Ashe County Commissioner Judy Poe during the Board of Commissioners meeting Monday read a statement calling into question former County Manager Pat Mitchell’s time management and expenses in the execution of her duties.
Poe began by congratulating Mitchell on her Sept. 13 appointment as Assistant Secretary of Commerce, saying “Economical development is one of Pat Mitchell’s passions, and I wish her the best in her new job.”
“Mitchell is one busy lady,” she said.
“Instructor at Appalachian State University, (N.C.) Rural Center, (N.C.) School of Government, adjunct faculty member at Nova Southeastern University and N.C. State University, Assistant Professor at East Carolina University, Board of Directors for Rural Center, Advantage West, transition committee for Rural Center, and county manager and economic director for Ashe County, all at the same time,” she said, listing the several capacities in which Mitchell had served before her Aug. 19 dismissal by the board.
“I was aware that the former county manager was teaching one class at Appalachian State University, and taking, not teaching, classes at School of Government,” said Poe.
“I was told that those trips to Raleigh and Durham was for discussion of issues concerning economical development in Ashe county. I was not aware that former county manager was actually teaching classes for the School of Government and Rural Center,” she said.
“Questions arise as to who paid for these trips, meals, provided vehicle. Was there a salary paid for teaching these classes? Where did this money go? Why isn’t the media asking these questions?,” she said.
“On Aug. 20, 2013 the commissioners were to meet to discuss possible ways to cut expenses for this current budget year. The commissioners were to meet with the county manager, and county finance officers at 9:30 (a.m.),” Poe said.
“But certain newspaper articles state that former county manager had a meeting scheduled in Raleigh to discuss incentive monies for GE on that same day. How can anyone be in two places at same time?,” she said.
Mitchell in a Sept. 16 email to the Jefferson Post responded to Poe’s concerns in detail.
Of the Aug. 20 scheduling conflict between the commissioners budget review, and the meeting in Raleigh to secure $500,000 in N.C. Rural Center grant funding for the GE expansion project, Mitchell said, who was fired the day before, said she would have rescheduled the trip to Raleigh if the budget meeting had gone ahead.
Mitchell wrote that she taught “a course a semester” at ASU, “and never on county time.”
“Courses in the Master of Public Administration are at night. I used comp time or personal leave time to go to campus if I left before 5:00 and drove my own car,” she wrote.
Classes Mitchell taught for Nova Southeastern and N.C. State were online courses, she wrote, and did not require travel.
“When the commissioners hired me there was a discussion about my teaching, and the conversation ended by Commissioner Rhodes saying that ‘Some managers play golf or have other recreational hobbies; if Pat chooses to use her recreational or spare time to teach that is her business.’ And that is what I’ve done,” Mitchell wrote.
Of her work with the N.C. Rural Center, Mitchell wrote that she “taught a total of five days in the two leadership sessions” in seven years on the board.
Mitchell wrote the only county money spent when she worked at the Rural Center was “a tank of gas to go in.”
“I received no money to do this, and they covered meals and hotel if there was occasion to stay overnight. I considered it as part of what I did as a developer in building relationships with organizations we worked with,” she wrote.
“At one time, the commissioners praised my involvement in such organizations as it brought recognition to the county and potentially brought grant resources. There are approximately $900,000 worth of grants that I wrote and brought to the county of Rural Center funds,” she wrote.