Published On: Tue, Jan 17th, 2012

Dear sold on lobbyist

Former Cleveland County Manager David Dear is sold on the new lobbyist that was hired by the Cleveland County Chamber, Inc. Former NC Representative, James A. Harrell III, runs the lobbying firm James A. Harrell III and Associates in Raleigh. Harrell, you may recall, was the man who led the infamous Teapot Museum pork project. Harrell chided those who were against this project by saying the museum’s critics don’t know enough about the project to understand what it’s worth. Oh, yea? Why did it close up shop in January 2010? Harrell was hired by the Cleveland County Chamber, Inc around May 2010.

Now that Gastonia is seeing how well this lobbyist is working out for our area, they’re going to follow suit, and get in the game as well. Why not, because we already share a common hospitality management team. The same group that will take care of the new LeGrand Center has also been doing the same for the Gastonia Conference Center. And, David Dear is now the Special Projects Manager, with the Cleveland County Economic Development Partnership, which is a part of the Cleveland County Chamber. Indeed, Dear has already been embroiled in a controversy in regards to this Hospitality Company, from Charleston, S.C. [The Wilderman Group]

It seems as if it were only months ago that the Tourism Director, who is also a part of the Chamber, was at a County Commissioner’s meeting, asking for more tourism dollars. If the Chamber and its Eco Dev side have the money to pay $60,000 to a lobbyist, wouldn’t it appear they could also throw in a few thousand dollars to their tourism side? Plus, how are they paying David Dear’s salary? Or is the County paying that as well?

David Dear received several merit raises, to the tune of about $40,000 over a four-year period. The reason given by Commissioner Chairman Johnny Hutchins is that Dear had stated he would have to retire. So in order to keep his valuable services aboard, Dear was given these raises. However, once the news became public, Dear abruptly retired, as he stepped down in December 2011. Now, he is working as Special Projects Manager for the Chamber. He is not listed as an employee of Cleveland County. However, his employment by the Chamber or the Eco Dev side of the Chamber is subsidized by the county. The county and the city give the funds (tourism taxes) to the chamber to disburse. Is that kind of like the fox guarding the henhouse? Understand that $30,000 per year + FICA from Cleveland County Eco Dev (the Chamber) is being paid to Dear as a part-time Special Projects Manager. And that is bankrolled by Cleveland County. In essence, yes, Dear is not on the county payroll or employee database. It’s just a simple little thing like moving around some money.

If these guys are so great at what they do, then why do they have to hire lobbyists? Senators and Representatives are elected to lobby for the people, right? Or at least to lobby on behalf of the people. But these other “real lobbyists” are hired to lobby special interests for whatever entity makes it most worth their while. Their role is known…they’re just haggling over the price. If some of these people who oversee these entities and projects were to run their homes, private business, and such, as they do for these “funded” deals, they would either be broke and divorced, homeless or in jail.

[Ed: Correction – James A. Harrell, III was hired by The Cleveland County Chamber, Inc. rather than Cleveland County Economic Development Partnership]

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