How Norman Jackson violated state law to interfere with staff in protecting and defending female protege that ultimately cost County $175K
By RON AIKEN
Throughout 53 pages of detailed testimony, evidence and correspondence submitted to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in April 2015, Richland County documented the unfounded nature of every charge of racial and sexual discrimination brought by disgruntled former employee Justine Jones.
The EEOC reviewed the case and found there were no charges worth investigating.
Having already lost her internal complaint before a County grievance panel before appealing to the EEOC, the only option remaining for Jones was to sue, which she did in January 2017.
A month later, despite the county’s official position for two years being that Jones’ charges were completely without merit, County Council agreed to settle out of court with Jones, costing taxpayers $175,000.
One reason, multiple sources tell Quorum: Richland County Councilman Norman Jackson wouldn’t leave the room.
Since he was expected to testify against County Council on behalf of Jones (along with disgraced former Council Member Kelvin Washington), Jackson was an adverse party to the County’s case when Council met in executive session on Feb. 21 to receive a confidential legal briefing from Gignilliat Savitz and Bettis about Jones’ suit.
Despite a clear conflict of interest, multiple sources have confirmed to Quorum that Jackson refused to recuse himself even when other Council members asked that he leave the room. When Council members then asked County Attorney Larry Smith whether Jackson could be made to leave, they were told he could not since he was an elected official.
With the opportunity to privately discuss legal strategy thus completely compromised, sources tell Quorum, the County’s own lawyers then recommended it settle, which it did.
“It was obvious that the case was going to be a no-win situation,” said a person familiar with events.
Except for Jones, that is, who thanks to Jackson’s ethically questionable behavior personally was awarded $105,000 and had her attorney fees of $70,000 paid by the County in March.
Jackson’s extraordinary loyalty to Jones against both the County’s (and his constituents’) interests came as no shock to Council, however. Rather, it was merely the last act of devotion in an extraordinary relationship spanning more than two years prior to her termination in March 2015 in which, for reasons known only to themselves, Jackson routinely put Jones’ interests above the County’s.
Over and over, Jackson illegally interfered in day-to-day County operations, documents show, to aid Jones and protect her from other colleagues, her superiors and even Council members themselves, blatantly playing the race card to ensure Jones received benefits above and beyond any other County employee, including:
- receiving a raise larger than any other County employee received that year and larger than what County policies allowed;
- being given nearly unlimited access to Jackson’s private office while he was chairman of Council to conduct interviews;
- being allowed to request lavish expenditures, including $17,400 for luxury carpet for her office when new carpet for that space already had been purchased and was waiting to be installed;
- being transferred within her first three months of employment from a supervisor she didn’t like (who was accurately questioning her work results, documents show) to reporting directly to the County Administrator only; and
- being personally protected, through the use of racial accusations and threats, by Jackson when any members of staff or Council raised questions about Jones’ performance.
For this story Quorum reviewed more than 1,000 pages of of emails, memos and letters spread across more than 600 separate files obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request and interviewed several key current and former employees, many of whom could only share information anonymously, to provide glimpses into closed-door conversations.
The result is the story of a sustained, unapologetic effort by a single council member to protect and promote a single employee through his position as County Council member (and chairman for 2014) through repeated threats, intimidation and focused individual harassment that both state law and County ordinance define as illegal and which set ablaze a war of words and allegations of racism between County Council members in emails that have never been made public until now and resulted in a parliamentary coup d’etat that finally removed both individuals from positions of power.
A ROCKY BEGINNING
“From practically her first day, Ms. Jones seemed to believe her job assignments were ‘beneath’ her,” the County’s letter to the EEOC, written by attorney Linda Edwards of Gignilliat Savitz and Bettis, stated. “Ms. Jones even tried assigning some of her responsibilities to other support staff without (her supervisor’s) approval.”
Just 19 days into the job, Jones also was eying other positions, documents show.
On Jan. 9, Jones sent an email to her supervisor Roxanne Ancheta requesting she be sent the job descriptions for the positions of Assistant to the County Administrator (Ancheta’s job at the time) and Assistant County Administrator. Neither positions were open.
When Ancheta did not immediately respond, at 11:56 a.m. Jones wrote back that she expected to receive “the job descriptions today (emphasis hers), if possible.”
Jones did so, Edwards wrote, “apparently in the belief she was more suited for those positions.”
