Ella Scarborough should resign from the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners if she is unable to contribute to discussions that affect the one million citizens who live here.
I believe her colleagues on the county commission are covering for her. They should not let her coast through critical discussions on affordable housing, upward mobility, school performance and COVID-19 relief by saying “no comment.”
I don’t have an issue with commissioners rewarding Scarborough for her many years of service to the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County with a special stipend and insurance benefits if she were to resign. Call it an ambassador’s position.
But we need engaged leaders overseeing Mecklenburg County. We need leaders who show up and work through these complicated issues. The stakes are just too high.
Commission chairman George Dunlap tried to be diplomatic about it, but he downplayed Scarborough’s role on the board during the Jan. 5 meeting.
Commissioner Vilma Leake pressed Dunlap on why he didn’t let her add something to the agenda when she had secured endorsements from Pat Cotham and Scarborough. Commissioners generally need two people to sign off on agenda items.
Dunlap initially replied there were concerns about how commissioners add items to the agenda. Dunlap said he would contact commissioners to verify their support of additions to the agenda.
Dunlap went into more detail three hours deeper into the meeting.
“I want to make it clear that everyone understands that I will not allow anyone to take advantage of a commissioner who does not participate in our meetings and use them as a person to sign on to an agenda item,” Dunlap said. “I don’t think I have to call any names for people to understand who does not participate in the meeting.”
Dunlap said it was unfair to suggest that that someone who doesn’t participate in meetings would be willing to talk about an agenda item that they would not be able to discuss.
Leake replied, “There was never intent in using anybody. All of us have been elected by the public and when I asked the individuals and when you say not participating — I want to know what you mean not participating so I understand.”
Leake came to Scarborough’s defense saying that just because she says “no comment” when it’s her time to speak doesn’t mean she’s not a participant.
Once the meeting resumed, however, Dunlap would acknowledge Scarborough’s name for a vote only for there to be silence.
If commissioners can’t trust Scarborough to do something as mundane as adding something to the meeting agenda or be present during votes, what are we going to do when something serious requires a vote?
The last meeting in which there are recorded minutes was Dec. 1. Scarborough arrived 43 minutes late, didn’t cast a vote for two items and left the meeting an hour early.
A few days later, newly elected commissioners gave lengthy speeches thanking the voters and explaining what they hoped to accomplish. Scarborough looked down at a piece of paper but appeared to wing it. Most of her short speech involved how her son was doing something special in South Carolina and she teased that she would eventually reveal what that was.
I also remember meetings in which Scarborough’s contributions to discussions came in the form of Bible verses.
Scarborough is a living legend in Charlotte politics who doesn’t need an elected office to be a community leader. I implore Scarborough’s colleagues on the county commission to encourage her to resign.