ROCKINGHAM — County Manager Bryan Land says he has spoken to all department heads about the need to “tighten our belts” on spending after years of mismanagement, but three he mentioned by name deny the conversations ever took place.
Responding to a question Thursday from Commissioner Thad Ussery on why the county spent so much more on public safety when the population hadn’t increased, Land said: “I’ve sat down with the sheriff (James Clemmons), I’ve sat down with (Chief Deputy) Mark (Gulledge), and I’ve told them, ‘Guys, I need your help. I really need you to tighten your belt. The days of buying eight, nine and 10 cars a year are over with.’”
He continued: “I’ve spoken with (President) Dale McInnis at (Richmond Community College); I’ve spoken with (schools Superintendent) Cindy Goodman. I’ve planted the seed with them as well, told them that ‘I’m challenging our department heads and this is what I expect out of our team. I expect you guys to follow suit and be on the same team.’”
Through spokespeople last Friday, Clemmons, Goodman and McInnis all denied they had spoken to Land about county finances or the need to slow spending.
Clemmons, after learning that several county commissioners criticized his spending during open session — when he was not present — said, “No one has spoken to me” about overspending. And overspending by the sheriff’s office “was not the conversation” in the closed session he attended either, he said.
Goodman, responding to a question on whether she had spoken to Land about budget cuts, said in an email, “We have a great relationship with the county, and I know I would have heard from them if something like that were to occur.”
In a statement to the Daily Journal, McInnis said: “Our college enjoys a terrific relationship with our county commissioners and county manager. We work closely with them throughout the year to be good stewards of taxpayers’ money, while meeting the evolving needs of our campus and students. As always, we strive to find creative solutions to improve our efficiency and cost effectiveness in support of Mr. Land’s leadership of the county and its budget.”
Asked to give a “yes” or “no” on whether McInnis had talked to Land about the need to cut spending and whether RCC had made changes after that conversation, communications director Wylie Bell said in an email that “The answer to your yes-or-no question is no.”
Multiple attempts to reach Land by phone, email and at the county administration building between Friday and Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]