A recurring problem also were her Reports of Action and Requests of Action, both key components of her job duties. The first three she submitted all had to be redone, and her performance on these reports remained substandard, containing mistakes characterized as “careless and sloppy.”
“Ms. Jones was chronically late in preparing the ROAs and had frequent, unnecessary mistakes,” Edwards wrote. “Most of these mistakes were preventable.
“While preparing the ROAs is not a complicated task, it is vital to the organization.”
“There simply was no excuse for shoddy work.”
Jones was not happy with reviews of her work. According to her lawsuit and County correspondence, after a difficult performance review on Jan. 30 Jones, who is black, immediately went to Jackson and other African-American council members (Washington and Julie Ann-Dixon, sources tell Quorum) claiming she was being racially discriminated against by Ancheta, who is white.
In her lawsuit, Jones states in February she “reported numerous threats of termination and other racially discriminatory and retaliatory treatment by Ancheta dating back to January 2013.”
From the County’s perspective, the allegations and their method of delivery were in keeping with Jones’ disrespect for authority, disregard for workplace rules of conduct and refusal to accept responsibility for careless, mistake-ridden work products.
“Rather than following the chain of command as required by County policy or requesting assistance from Human Resources, Ms. Jones apparently complained directly to several council members about Ms. Ancheta,” Edwards wrote. “This was highly unorthodox for a three-month, probationary employee.
“Richland County policy is that employees deal through the chain-of-command and/or Human Resources. Council members are not privy to the daily activities and do not get a complete picture when they hear only from one side.”
In her closing remarks to the EEOC, Edwards was succinct.
“I believe after you have reviewed the County’s position statement and the enclosed documents you will conclude there has been no discrimination or retaliation.”
Despite the fact that two years later the EEOC would agree that Jones’ claims were without merit, in March 2013, under pressure from Jackson and other Council members, McDonald met with Jones and removed her from Ancheta’s supervision, requiring she to only report to him in an unprecedented move for a probationary employee.
Rather than end the problem, the move was just the beginning of what quickly became a pattern of Jackson illegally interfering on Jones’ behalf with often-exasperated staff as she ran roughshod over County protocol and managed to offend directors in nearly every department, members of the general public and set off a war of words and racial accusations between Council members that has never been made public and which resulted in a coup against the chairman on Nov. 18, 2014, when a coalition of members scuttled Jackson’s plans to make Jones a department director at literally the last minute.
In March of 2013, however, none of that was known, nor was it known that contrary to Jones’ and the County’s timeline of events, the relationship between Jackson and Jones had began far earlier than February, when Jones said she took her complaints about Ancheta to Council — in fact it had begun the first week she reported for work.
AN UNUSUAL INTEREST
According to emails obtained exclusively by Quorum, the relationship between Jackson and Jones — one that neither County policy nor state law condoned — began immediately after she was hired and continued months after she was fired.
Jones started work as Research Manager on Dec. 10, 2012. The following Monday, Dec. 17, the two already were planning a lunch together at “Exclusive Restaurant – Broad River Road” for that Wednesday, Dec. 19.
That date is significant because it was when Jones first major assignment — three ROAs — were due (the ones that “had to be redone”). According to the County’s letter to the EEOC, when Jones received an email alerting her to the problems with all her ROAs that Wednesday she “left at noon, claiming to be sick” and did not return to work until Friday, Dec. 21.
Emails also show the two scheduled a meeting again at Exclusive Restaurant the following week on Dec. 26.
The South Carolina Code of Laws Title Four, Chapter Nine, Article Seven regulates the council-administrator form of government under which Richland County operates. Section 4-9-660 clearly states that council members do not have the authority to give orders to staff or deal in day-to-day county operations regarding personnel.
“Except for the purposes of inquiries and investigations, the council shall deal with county officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the county administrator solely through the administrator, and neither the council nor its members shall give orders or instructions to any such officers or employees,” it reads. Only the county administrator may be “responsible for the administration of county personnel policies including salary and classification plans approved by council.”
Richland County Ordinance Section 2.88 adds additional language to that prohibition, stating that “council and its members shall deal with the administrative service solely through the county administrator, and no member thereof shall give orders to any county employee or subordinate of the county administrator, either publicly or privately.”
