Jul 052008
 

T
he best news is that it’s over. The hemorrhage of taxpayers money will end, but not before Commissioners Baucom, Mills and Pressley had squandered more than $1,000,000 of taxpayers funds trying to prove their own ‘overblown’ rhetoric and fabrications.

Thursday’s (July 3) press conference, marked another of those scripted ‘Baucom’ dramas delivered with all the believability of a Saturday Night Live political parody. Facing down the press — Allan Baucom read a 6 page statement of weak justifications and attacks on fellow commissioners and the past board. Just imagine Baucom as taller Jon Lovitz, the Master Thespian, turning to the audience at the conclusion of his monologue, flinging his arm in the air and exclaiming loudly “A C T I N G”.

Two thumbs down Mr. Baucom.

Putting on the Big Show

First, you need to realize that on Monday, June 30th with Allan Baucom in attendance, the mob of $400 dollar per hour County paid lawyers went face to face with Mike Shalati and his attorney and after 12 hours, they had hammered out an agreement. An agreement that could have occurred any time in the past 13 months without paying a Raleigh law-firm so much taxpayer money in the interim.

Over the next two days, the settlement specifics known only to the board majority, Mr. Baucom and his troupe of political thespians and legal wizards prepared for Thursday’s news conference. The resulting performance is pages of slanted, petty and completely unprofessional editorializing, laced with cherry picked testimony, including some of the lone commissioner ((Kevin Pressley, for various reasons, never made any of the multiple deposition appointments, so there was no sworn testimony from him)) who was never deposed.

Sideways logic

Evidently, to these ‘businessmen’ commissioners, spending hundreds of thousands to save tens of thousands, is justified to inform the citizens of Union County to ‘their version’ of the truth.

Says the ‘Chairman’, “we have weighed everything that’s happened to this point. We have gotten Union County will we believe it’s people deserve. Above all else, this is the truth. That has been at some cost. But now that we have what we need and can put it in the open, we can stop that cost.”

To paraphrase Mr. Baucom: We got as much of our ‘truth’ as we needed — let’s stop now, before any contradictory evidence appears, Kevin Pressley is deposed and worse, Shalati wins in court.

If you examine Mr. Baucom’s script, it is readily apparent that we’re only getting half the story and his version of the truth. And sadly, Mr. Baucom’s reputation for the truth over the last 18 months is as shaky as a 8.5 earthquake.

The fact is, we are not going to get the whole story, Kevin Pressley was never deposed, no testimony from his perspective as a member of the old board, nor as a leading figure in firing and subsequently withholding payment of Mr. Shalati’s contract. Others of the board, Allan Baucom and Parker Mills were only partially deposed according to Mr. Shalati, but interestingly enough Mr. Shalati spent three days being deposed by the county’s lawyers.

Two Wrongs – double the cost to the taxpayers

Make no mistake, the previous board majority was culpable in the costs that our citizens are paying today. Former Commissioners Stone, Sexton and Commissioner Roger Lane were wrong when they extended Mike Shalati’s severance. While it was in their purview to review Mr. Shalati’s job performance at the time, they could’ve just extended his contract another year without any changes to a severance package and let the incoming Board manage the future. Giving golden parachutes to government employees is wrong and doing so just to hamstring the next board denigrates not only the employee, but the taxpayers and voters of Union County as well.

The Real Reasons

As it stands today, in addition to the complicity of the previous Board, you are paying for the arrogance and spite of Allan Baucom, Parker Mills and Kevin Pressley, who after 30 days in office — executed the planned termination of Mike Shalati.

We will probably never know the real reasons behind the firing of Mike Shalati in January of 2007. Rumors are fed with stories of ‘star chamber’ meetings of the commissioner-elects, Chamber of Commerce executives and the large local developers, prior to the current board assuming their seats of office in December of 2006. There is a long history of feuding developer cliques that may have served as the fuel for Mr. Shalati’s departure. The pathetic rationalizations of Mr. Baucom’s script serve to bolster that hypothesis.

