NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The former head of animal control in New Hanover County says the county settled a wrongful termination complaint with her, because they knew they were in the wrong.
Dr. Jean McNeil was fired from her position in January after a dispute with county leaders over pay to her staff for work performed during Hurricane Irene in 2011. McNeil contended at the time that since the county was in a state of emergency, her workers should have been given emergency pay.
McNeil was in charge of animal services for 21 years prior to her dismissal.
This week, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved settling a claim by McNeil for $120,000. The county will be responsible for the $25,000 deductible.
Statement from Dr. Jean McNeil follows in italics:
"Dave Rice had been cheating me and my staff in emergency pay for twelve years, and I was sick and tired of it. When it happened again with Hurricane Irene, I decided I couldn't accept it anymore. So, I stood up to Dave Rice, and he hated that I did and he hated me for doing it. It really attacked his ego.
What Dave Rice didn't know is that I had already met three times with Debbie Nash in Human Resources, and I was in the process of planning my retirement. All that was left was for me to choose a date with that 90 day window before retiring. But, before I left, I made a choice to do my best to make our pay right. I was not aware at this time that Bruce Shell, Chris Coudriet, and Dave Rice were already planning to fire me so they could give Animal Control Services to the Sheriff's Department.
The Truth of the matter is that this is "business as usual" for these people. They have no problem with taking fully committed employees and demolishing their reputation and career for their agendas. This particular agenda was to multiply taxes, fees, and fines on county citizens under the umbrella of animal services. (Taxation by citation.)
I served the county well, and they know I did. Chris Coudriet, Bruce Shell, and the citizens know that I served the county well. Even though we are all aware that this is how political businesses are run, it is still shocking when you are that victim. Dave Rice was asked to fall on the proverbial sword in having me terminated, and he did so. But, the orders were from Bruce Shell and Chris Coudriet.
No one knew that I was interested in retiring. When Dave Rice started attacking me and exercising abusive authority toward me, I fully understood what he was going to do. That is why I went to the media first to announce what he was planning.
Dave Rice went through my division with a fine tooth comb, making lies and manufacturing evidence to have me terminated. He failed miserably on all counts. I accepted a settlement because I knew they had reached a ceiling. They offered to allow me the opportunity to resign on a number of occasions, but I refused. It is still a wrongful termination and accepting resignation would allow them to sweep this under the rug.
That's why they paid. They knew it was a wrongful termination. Think about it- they didn't fight me for a year, spending thousands of dollars and resources, manufacturing a case against me, paying attorney fees - all supported by taxpayer dollars. You do not pay $120,000 if someone is rightfully terminated. You also do not furnish the individual with a glowing letter of recommendation.
The Truth is that Attorney Scott Hart and Dave Rice were more than convinced they would have an unfavorable decision if it was heard by the state. It is my belief that if this evidence had been heard by the state that Chris Coudriet, Dave Rice, and Bruce Shell would suffer great embarrassment. Because it demonstrates how leadership in New Hanover County conducts our business.
I got what I wanted. I got Dave Rice's testimony. I got to retire. I got to highlight that the county cheated paying my people. I got to highlight workplace violence and the lack of responsible response by the administration. I also got to expose the underhandedness that our top leaders will do, with their eyes wide open, pre-meditated and deliberate, blatant disregard to following established policies and procedures. The hypocrisy is extraordinary.
So, I got what I wanted. I exposed these practices. I retired -- and ..... I got a $120,000 bonus for my troubles."
McNeil also provided WECT.com with a copy of the reference letter written from Rice.
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