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Former Animal Control director speaks on settlement

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) -- Last week, we told you a settlement was reached between New Hanover County and former Animal Control director Jean McNeil.

The county's insurer settled an administrative appeal filed by McNeil, who was fired in January. McNeil will get $120,000. In exchange, she agrees not to pursue any other action.

Today, McNeil sent a statement to WWAY which says in part:

"You do not pay $120,000 if someone is rightfully terminated. You also do not furnish the individual with a glowing letter of recommendation. So I got what I wanted. I exposed these practices. I retired - and... I got a $120,000 bonus for my troubles."

Below is the entire statement.

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Dr. Jean P. McNeil — Response to Settlement Agreement 12/17/12

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 Sheriffs 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 that 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.

File records are available on everything that was to be presented to the state to whoever would like a copy.
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Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

A government agency doesn't terminate an employee especially after 21 years without exceptional cause and without consulting the county attorney's, as well as the rest of the powers that be. They would make 110% sure that the termination is valid based on overwhelming facts against said employee, especially this employee. They knew what she was capable of and they made a decision based on her actions. They are not stupid and would not go to this length had she not deserved it. For her to make such an arrogant statement publicly, knowing that the truth is being withheld from the citizens, is not only deceptive, but demeaning and slanderous, and SHE herself should fear being sued for libel & slander.

I'm glad my tax dollars no longer support her salary.

Actually

I think what we're talking about here is two different classes of employees. Ms McNeill is a salary exempt position I believe so her reward in this suit and the accompanying codicil of NOT pursuing any legal action tells me that she was VERY right and the County Manager was VERY wrong. The speed at which it was settled tells me the County was afraid of going to court out of fear it could have been much worse with the accompanying bad publicity.
As for her employees they would have to file with the U.S. Dept of Labor Wage and Hour bureau if they have not already. Those folks would be eligible for overtime or compensatory time off depending upon what their job classification was. Ms McNeill is probably prevented from commenting on that.
County politics has become a tawdry issue for mostly bad reasons. This just seems like another in a long line of misdeeds, malfunctions, and personal indiscretions by our county leaders both elected and employed.

Vog

Cool

Cool...you "got what you wanted"! Did you get the emergency pay for your employees that (you claim) they were cheated out of as well? If not, perhaps you could share some of that windfall with them...since that's what you wanted in the first place.

Or, is it; "I got what I wanted" and to heck with everyone else?

Give them h*ll Jean!

We still love you Jean! The shame is the clowns, Rice and Coudriet, keep pulling the wool over the Commissoners eyes and cost the taxpayers dearly for their antics. You are the bigger person and they are just little spoiled childern.

This statement is

This statement is outrageous!. I would like these files Ms. McNeil refers to to be open for the public to review. I want Ms. McNeil to specify this workplace violence and each and every other allegation in this statement. if these allegations are found to be untrue, David Rice, Chris Coudreit and Bruce Shell should sue Ms. McNeil for Libel and sue the County for not defending them in this matter.

i will be contacting Wanda Copley tomorrow to view these files.

FYI - Ms. McNeil just one receives a settlement doesn't mean one is correct. Settlements occur everyday unfortunately because it is cheaper than going to court to prove the truth.

@Really?? Even though I

@Really?? Even though I wasn’t there, I have spoken on several occasions to some people who were involved. It’s my understanding that the settlement was agreed upon Thursday evening, and the state hearing was to take place that Monday morning. It’s also my understanding that the hearing would take about three days.

So, the math looks like this: thousands of tax dollars billed to fire Dr. McNeil, an estimate of $35,000 to pay the Attorney Hart, the $120,000 settlement, and the unknown expenses - which comes to a total of about $220,000.

If the Attorney Hart is paid the normal fee of $250 per hour, including travel and expenses, then the cost of court for three days of the hearing would only be $7,500 dollars.

Your statement is ridiculous. After investing approximately $220,000 you are suggesting that the county settled to save $7500.

congratulations on your retirement

Once again the local press has played into the politician's hand and the general public is drawn into misinformation and half-truth.She went to bat for her employees knowing that she could lose her own job.But she planned ahead as well for this too.Congratulations on your retirement,Dr.McNeil you've earned it.