Regardless, let’s look at the reasons, the “truths”, Commissioners Baucom, Pressley and Mills were willing to spend upward of $1 million, maybe more to fire the County Manager.

First, they accuse Shalati of lying about Robert E. Lee holiday agenda item, the act of lying justifying termination. Quoting from Mr. Baucom’s script, “a citizen had requested the board to consider recognizing Robert E. Lee’s birthday. While Union County policy does not recognize any such birthdays, this matter would have come up on the agenda for a vote by the new Board at the same time as a federally recognized holiday for the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noting that this would create dissension in the community, Chairman Pressley was reluctant to place on the agenda. But at the meeting, Mr. Shalati indicated Parker Mills was in favor of this proposal and would support it.” Forget the fact that Parker Mills is a Civil War war history buff and collects Confederate memorabilia, the whole premise is based on believing one witness – Kevin Pressley, who was NEVER placed under oath and deposed.

The second reason cited for Shalati’s termination was failing to inform the board about a State sewer moratorium, enacted by the state on December 19, 2006. Here again, Kevin Pressley was ‘conveniently’ never deposed, under oath as to whether he was informed by Mr. Shalati. On December 19, 2006, Commissioners Baucom, Mill and Openshaw were attending ‘Government school’ outside the county and there is reported testimony that Parker Mills was in the car with Allan Baucom, when Mr. Shalati received a call informing him of the state action. Mills asked about the call and Shalati told him. Here again, no truth has stood the test in court.

There you have it. The $Million dollar reason. So I’ll ask, since your tax dollars have been squandered and you the voter have no recourse, are you happy with the outcome?

To look at it another way, the Shalati settlement and county legal expenses is the equivalent of a 1/2 cent on the property tax for this year.

How many of the long overdue school building repairs could be done with a million dollars?

Breakdown of Mike Shalati’s Contract
Source: Charlotte Observer

Two years’ salary: $369,600
Sick leave and vacation: $226,484
401(k): $12,505
Total Contract: $608,589

 

Union County Lump Sum Settlement paid to Mr. Shalati: $650,000

Enquirer Journal Editorial: Spare us the rhetoric

Facebook Comments
 Posted by at 1:57 pm

  16 Responses to “Shalati Case: When the ‘truth’ is stood on it’s head”

  1. The one thing I kept hearing about the settlement is that the “three heroes” settled because “it was the right thing to do” and I also heard that by settling, it would “save the county millions in tax dollars”. If it was the right thing to do, and their main interest was to save tax dollars, then WHY DIDN’T THEY PAY HIM AS SOON AS THEY FIRED HIM!!! As was described above, this was some performance by our “philanthropist” commissioners. BRAVO!! ENCORE, ENCORE!! Oh wait, we will be getting an encore as more details of the FBI investigations come to light.

  2. Mark D,

    You are leaving out some details with regards to numbers. The county did not spend 1 million dollars on legal fees, or even close to that amount, as your post implied.

    As you may remember, 650 thousand of that was the golden parachute given by the previous majority. You merely said that his severance was “doubled” which could have meant anything, maybe an extra 100 dollars, to someone not familiar with the background.

    That money either had to be paid, which would have cost the taxpayers 650 thousand dollars, OR the current board could have challenged it in court. The only way that 650k would not be paid is if they lost in court or settled for substantially less.

    So the legal fees were actually only 350 thousand dollars. Quite a bit less than 1 million dollar figure you repeated over and over in your post.

    Which means the majority of the money spent went towards paying for the golden parachute- so why don’t you direct the majority of your outrage at the previous board?

    And btw, spending 350k on legal fees is nothing. The town of Marvin spends about 1/4 of its budget every year on legal fees, mainly fighting to stop developers from building, and trying to unsuccessfully annex people who don’t want to be annexed. So far, Marvin has lost every single major court case they ever fought, which means their residents have gotten nothing for their tax money either. So don’t act as if Union County commissioners are somehow the only government officials that overspend on lawyers.