Email communications obtained by Quorum reveal that throughout Jones’ tenure Jackson routinely exerted illegal pressure on her behalf directly with staff, especially after Jackson was able to help Jones get a promotion to Assistant Director of the newly created Small and Local Business Enterprise office — an idea of Jackson’s — in December 2013. That promotion increased her salary from $56,000 to $74,000, a 24 percent raise that was against County salary guidelines at the time that limited promotional increases from between 5 and 15 percent but which sources say her supervisors were “made to sign off on” by Jackson. (Edwards’ letter to the EEOC would cite this promotion as “hardly an indication of discrimination.”) She would also be responsible to report to then-Procurement Director Rodolfo Callwood.
“The interest he took in her and her advancement was unusual to say the least,” said a former County employee privy to the pair’s actions on condition of anonymity. “The two were in communication that was far more constant than there ever was any need to be.”
THE POLITICS OF RACE
In May 2014, Council approved the idea of creating a new Office of Small Business Opportunity (OSBO). The new OSBO office would house the SLBE program, among others, and Jackson tasked Jones specifically with conceptualizing the idea for Council with the idea that she would become director of the new department. An unintended side effect of the planned new program was that Jones technically came back under the authority of Ancheta — briefly — when it came to authorizing payment for a proposed “disparity study” Jones wanted.
When Jones sent an email to McDonald on May 22 asking for an update on her funding request for the study’s completion, he instead forwarded it to Ancheta for a response, bringing her into conversation with Jones about a project in which Jones’ sought authorization to commit $250,000 for a study, in partnership with the City of Columbia, about economic disparity. In an email dated May 23, Ancheta posed several questions to Jones about the scope and nature of the job, contract specifics, management responsibilities, vendor selection and partnership percentages, making sure Jones knew “there are currently no funds dedicated for this purpose in the FY 15 recommended budget, so we’ll need to come up with a Budget Motions List item rather quickly to get this before Council for their consideration,” Ancheta wrote. Ancheta recommended meeting the following week to discuss answers to the questions raised and for her to provide possible meeting times.
Jones was not amused in her reply to Ancheta later that Friday afternoon.
“I’ve been focused on processing applications all day, coupled with taking care of a number of other major tasks related to the program,” Jones wrote. “Therefore, I’ll have to take a closer look at your requests and respond more thoroughly over the weekend.
“I know you’re not up to speed so I’ll take this opportunity to let you know both Tony and the Council have directed me to work directly (emphasis hers) with Tony regarding the SLBE program, the OSBO and the DS which is the reason I’ve been working with Tony over the last several months on these items. Council have specifically directed me to report to him and Tony agreed it would be best to do so as well. All other issues/items I have always addressed with the appropriate assistant and will continue to do so going forward.”
The following Monday, Jones forwarded that exchange to Councilwoman Julie-Ann Dixon. On Thursday, Dixon sent an email to Jackson expressing her distress that Jones “informed me she will have to speak with her current new supervisor Miss Roxanne.
“According to what Council approve was that Ms. Jones to report (sic) directly to Mr. Tony McDonald. I would like to know with six councilmember voted to have this approval change (sic) and when was it presented to the entire council.”
Jackson wasted no time in leaping to Jones defense. An hour after receiving Dixon’s email, Jackson wrote back to Dixon and copied it to McDonald.
“Ms. (Councilwoman Joyce) Dickerson and I will schedule a meeting with Mr. McDonald tomorrow,” he wrote. Jackson said he was especially worried about the situation “giving (sic) the history of Roxanne’s behavior to Ms. Jones I am cautioned and concern (sic) that this will fall back to the abuse of the past.
“I will remind Mr. McDonald of Councils (sic) will and personally my concern with Roxanne’s past history. I have been discriminated before and it’s not nice and it (sic) am sure this administration will not tolerate or turn a blind eye and allow this to happen or continue.”
Despite the fact he later would agree in writing with Jones’ termination for cause and refute her complaints of racial discrimination both during her internal grievance and in the County’s official EEOC rebuttal of Jones’ claims, in an emailed response to Jackson the same afternoon McDonald capitulated to Jackson’s accusations without a fight.
“Thank you for your confidence in me, and you are correct…this administration will absolutely not tolerate discrimination in any way, shape or form,” McDonald wrote. “Please let me know when you and Ms. Dickerson would like to meet tomorrow and I will adjust my calendar accordingly. I feel sure we can resolve any misunderstanding once we meet.
For a longtime Richland County source familiar with internal racial politics, McDonald’s acquiescence wasn’t unusual. In fact, it was to be expected.
