Cumberland Offers Job To Vivian Giles

Published 3:44 pm Tuesday, March 6, 2012

CUMBERLAND – During a special called meeting on Monday evening, the Board of Supervisors in Cumberland County was split on its decision as to who the Board wanted to see lead Cumberland County as the new County Administrator.

Supervisors Bill Osl, District One, and Parker Wheeler, District Five, voiced their approval and voted for applicant Jill Matthews. Matthews is currently serving the County as assistant county administrator.

Board Chairman David Meinhard, District Four, called for the contract to be offered to applicant Vivian Giles and Supervisors Kevin Ingle, District Three, and Lloyd Banks, District Two, voted in favor of Meinhard's motion. That motion carried.

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Current County Administrator Judy Ownby officially retires on March 31.

When contacted by The Herald on Tuesday morning, Giles commented on the outcome of the Board's Monday meeting and said, “I'm grateful that they have that level of confidence in me and that I hope we can reach an agreement and that it works out.”

The Meeting

After returning from closed session on Monday evening, Supervisor Osl immediately made a motion that the Board consider offering a contract to Matthews-Supervisor Wheeler seconded the motion.

“When I look down the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are in job description-she possesses those items,” said Osl. “And is able to step into this position. I think it would be good for morale for promotion from within…I think it would be great to reward our own people.”

Subsequently, Wheeler addressed the motion and said, “I would like to absolutely duplicate what Mr. Osl just said. I think the abilities to handle the position are there and have been shown and of the applicants that we have looked at and reviewed Ms. Matthews was far, far, far ahead of all the other applicants.”

Chairman Meinhard then called for a vote on the motion, Supervisors Osl and Wheeler voted in favor of Ms. Matthews being offered a contract from the Board for the county administrator position and Chairman Meinhard, and Supervisors Banks and Ingle voted in opposition. The motion failed on a two-to-three vote.

“I just have a question?” asked Wheeler afterwards when referring to the agenda. “It says 'consider offering a contract for county administrator and county attorney'-Are we considering tonight only a county administrator?”

Meinhard responded, “At this time, we are only considering a county administrator. We haven't interviewed the applicants for the county attorney yet.”

“Do we have a motion for another candidate?” asked Meinhard. “If not, I will move that we offer the contract to Vivian Giles-the position of county administrator.”

Osl responded to the motion and said, “Mr. Chairman, I will vote against Ms. Giles for county administrator. Again, as I look down the job description for county administrator…and when we interviewed Ms. Giles I went down the list and I asked her to say 'none, little, some, or a lot of experience' in those areas and in two areas she said 'a little' and in the rest she said 'none.' So, she does not meet the qualifications, the skills, and the abilities that we have in the job description for county administrator.”

He added, “Secondly, Ms. Giles has over $10,000 in delinquent taxes and I can't imagine making an offer to a county administrator that is delinquent on their own tax payments to their own county, Cumberland. Ms. Giles is a professional from a legal standpoint within a very narrow aspect of law, you know, with tax…I have expressed reservations before that not many attorneys can make the transition to make good executives and leaders-this is the CEO position for Cumberland County…I don't think it's a positive contribution to morale or promoting from within and I recognize her academic achievements and I think they are worthwhile but I'm not always sure that academics are translated to practical application and so those are my principal issues with the candidate.”

Afterwards, Meinhard noted Osl's concerns and said, “I asked, before all of this issue of unpaid taxes came up, Ms. Giles if she had anything that she thought that we should be aware of and at that time she told me that she had unpaid taxes in the County and she told me the amount of those taxes and told me the reason for those unpaid taxes. After talking to her and listening to those reasons, those unpaid taxes are, as far as I'm concerned, a non-issue.

“Ms. Giles explained that the reason that those taxes were unpaid was at the advice of her attorney in a litigation matter and that was involved in that and her attorney advised her to not to pay until the litigation was resolved but that she was able and willing to pay them if we insisted even though it might cost her that $10,000 in litigation settlement.”