    You better watch out- the NEW incoming union county board majority, otherwise known as the “Marvin Mafia” (not my term- it was printed last week in a local newspaper letter to the editor) might very well want to continue their free-spending legal ways, except on a countywide scale!

    Can you imagine if Union County starts spending a quarter of its annual revenue on legal fees, like Marvin currently does?

    Now THAT will be deserving of some serious outrage! 🙂

  3. It’s amazing to me how some people on this forum always seem to blame all the problems in the world on Marvin. Union County lawsuits don’t matter because Marvin has lawsuits, one of the current commissioners on the current board lives in Marvin, so that automatically means Marvin “controls” the county. Also, what happened to the “lords of Marvin”? I thought that was kinda catchy. I read every issue of the EJ, WE, ITT, CE, UCW and Union Obs, and I did not recall ever seeing anyone mention anything about a “Marvin Mafia”. I guess people got tired of calling these two educated, well qualified women “housewives that shouldn’t allocate sewer and water”. Just a suggestion, since “housewives” and “lords of Marvin” seemed to get old really fast; we should try to come up with a few good negative nicknames for our two new commissioners. This way, we will always have a back-up. I can’t think of any off the top of my head; however, I can think of a TON of GREAT nicknames for our current majority. Unfortunately, if I use some of them, the moderator might not post my entry due to the “nature” of these names. 😉

  4. Relative to the last commission and the giving of the golden parachute. It should have never happened, and Roger has to take credit for that as a mistake. Hughie, Richard, and Roger are contributors to the problem.

    We will have our first commission this winter that is not tied to the old powers that brought you this problem and brought you a compounding of the problem.

    I think that a lot of us just want to get beyond the situation here where decisions are made that reflect the interests of the few against the many. The Shalati contract and the Shalati firing are both included in that. I want to see Barry Groome put at the front of the line for sewer service, where he should have been at the start. That would be good for starters.

  5. 1. The “golden parachute” was put in place long before the oh-so-hated “previous” board extended Mr. Shalati’s contract. It was put in place by CLAYTON LOFLIN, who occasionally tries to paint himself as some sort of “hero” to the people of Union County, when he was really one of the biggest heroes developers had ever seen in Union County. The Loflin golden parachute was, I believe, two years’ salary and benefits, so it was in the $350,000 range. The so-called “previous board” did increase the parachute when Mr. Shalati’s contract was renewed, but the Loflin board packed the original parachute, and the current board crashed the plane.

    2. If the current board majority consisted of “experienced businessmen”, as they repeatedly have claimed, and if they had really intended to “run the county like a business” (one of their more ridiculous claims 🙄 ), then their business “leadership skills” should have enabled them to keep Mr. Shalati on the payroll and exercise effective leadership to “manage the manager”. Either they knew that their leadership skills were so lacking that they were afraid they couldn’t properly supervise one bureaucrat, or their firing of Mr. Shalati was simply a political temper tantrum at the taxpayers’ expense. Take your pick, folks. Don’t you, the taxpayers, feel all sorts of warm and fuzzy…and victorious? 🙄

    3. Well, the only bright side is, hopefully, that the investigation won’t end with the ending of depositions. Let’s hope that some of the folks who dodged their depositions due to this “timely” settlement 😉 will find themselves answering federal grand jury subpoenas. :mrgreen: And the good part: the grand jury testimony won’t cost the taxpayers $400/hour or more the way the depositions did. Of course, we’ll still be paying silk-stocking criminal defense law firm Wyatt & Blake on behalf of some of the defendants, but I suppose we’d have been paying that anyway. 🙄

  6. Becker,

    You say in paragraph #2 that the correct decision for the current board would have been to simply allow Shalati to keep his job as county manager, for the SOLE REASON that it would be too expensive to fire him.

    Since Shalati’s golden parachute could not be revoked by the current board- or any future board, then that would make Shalati the most powerful man in union politics in perpetuity, based entirely on the fact that everybody would be afraid to fire him due to the public backlash over the expense.

