Former head of New Hanover Co. Health Department fired over leadership, performance issues

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Phillip Tarte (Photo: WWAY)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The former head of the New Hanover County Health Department was fired due to “unresolved patterns of leadership and performance failure.” That’s according to a newly released separation letter.

Phillip Tarte was the New Hanover County health director.

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The letter, dated January 27, outlines the reason why he was dismissed.

It is unfortunate that we had to part ways with Mr. Tarte and I wish him the best in his future endeavors,” Health and Human Services Director Donna Fayko said

According to the county’s website, Tarte joined the New Hanover County Health Department as its director on July, 19, 2016. However, the separation letter notes that there has been a history of “performance failures” since July 2019.

Tarte was the subject of pre-dismissal hearings in November 2019, March 2020 and August 2020.

Following the August 2020 hearing, the letter states that County Manager Chris Coudriet decided to significantly reduce Tarte’s salary reduction to $131,603. However, it doesn’t state what his previous salary was. According to the letter, the hearings were meant to give Tarte a chance to fix “performance deficiencies.”

Fayko began her position last October and notes in the letter that she had to consistently address leadership/performance concerns in regards to Tarte. She states several examples in the letter of Tarte being absent during workdays, missing or arriving late to meetings, and demonstrating an inability to administer the COVID-19 vaccination process in response to the pandemic.

Her last point includes about to the extent that a team had to be assembled that excluded Tarte.

Fayko also noted recent events that demonstrated ongoing performance/leadership concerns.

One of which took place during a meeting on January 11 when Tarte was scheduled to attend a meeting on Microsoft Teams related to the county’s vaccine response. Fayko says in the letter that when attendees realized Tarte had not logged into the meeting, she sent him a message asking to join.

David Howard, who previously served as assistant health director, has stepped into the position as interim health director.

“Our Public Health team will continue to lead our community toward better health and wellness,” Fayko said. “They are dedicated to the community and our health initiatives, and since February of 2020 have done incredible work in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am eager to move forward, with a continued focus of serving every single person in our community.”