Osl later suggested, “We've got poor people in the community that struggle to pay their taxes and they pay them and here we've got a person who makes a six digit salary and can't pay their taxes or won't pay them and I understand the issue from litigation but from my perspective that's what you hire an attorney for, to work around those issues without losing your rights from a litigation standpoint.”

Supervisor Wheeler also addressed the candidate and said, “I think Ms. Giles is not the candidate that we want to put in this position. She has little to no knowledge of county government. She may be a very successful lawyer-that I do not know-but we are not hiring this position as a lawyer. We are hiring this position as a county administrator. We are hiring a CEO for our county and a CEO for our county should be able to walk in there and take care of our county and direct our county in the proper direction…without having to cause any problems otherwise. I just feel like she's not the candidate that we should put in there and if we put her in there we are doing an injustice to the citizens of Cumberland County and we are doing an injustice to Cumberland County.”

Chairman Meinhard then asked if anyone else had any more comments.

Supervisor Banks said he had none.

Supervisor Ingle replied, “Whoever we offer this package to, once we make the package or offer, is best for Cumberland County. This is just the first step in steps. I mean, like I said, we do need to move forward. As far as the applicants that applied, I think they were all great. I just think it's about assembling a team that's going to push forward.”

Meinhard then called for question and asked for a vote and the motion passed on a three-to-two vote.

Chairman Meinhard and Supervisor Banks and Ingle voted in favor of the motion and Supervisors Osl and Wheeler voted in opposition.

When contacted on Tuesday, Giles disclosed that the taxes owed to the County are related to real estate.

“Those taxes relate to real estate that are tied up in litigation,” explained Giles. “And I expect all of that to be resolved when the litigation is resolved…That particular real estate is really the subject of litigation so I expect when all the litigation is worked out the taxes will be resolved as a percentage of that litigation.”

County Administrator/County Attorney

Earlier during the meeting, Wheeler noted discussions of the possibility of a county administrator/county attorney and said, “There is only one county in the state that has that.”

He continued, “If we are going any further with this and if there is consideration of combining the two jobs and we're going ahead in that direction my suggestion would be that we throw out all the applicants and invite them to reapply…and go from there and see what we come up with from that point if that's what the Board wants.”

A Draft Contract

After the final vote, the Supervisors proceeded to discuss details of the contract that they'd like to offer Giles.

“Do we want to go into the process of filling in the blanks on this offering tonight?” asked Meinhard after the decision.

Banks responded, “We've come this far, we might as well finish it.”

Although the contract discussed by the Board in open session was not final because the County's Attorney was still reviewing it related to missing aspects concerning federal and state guidelines – the Supervisors pushed through and suggested that the contract (once finalized) only be for one year beginning on April 1, 2012 until March 31, 2013 when it will then be up for renewal and that the beginning annual base salary in the initial offer be $75,000.

What Now?

When asked by The Herald after the meeting on Monday about the contract that was discussed in open session, Meinhard said, “It's public now that we are going to offer a contract…Hopefully, we will have a contract tomorrow night-one that is legal and all we'll have to do is fill in these blanks about what we decided on tonight, about what to put in these blanks. All we have to do is put them in on what we get from him (County Attorney Howard Estes). That should be the final contract that we can offer to the candidate.”

According to Meinhard, the proposed contract had been sent to Estes for review and tentatively during Tuesday night's meeting the Board can approve a finalized contract with the same details included that were discussed in open session on Monday.

“With the same details that were discussed tonight and then give it to her,” added Meinhard about the final contract.

After the contract is received, “she can accept it, or she can offer a counter proposal, or she can tell us to go get lost,” added Meinhard. “They are the options that are there at this time.”

Related to the search process conducted, The Herald asked, “Have you or any other Board member met with her outside of the interview?”

Meinhard responded, “No. But I have talked to her on the telephone after that interview because I had a couple of questions. One of which was there anything else that we should know about?”