    He would have effectively become “king” of union county: un-elected by any voters, and unable to be fired. The current board had to show people that would not be allowed. Otherwise every board majority would pack the county govt with their cronies, give them 20 million dollar golden parachutes, then watch the gridlock.

    (that’s how government employment works, folks, once you get benefits they can never be taken away, unlike the private sector)

    The county manager works FOR the board, they do not work for HIM.

    Shalati did not agree, and thus he had to go.

    This whole fiasco is about a “poison pill,” not a golden parachute.

    Also, in response to your criminal conspiracy theory paragraph #3, if there really was such an open and shut case, why did Shalati settle? He didn’t even get his legal fees paid in the settlement. If he really knew of illegal activities going on, and could prove it, why didn’t he even hold out for his legal fees?

  7. Ho-hum, somebody wrote: 🙄

    …if there really was such an open and shut case, why did Shalati settle?

    Maybe Mr. Shalati doesn’t have a $49 million trust fund? :mrgreen: Maybe Mr. Shalati needs to work for a living?

    Maybe Mr. Shalati needed to accept 3 years’ salary (after paying his legal fees) for 1 1/2 years of being involuntarily out of work, and move on?

    Without a trust fund, and without an endless supply of Union County taxpayer money for pursuing political vendettas, what’s a working man with a family to support supposed to do?

  8. “Becker”

    That is the 11th or 12th time on this website that you have claimed I have a trust fund. Would you care to provide any shred of proof to your constant accusations? Even the tiniest speck of evidence? Oh wait- I will answer that for you: “No”

    My parents became wealthy by selling their farmland. I did not. How hard is that for you to understand? Maybe in 20 or 30 years I will inherit part of that money, but hopefully they will have spent it all before they die.

    Is your jealousy of them so intense that you are completely blinded to reason? Kind of strange, since you keep saying that the ultimate use of union county land is farming- yet you despise and belittle the actual people who do the farming whenever you get a chance. Cognitive dissonance much?

    And as for “working for a living” I have been told you have never held a job that was outside some form of government- which explains a lot.

    I assure you, I have worked my entire life- and unlike you I did it in the REAL WORLD, not the insulated fantasy land of Gov Inc where the only job requirement is to place a bunch of signs on the side of the road asking for votes.

  9. Mark D, I’m sorry to hijack this very important Mike Shalati topic, but once and for all I must explain to this idiot that I have worked in the private sector since my teen years, that my “government” income only began in 2000, and that it is a very small part-time income.

    Rick Becker’s resumé:

    1970-1972: language lab assistant, after school (private school, no government funding), duplicating audio tapes. $1.00/hour.

    1970-1974: chemistry lab assistant, 7 weeks, summer (private school, no government funding), preparing and setting up labs for the following school year. $50/week.

    1972-1975: locksmith, summer, private-sector storefront employer, general technical work. $2.00/hour.

    1976-1981: mathematics teacher (private school, no government funding, salaries below public school salaries, no union protection). First year salary, $6,800/year (4/5-time position); last year salary: $11,300/year.

    1978-1980: pipe organ builder, summers, general shop work. $4.00/hour.

    1981-1986: rental property management assistant and maintenance person, office work for apartment management company, hands-on maintenance and repair work.

    1987-present: home remodeling contractor and specialty woodworker, self-employed. Early work involved mostly kitchen and bathroom remodeling. Current work consists mostly of pipe organ construction.

    1999-2000: municipal mayor and finance officer, volunteer, no salary

    2000-2001: municipal mayor, no salary; finance officer: $3,600/year

    2001-present: municipal mayor, 1 year @ $100/month; 4 years @ $200/month; 2 years @ $300/month; finance officer: salary gradually increased from $5,100 to $10,300/year.

    So, I have been in the workforce since 1970 (38 years), have run my own business for 21 years, and have had paying government-related jobs for only 8 years. The municipal jobs are still only part-time with no benefits and, considering the time commitment, come with very low salaries. My total 2007-08 government compensation represented only 2.78% of the total Mineral Springs budget. All Mineral Springs financial information is public record and is readily available. I am posting this information because I am a firm believer in the public nature of government records (to bring this post somewhat back on-topic, this is an area that is sometimes a problem with our BOCC 😡 ).