“The race card, that’s what Jackson and others cry about because it’s the easiest thing they can throw out,” said an employee with more than a decade of experience dealing with County Council members and who spoke only on condition of anonymity. “Because it’s the most horrible thing you can accuse someone of, people shy away from it instead of saying, ‘that’s bull (expletive), this is a horrible person who should have been fired a long time ago.’
“At Richland County, it’s all about race. Everything in Richland County is made out to be racial, and anyone who goes against something a few Council members support, well they’re racist. It’s totally unfounded, but they throw it out like it’s nothing and people go crazy and latch on to it. It is so infuriating to see it happen again and again and again.”
The meeting had its desired effect. On June 1, Jackson reported the results to Jones.
“After our meeting it was understood that you will report directly to Mr. McDonald,” Jackson wrote.
A HOUSE DIVIDED
Unfortunately for Jones, the move did not prevent her from receiving sharp criticism from other Council members when she presented a plan for the OSBO to Council at a work session later that same month that left more questions than answers.
In an email dated June 27 addressed to Jones and copied to McDonald and all County Council members, Councilman Jim Manning raises several concerns about Jones’ presentation and asks no fewer than 28 separate questions ranging from cost estimates small and large to job descriptions to priorities to staffing to timelines to the lack of options presented for such a large project to the lack of strategic plan this close to a proposed launch.
“Below are some of the things I thought we were also going to get answered as a result of the work session or during the work session that I believe go beyond the scope of the two items you had in your e-mail below,” he wrote Jones at 12:48 p.m. “Additionally, I may have some more questions following the remainder of the “quite a bit more” of your presentation that resulted from our running out of time at the June 24, 2014 (meeting).”
When Manning wondered aloud in an email later that day that “if tracking and synthesizing all this OSBO information might fall under the Clerk of Council” rather than Jones, Jackson snapped.
“You might not like the choice council made buy (sic) you you will have to live with it,” he wrote Manning at 3:17 p.m. and copied to Jones, McDonald and the rest of Council. “I will not allow you to intimidate the staff just because you might not like her for whatever reason.
“Please be professional and show some leadership. As for me, sending me this email will not intimidate me if you want to make changes go ahead and make a motion.”
Jackson was not the only African-American Council member to call Manning’s questions about the OSBO office by another name, specifically his questions about how the County intended to advertise the position of OSBO director — not knowing Jones had been promised the position.
“When the Penny Transportation Department was formed and staffed, I don’t recall seeing all this integration and request for national search by Council or the administrator,” Dixon wrote the same afternoon, copying Jones, McDonald and the rest of Council. “We have had some (sic) many opportunities to get our questions answered numerous times, but now you seem to be finding faults.”
“If anyone fail to see (sic), this is mental and verbal abuse. It seems as Mr. Manning has an issue with Black Females. This is a clear sign of bias and racism towards staff as well as I have seem (sic) the same treatment from some of the staff members toward Councilmembers. Now let us have a National Search on Bias and Racism!!”
For a longtime member of County staff who aware of this exchange, it only reinforced the idea that racial politics is used as a tool to silence critics.
“This is a perfect example of how racism gets used,” the source said on condition of anonymity. “It wasn’t that Councilman Manning was asking basic, legitimate questions about a huge project, it’s that he was a racist. That’s the only explanation.
“And it certainly wasn’t that he wanted to make sure the County got the best person for the job possible, it was that he’s racist. It becomes such a dumb response to legitimate, significant questions about issues in County government that gets trotted out over and over by the same people that it would a joke except that not a single person on staff has stood up to it.”
CRACKS IN THE CARPET
Manning wasn’t the only Council member whose questions about the OSBO office and direction were going unanswered as Jackson was doing everything he could to get the motion to a third reading in the summer of 2014. Council members Bill Malinowski and Paul Livingston also raised deep concerns over their inability to get key information from Jones. As soon as two weeks after Manning’s email, Livingston wrote an email to Council and key staff questioning why Jackson appeared to be in such an unusual rush to push the ordinance through (especially language that put the director under the sole supervision of the County Administrator and no one else) without being fully aware of significant facts.
“Mr. Jackson, this comes as a follow-up to my motion at our regularly scheduled council meeting on Tuesday July 15th reference (sic) the OSBO ordinance that you ruled out of order on,” Livingston wrote. “As you can see indicated below, the Clerk’s office review of the minutes found no evidence to support your ruling, that a motion stating that the OSBO director report to the county administration was adopted at a previous meeting.
