idea and it somehow got changed," Jim Pendergraph said after the meeting. "I'm as clueless as anybody."

Pendergraph, who received the second-highest number of votes in November, was also chosen unanimously.

Cogdell To Colleagues: "I Have Votes To Unseat Roberts"

Hours before tonight's vote on who will lead Mecklenburg County commissioners, commissioner Harold Cogdell Jr. has told two colleagues that he appears to have the votes to unseat chairman - and fellow Democrat - Jennifer Roberts.

"He has decided that he's going to seek the chairmanship ... and he thinks he has the votes for it," Democratic commissioner Dumont Clarke told the Observer.

Cogdell, who previously served as commissioners' vice chair, could not be reached.

On a board that will have five Democrats and four Republicans, Cogdell has apparently been trying to line up the GOP votes in a deal that would make Republican Jim Pendergraph vice chair.

Commissioner George Dunlap said Cogdell told him today he would vote for Pendergraph if the board Republicans back Cogdell as chair.

Pendergraph said today he expects Cogdell to win.

"I'm probably going to vote for Harold," he said. "We're all smart enough we can add to five. No one's going to challenge someone unless they feel they can win. And I'd be surprised if he doesn't."

Roberts said this afternoon she still hadn't heard from Cogdell, despite having left several messages.

"It's all up to Harold," she said when asked about her chances of re-election.

Roberts, the leading vote-getter in last month's election, is trying to win a third term as chair. It was unclear today how the votes will fall.

Democrat Vilma Leake, who said she was "still praying" over the decision, said she's "going to do what's right."

On her Facebook page, Roberts has said she hoped Cogdell would not give in to "a personal power play."

In a Sunday post, she added: "I have been re-reading Julius Caesar to remind myself that ambition is as old as mankind. I will continue to stay strong no matter what happens, and to know that there is a higher power than any of this earthly stuff."

Jennifer Roberts, Part Of The Problem

I think I’m done cutting Roberts any slack on this DSS mess. For her to obstruct and slam the attempts of other commissioners to find out what is going on with county’s massive, $200m. DSS operation is too much.

And for Roberts to suggest that a closed session airing of DSS’s dirty laundry is not her preferred way to go is an insult to the intelligence of all Mecklenburg County taxpayers.

The only reason Commissioner Bill James and the other GOPers are suggesting the closed session route is in response the “disclosure” stonewall County Manager Harry Jones has erected around the investigation — a construction effort aided and abetted by Jennifer Roberts. Fine. Let’s hear DSS chief Mary Wilson answer questions in open session. Super. Next.

It will also be interesting to see if Commissioner George Dunlap’s confirmation that a federal grand jury probe is underway of DSS shakes anything new loose. Why it took a full month for the probe’s existence to be reported remains a mystery, but at least everyone in town has caught up to the story.

However, it would be wrong to assume that the probe will result in any indictments, both as a matter of fairness and institutional inertia. Prosecutors are political animals and will require some slam-dunk, smoking gun type evidence of wrongdoing for them to move on a DSS devoid, until very recently, of adult supervision of its funds.

On the third hand, not all gross mismanagement rises to the level of criminality. This is why the county commission must itself reestablish public trust in one of its largest ongoing budget expenses. Jennifer Roberts needs to help that process or get out of the way.

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Sources: John Locke Foundation, McClatchy Newspapers, Meck Deck Blog, WCNC, Google Maps

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