    Meanwhile, somebody who goes on a blog and brags about his $49 million in unearned assets available to harass a nearby municipality opens himself up to the charge of having a pretty big trust fund, or the equivalent thereof.

    OK, now back to Mr. Shalati’s settlement and the BOCC shenanigans.

  10. I want to be fair to the readers and combatants, so I have posted the last of Becker-Raines feud.

    Redundancy is important on jetliners, but on the Scribe it is annoying when same argument is advanced all the time – every time.

    I don’t want a maniacal adherence to the topic either, mild variations keep things interesting and most readers and authors like flexibility.

    Finally, if your not happy with the topics I choose, write one of your own and email it to me. If I like it — I will posted it under the your name.

  11. Anthony Burman,

    You said you could not find the reference to the new county commissioners as the “Marvin Mafia”. I made that comment in an entry to a Charlotte Observer article about the Shalati settlement. I noted that Sexton, Stone and Lane were unfit to hold office because of the contract extension and poison pill parachute. Openshaw is as guilty of poor judgement as the three clowns because he sided with Lane after the fact. Now we have two more Marvin area candidates who will join Lanny “the empty suit” Openshaw after the fall election.

    I could have referred to Rogers and Kuehler as the “Marvin Maidens” but I believed that to be so unPC, so I chose the Mafia reference and included Lanny because of his residency. The fact that he has demonstrated mediocracy when it comes to problem solving, I could have refered to the three as “two maids and a moron”, but “Marvin Mafia” just had a nice ring to it. Should the new majority come out of the starting blocks with some innovative plans and programs to solve the infrastructure mess we are in here in the county, then I will gladly change the appellation to the “Marvelous Mavins of Marvin”. In the meantime, a pox on the current crowd.

    Mes amis, Pierre the Pig has spoken!

  12. Pierre Le Cochon,

    First, I’d like to apologize that I did not in fact see where “the Marvin mafia” was mentioned.

    Second, you said

    “Should the new majority come out of the starting blocks with some innovative plans and programs to solve the infrastructure mess we are in here in the county, then I will gladly change the appellation to the “Marvelous Mavins of Marvin”. ”

    Unfortunately, if the “current” commissioners get their way on this expansion issue, and they appoint new commissioners, the “Marvin Mafia” will NEVER be able to accomplish any of the things you mentioned that would make you change their title. All I ever hear is people blaming the old board and the new board. Nobody holds the current board accountable for ANY of our current issues. If you just once ever listened to the campaigns of Rogers and Kuehler, or Gasp, dare I say, contact them directly and ASK them(The “maidens”, the “housewives”, the “Marvin mafia”, the “lords of Marvin”, etc)their stance on issues, then anyone can see that improving infrastructure and PLANNING for the future is what they WANT to do. Instead, people would rather just call them names and say they are only capable of “cleaning toilets, not deciding where they should go” 😉

    BTW, KUEHLER DOESN’T LIVE IN MARVIN!!

  13. Anthony Burman,

    I haven’t excused anyone past or present. You will recall that I said, “In the meantime, a pox on the current crowd.” More than one of my history professors and English literature professors averred “a pox on someone” meant more than smallpox. Instead, it meant the “great pox”, if you know what I mean.

    Of course I know that Ms Kuehler does not live in Marvin. However, I took poetic license with her place of residence to make the alliteration work. If someone pins me down to be more precise, I shall make sure she is moved to her proper abode.

    I was present when she introduced herself as a candidate for county commissioner to the Union County Republicans at a meeting in the courthouse. If someone wants to impress me don’t say that you moved here for the farms, rural atmosphere, schools, low taxes and bucolic views. Unfortunately, that was the reasoning she gave for her candidacy. Now that she is here contributing to the loss of farmland, overcrowding of schools, raising of taxes, and blocking someone else’s bucolic view, she shouldn’t tell us that she wants to stop the uncontrolled growth and save us poor country bumpkins from our genetically simple, inbred selves.