“Unfortunately, with that uncertainty you enthusiastically accepted a motion to clinch the vote. Something we normally do for time sensitive items. There (sic) is not a time sensitive ordinance. I would suggest that we verify dubitable motions or issues prior to the chair’s ruling.”
As the summer wore on, the final vote to establish the OSBO as a separate entity apart from other County departments kept getting delayed as more and more Council members had more and more questions — a process that by September was clearly frustrating Jackson.
On Sept. 20, Jackson sent an email to the Clerk of Court asking her to send out a message to all Council members reading “Will all Council members who have questions about the Office of Small Business Opportunity please send your questions to Ms. Jones ASAP,” it stated. “This item has been deferred for the third time by members having questions who never respond to have them answered.”
“If we are serious about helping small and local businesses then we need to move forward in an expeditious manner as too much time has passed delaying this important piece.”
Later that afternoon, McDaniels sent out a word-for-word release (with small corrections)to Council. After it was sent, Jackson emailed Jones to let her know that “(McDaniels) did this,” to which Jones replied, “Thanks.”
In anticipation of running the new department, all summer long Jones had been interviewing applicants for positions (using Jackson’s private chairperson’s office with his permission, emails show, on at least 11 separate occasions) and working on redecoration plans for the office — plans that included a demand for expensive new carpeting to match that in the administration’s conference room — a prestigious space in the County’s office — despite the fact that new carpeting for that space already had been ordered, delivered and was waiting to be installed.
The reason, she wrote Richland County director of the Department of Support Services John Hixon on Oct. 10, was simple.
“The County Chair stressed the importance of ensuring the offices have a business friendly and welcome look and feel (i.e., be a showcase to the business community),” she said. “I believe this carpet would better meet this objective than the carpeting currently in the Procurement and Ombudsman’s offices.”
When told the new carpet would cost an additional $17,400, Jackson got angry — not at Jones, but at Hixon.
“Why is there a $17,400 price increase, what are we talking per (square yard) for the carpet and installation compared to the other?,” Jackson wrote on Oct. 14. “With sucn an increase I cannot support he county be held hostage (sic) without checking around.
“$17,400 increase seems ridiculous.”
Hixon explained that it was because the request was a completely separate order “because the original carpet ordered was delivered last Thursday 10/9,” Hixon wrote in an emailed response to Jackson, Jones, McDonald and Ancheta. The additional price, he said, is because the cost “includes all costs associated with the labor to remove and dispose of the original carpet and tile, remove and install new cove base, the new carpet and all labor to install.
“The total SY increase is $3.04, but all 790 linear feet of cove base has to be changed due to the color of the carpet and higher quality increase.”
And still, Hixon said, he is left having to figure out where to find “an area of like size” to have the new carpet already on hand installed in the Administration buildint to “ensure it is properly utilized.”
Rather than balk at the trouble and expense, however, Jones and Jackson remained firm on the necessity of the carpet.
On Oct. 21, Jackson gave clear instructions to Hixon in an email copied to Jones, McDonald and Ancheta.
“Please check with Ms. Jones and make sure she gets the carpet which is most appropriate for the office and have it ordered and delivered ASAP as time is of the essence,” Jackson wrote.
When Hixon checked with her later that morning, asking whether the carpet already on-hand is suitable “or if we need to match the carpet” from the conference room, Jones was surprised at the question.
“Until we talked yesterday, I hadn’t realized the (new) carpet hadn’t been ordered yet, so I was still operating under the impression that we we still moving forward,” she wrote to Hixon, copying Jackson, McDonald and Ancheta. “Yes, I would like to go with the selection I made previously.”
A source with knowledge of the County’s finances at the time said since the money for the extra carpet expense wasn’t in the budget, it was taken from another source.
“I can tell you for a fact they took the money for that from the budget for the judicial center renovations,” the source said. “That’s just how it worked between them. If she didn’t get her way on something, she’d complain to (Jackson) about it, then he’d have staff members called into a meeting with him and the (County) Administrator and it would somehow happen.
“Anything she wanted she got because he was the chair at the time and everyone, including the County Administrator, was afraid of him. It was insane the lengths he went to to intervene on her behalf.”
