Investigator says Durham commission board 'fractured' and dysfunctional'

An independent investigator says the Durham County Commission Board is 'fractured' and 'dysfunctional.'

Video Transcript

TIM PULLIAM: The Durham County Commission Board is fractured and dysfunctional. An independent investigator determined this last year when allegations surfaced of racism and sabotage between Durham County manager Wendell Davis and Commissioner Heidi Carter. This year, the board committed to hiring a consulting firm for race and equity training based on the report.

ROBERT BOBB: When you read the Coleman report, it is pretty damning.

TIM PULLIAM: Robert Bobb represents The Robert Bobb Group, a Black owned firm out of DC. They presented a $50,000 proposal offering their services during the board's March 8 public meeting at the request of the county attorney. Some members of the board were eager to work with the company. Others cited community concerns, and felt the process was too rushed.

NIMASHEENA BURNS: There is a sea of employees here who feel abused. That is why we are doing this training.

HEIDI CARTER: I think a couple of other options is-- is a reasonable request.

TIM PULLIAM: The board voted 4 to 1 to reject the proposal.

BRENDA HOWERTON: I'm disappointed in my board that there are so many objections.

TIM PULLIAM: The board asked the county attorney Lowell Siler to find two more firms.

LOWELL SILER: We can sit here and go around and around about this, and you do what you're going to do. But the bottom line is that you all asked me to do this, right? You asked me to get someone to give you all help.

ROBERT BOBB: And it's OK if you re-bid, but tell us before we appear at the meeting that it's not acceptable or that you want to go into a different direction.

TIM PULLIAM: Today, the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People calling the public exchange in front of the consultant inappropriate. The group is demanding Commissioner Carter recuse herself from Durham County manager Wendell Davis's upcoming contract negotiations. They also want Carter, Jacobs, and Allam to apologize to the consulting firm for allegedly trying to block the proposal. The Durham committee questions if it was racially motivated.

ANTONIO JONES: We just don't see that type of energy used against non minority contractors who look to do business with the county. So one has to answer, what's the problem, what's the issue? Is it race? Is it personal? Is it political?

TIM PULLIAM: Today, Commissioners Allam and Carter releasing these statements. Allam says, "I am committed to establishing and following norms and processes to build an effective government that is transparent and generates trust amongst all community members. That is why I believe the longstanding Durham County commission process of receiving multiple competitive bids for contracts over $40,000 should have been followed."

Carter says, "I do not agree that these actions or statements on my part were derogatory or disrespectful. I am sorry if anyone interpreted them that way. Board members must be able to ask questions of all staff, always respecting their dignity and expertise, without these questions being thought of as a sign of disrespect. We are fulfilling our obligation to make informed decisions on behalf of our community and constituents."

You can read full statements online at Tim Pulliam, ABC 11 Eyewitness News.