    That isn’t what she said, but that is the message many of us old timers hear when that line of reasoning is given. Just say that since you came here and became part of the problem, you believe you have some great ideas that will help with the future growth of the area. Because the term “smart growth” refers to a specific policy or program, might I suggest “prudent growth”? I believe almost everyone is against unrestrained growth.

    FYI my land is not for sale. Additionally, I am not involved in any phase of the buying, selling or developing of real property. I am not involved in the building industry either.

    The Pig has spoken.

  14. Pierre Le Cochon,

    You said,

    “That isn’t what she said, but that is the message many of us old timers hear when that line of reasoning is given.”

    I am not trying to single you out and attack you, and I hope you realize that. I enjoy open dialogue between differing viewpoints. I just try to listen to what people ACTUALLY say, instead of “assuming” what “message” they may or may not have meant by the statement. From what I’m hearing, by your “line of reasoning”, you are criticizing Ms. Kuehler for her reasons why she moved to Union County, and basically saying she has no right to want to control growth because “she is part of the problem”. This isn’t exactly what you said, but that is “the message many of us hear when that line of reasoning is given” 🙂

    Many label her as being “anti-growth”, which is simply NOT TRUE. Neither her, nor Rogers, nor Openshaw for that matter are “anti-growth”. By saying she is part of the problem of growth by moving here, I am coming to the conclusion that anyone criticizing her is actually in fact, “ANTI-GROWTH”. If they aren’t “anti-growth”, then why else are they criticizing her, and all of her supporters of causing these problems? It sounds to me these critical individuals would have preferred none of these people, especially Kuehler, moved here, which in theory, makes them the ones who are “anti-growth”, not the Rogers/Kuehler supporters.

    FYI- I don’t care if your land is for sale or not. It is your land and you have EVERY RIGHT to sell it or keep it. That’s nobody’s business but your own. Also, I don’t care if someone is involved in the building industry. Everyone has a RIGHT to make a living, as long as it’s an HONEST living.

  15. Anthony,

    You said:

    “Many label her as being “anti-growth”, which is simply NOT TRUE. Neither her, nor Rogers, nor Openshaw for that matter are “anti-growth”.”

    Are you aware that Openshaw tried to pass legislation a few months ago that would have stopped ALL building permits within union county until sewer and water infrastructure could be expanded? His proposal included ALL structures except school and government buildings.

    He even wanted to ban all permits for constructing a barn, or even a house with septic tanks and well water- neither of which would require county water/sewer services. He just wanted to stop EVERYTHING.

    His proposal was shot down after about a hundred construction workers showed up for the county commission meeting and told him he was going to cause the unemployment of thousands of people.

    If that’s not anti-growth, I don’t know what is.

    Meanwhile Openshaw lives on a half acre lot in a high-density Marvin subdivision that would be illegal to construct today, due to zoning regulations that he himself helped write while he was an employee of Marvin.

    Can you say hypocrisy?

  16. I am very aware of the proposal by Mr. Openshaw. I am also very aware that it was a temporary moratorium so that the county could get “caught up” with the water and sewer. With real-estate prices constantly falling, and foreclosures rising, I really cannot understand why a builder would want to build more houses. The existing houses in Union County are NOT SELLING. If someone took a drive around some of the new neighborhoods around Marvin, Weddington, and Waxhaw, they would see that new construction houses are just sitting there, empty, with the listing price falling. If people are not buying the brand new houses that are currently sitting empty, then I cannot understand the logic that people WILL buy any new houses that get built.

    Once again, I will state that I, myself, am not “anti-growth”. I certainly DO NOT want people in the construction industry to lose their jobs. As I stated above, these are hard financial times, with real estate prices falling and foreclosures rising. The last thing Union County needs is more lay-offs and more people having to sell their houses because they just got laid off. It is NOT just the builders who are suffering the economy and the sewer and water shortages in Union County, it is EVERYBODY.

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