By November, enough people on Council had seen enough of Jackson and Jones’ behavior to realize granting Jones wide authority over an entire department key to the success of the penny tax’s minority certification department was trouble. Behind the scenes, a coalition of Council members had formed and put a coordinated plan together to remove the two from control of the program altogether — no easy feat, especially doing so without either’s knowledge.
And yet, on Nov. 18, 2014, the plan — orchestrated, emails show, primarily by Livingston — was executed to perfection. At the very Council meeting when the item was up for a third reading and likely to be approved, the moment of triumph for Jackson and Jones, Livingston threw his curveball.
When the item was raised for third-reading consent, meeting minutes show, Livingston made a motion to approve the item with an amendment, promptly seconded by Councilman Damon Jeter. The amendment deleted large sections of the ordinance (specifically those making it a separate department and answerable only to the County Administrator) and added a third section specifying that the new OSBO office ans SLBE program would be placed under direct control of the Procurement Office.
A heated debate followed, but when Councilman Pearce called for a vote, seconded by Malinowski, the amendment was approved bv a vote of 7-4 (Livingston, Pearce, Malinowski, Manning, Rush, Jeter, Rose in favor, Washington, Jackson, Dixon and Dickerson against).
Livingston then made a motion to reconsider to clinch the item for good, as Jackson had previously done before over Livingston’s objection. It failed, meaning it was made law immediately.
Adding insult to injury, Livingston then made a motion to change the title of the amendment to read “An Ordinance Amending the Richland County Code of Ordinances, Chapter 2, Administration; so as to abolish the Department known as the Office of Small Business Opportunity and instead create it as a division of the Office of Procurement.” That motion also was carried by the same vote total and clinched upon a failure to reconsider.
To say Jackson and Jones were unhappy is an understatement.
“I was sitting behind Justine at the meeting, and she and Norman were texting furiously with one another,” said a source at the meeting. “They were looking at one another and communicating back and forth in disbelief at what was happening and unable to stop it.
“After the votes were taken, she stormed out of the meeting. It was obvious to anyone there she was hot.”
Jones also took immediate action.
Expecting a victory, for more than two months Jones and Jackson had been planning a gala Grand Opening party for the new department planned for the next day, Nov. 19. Invitations had been sent out, gift bags with giveaways secured, food purchased by Council and refreshments purchased by Jackson out of pocket (at a cost of between $750 and $1,000, an email from Jones to McDaniels on Oct. 20, 2014, states) for 150 people and extra chairs and facilities personnel commandeered by Jones, emails show, for the event that Jackson called “a showcase for the County’s future business development,” in an email to Jones dated Oct. 10. The event was to run from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and feature a press conference/program.
Once Jones’ dreams were dashed and not only wouldn’t she be a department director over the OSBO and SLBE, she would remain an assistant director to the SLBE and have to report to Procurement, which was under the supervision of Ancheta, Jones struck back.
On Nov. 18 at 9:12 p.m., Jones sent an email to McDaniels with the subject line “OSBO Grand Opening is Cancelled.”
“Monique, I will be sending out a notification momentarily about the cancellation of the event,” Jones wrote. “Just FYI.”
Jackson, who was still at the Council meeting, didn’t respond to Jones until 10:19 p.m.
“No don’t do it,” Jackson wrote. “Don’t give Tony a reason to attack you(.)
“He can say you retaliated(.)”
By then it was too late; the message had gone out.
As Jones would learn the following morning, however, she did not have the authority to cancel the event, which went ahead. She was, however, responsible for the damage control the following day when an upset citizen called the Ombudsman’s office to complain about the conflicting information.
Ashlay Goodwine of the Ombudsman’s office took a report from one Ms. Helen Taylor Bradley at 2 p.m. regarding the OSBO grand opening.
“Ms. Taylor-Bradley stated she received a press release 9:30 p.m. last night stating the event was canceled; however, another press release was sent at 10:00 am today stating the event would still be held and was by invitation only,” Goodwine wrote. “Mrs. Taylor-Bradley indicated she feels this is unacceptable as the event is funded with tax payer money and the public should have been allowed to attend.
“Please respond to Ms. Taylor Bradley.”
Jones did at 3:40 p.m., providing a very different explanation for the circumstances than the night before.
“Good afternoon, Ms. Bradley,” Jones wrote. “There was some confusion based on a discussion held during the November 18, 2014 Council Meeting related to whether or not the event would be held today.
“When we realized the Grand Opening was in fact still occurring, we sent out a notification as early as we could to correct the error. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
Being blindsided as chairman infuriated Jackson, emails show. On Nov. 24 Jackson emailed McDonald seeking to know who specifically took the amendment language — language that would have had to have been cleared by the legal department prior to the Nov. 18 meeting — to legal.
“Was it you or another council member?,” Jackson asked at 10:58 p.m.
“I talked to Legal about it at the request of other Council Members,” McDonald responded at 11:08 p.m.
“Who were the other council members?,” Jackson shot back two minutes later.
“Mr. Livingston mostly, who asked for the motion and who, of course, presented the motion at the Council meeting.”
The answer did not satisfy Jackson.
“Tony, Please stop being evasive,” Jackson wrote at 11:26 p.m. Mr. Livingston and which other council members were involved and who drafted and developed the substitute motion, based on Mr. Livingston and the others request?”
The following morning, McDonald replied.
“Mr. Jackson, I wasn’t meaning to be evasive, and I apologize if I sounded that way. Mr. Jeter and Mr. Pearce also talked to me about Mr. Livingston’s motion.
“As for the motion itself, the language was drafted by the legal department.”
Jones was equally antagonistic.
When McDonald scheduled a meeting the same day (Nov. 25) to discuss the ramifications of the new ordinance and reporting structure, Edwards letter to the EEOC states, “despite responding to the email invitation, despite asking for more information about the meeting, and despite being in the office that day, Ms. Jones failed to attend the meeting. Instead, Jones sent McDonald a two-page memo expressing how “troubled,” “disappointed” and “disheartened” she was at his lack of support for her at the meeting and declared her unwillingness to report to Ancheta.
Edwards writes that because of the Thanksgiving holiday and a “one-week absence due to illness,” the meeting did not take place until Dec. 12.
Jones filed a discrimination charge against the County three days later, by fax.
In January, Jackson’s term as chairman ended. He has not been nominated for chairman since.
Between the time of her complaint and her termination on March 30, her work product deteriorated to the point that a change had to be made in order to meet a growing demand for certified businesses and address failed changes in behavior.
“Your division only had certified six businesses since September (and only two since January),” Patrick wrote in her letter of termination. “During our meeting (on March 12), you failed to accept responsibility for your our your division’s shortcomings.”
She also refused to accept Patrick’s authority.
“On Nov. 18, 2014, County Council voted to place the OSBO office as a division of the Procurement Department. I understood your unhappiness with the decision, but hoped we could work together to get the OSBO/SLBE programs moving ahead as expected by Council,” Patrick wrote. At the (Dec. 12, 2014) meeting, Mr. McDonald explained that your job duties had not changed, but that now you reported to me.
“At our meeting on March 12, 2015, you specifically stated ‘I do not work for you.’ I was stunned that almost four months after County Council transferred OSBO back to Procurement, you insisted you do not work for me, implying that you do not have to listen to anything I have to say.”
Jones refused to sign a Memorandum of Agreement from that meeting outlining goals and objectives, and for that and other reasons Jackson was terminated on March 30.
In April 2015, the County successfully defended itself against all Jones’ claims to the Equal Opportunity Commission, and as multiple sources have confirmed, the County’s attorneys — the same ones who were successful against Jones with the EEOC — were prepared to refute the same claims in her lawsuit until, in his final act of defiance against the Council members who had outflanked him, Jackson refused to leave the room, sending taxpayers one last bill on Jones’ behalf for $175,000.
A person familiar with the discussions said Jackson’s and Washington’s positions — both were prepared to allege widespread, condoned racism on the part of the County against Jones — meant “the optics would be terrible for the County,” they said in addition to the inability to have private legal discussions. Coming out of executive session on Feb. 21, the vote was 7-3 (Norman Jackson, Chip Jackson, Dickerson, Livingston, Dalhi Myers, Yvonne McBride and Pearce in favor, Seth Rose, Malinowski and Gwendolyn Kennedy against).
For those who tracked the entire affair, learning of the settlement from Quorum — the only place it appeared in the public record (and where Quorum found it) was in the little-scrutinized online County Check Registry — was more than disheartening.
“It’s a slap in the face,” said a former employee still who wished to remain anonymous. “This is the bad guys winning. This is threatening people with the race card and getting your way.
“This is Richland County.”
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