Google Groups
Join To Get Blog Update Notices
Visit the Hickory Hound Group

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What is Going on at Hickory City Hall?!?!?

The Hound: Today we crossed the 50,000th Unique Viewer mark and last week, August 28, was the 3rd anniversary of the Hickory Hound. We have come a long way, but in the end we haven't gotten as far as I would like to be at this point in time. I truly appreciate those who care about this community and the encouragement that they have lent me during these trying times.

The following letter was sent to me personally through an anonymous source. The funny part is that at first I did not even open the letter, because I thought it was junk mail; but when I did, I knew it was very relevant to thoughts that I and others have expressed to one another in communications over the last several years. This is a source who I guarantee is one of those people who I describe above. These people don't like the direction in which this community is headed. They aren't complaining. Many of them are angry, frustrated, and fearful of what they see. The local media acts like a megaphone for our local government, never asking questions... never allowing debate. Why would people not be frustrated, when the perception is that local official's interests do not seem to embody our own.

I have redacted two statements in the letter that might distract from the topic at hand. Most of what is detailed in this letter has been expressed to me by several sources in the past; the vast majority of whom do not want to go on the record. Issues, such as these, are constantly explained away as isolated incidences by the leaders of this community. What we see is a pattern and that pattern establishes credibility of those who have chosen not to go on the record for fear of retaliation and implied intimidation. So without further adieu, I present a letter that says a lot about what is going on behind the scenes in the Halls of Governance of Hickory.

To whom it may concern,

How can the citizens of Hickory trust the judgment of a leader who cares more for his personal gains than the needs of the residents? In this case, I am talking about City Manager Mick Berry and his "Mormon pipeline." How can Mr. Berry continue to recruit, hire and promote only those with his personal religious beliefs?

Several years ago, he started an internship program that has brought the City of Hickory 5 interns - all but 1 were Mormons from BYU (Mr. Berry's alma mater). Yes, that is in Utah! Yet a very respectable Public Administration program is just up 321N at Appalachian State University, not to mention the various other schools that are much closer. His first intern, Mike Bennett, had a position created for him (although the rest of the city was in a hiring freeze). Since then, Mr. Bennett has been the recipient of several promotions and pay increases(while others have been under a pay freeze since 2008, his pay has changed from $40K to $75K). xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.. Conflict of interest?

Mr. Bennett was the recipient of a "new" position, Assistant to the City Manager, that was created for him after his internship ended. He was then moved into a temporary position leading Piedmont Wagon (bus system) until it broke off from the city. He was then promoted to Finance Director in February of 2010. Then Mr. Berry created an entirely new department for him by combining Finance, Human Resources and Information Technology and called it Administrative Services only a few months later in June 2010. This was supposed to save money and improve services. What?! Yet there continues to be several city departments that only have 2 - 5 people, including the City Manager's Office. Were these promotions for Mr. Bennett offered to anyone else? No one I know saw or heard about these jobs! I think they were simply appointments made solely for him by Mr. Berry.

This practice was also evident in the Google fiber-to-the-home project that the City of Hickory and Lenoir bid to receive. Hickory hired 2 "consultants" to work on this application that was later awarded to Kansas City. It was stated that Paul Baird was a fellow Mormon. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. According to public records, Mr. Baird was paid $21,375 and xxxxxxxxxxx was paid $19,325! This was for about 2-3 months of work which could have easily been accomplished with volunteers in our community and cooperation with Corning and Commscope. Was this a good use of the city's money? Did it have anything to do with the Mormon relationships and keeping the money in the church? Also, neither of these people were engineers who could propose a design for Google - they were marketing people only. GottaGettaGigabit!

I read an Internet article about Mormon discrimination. And, no, it is not about other religions discriminating against them! There was a chart showing that Mormons were more often defendants rather than plaintiffs. Mr. Berry is using his position to further the careers and pad the pocketbooks of his fellow church members. Who controls the actions of the city manager? These are city tax dollars and I would much rather see our sanitation workers get a slight pay increase (when they have to work in extreme conditions and on many holidays) as opposed to another promotion for Mr. Bennett or $40K+ for Mormon consultants to work on a project with no direction!

A few months ago, there was a scandal involving City of Hickory employees who sold scrap metal from a demolition site. According to the Hickory Daily Record, this resulted in 2 people being fired and 4 on probation. Yet, according to sources inside the city, Mr. Berry decided to cancel his city cell phone and move the l-year-old Droid phone (paid for by city money) to his personal account. How can he publicly attack these workers for not maintaining the trust of the citizens when he takes home public property for his personal gain? It is even worse since he is the highest paid person in Hickory and the third highest in Catawba County!

Like many of us, I know several people who work for the City of Hickory. According to these contacts, morale is extremely low inside the organization. With Mr. Berry's personal agendas, unfair hiring and promoting practices, hiring freezes for non-Mormons and no pay increases since 2008, I understand why! As soon as the economy improves, we stand to lose a lot of good public servants.

If the Hickory City Council chooses to continue ignoring the self-serving, biased practices of our city management, then we (the citizens of Hickory) need to make a statement by replacing them! We are past due for a change in leadership. Hickory deserves a council and mayor that are progressive, innovative and willing to make a difficult decision when it is necessary. The time for strong conservatism and looking the other way has past.

Thank you.


harryhipps said...

Yet another example of our "leadership" taking care of themselves and their friends first and fairness to the people is not a goal to aspire to but an obstacle to maneuver around. These folks don't seem to have much of a conscience.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who worked for the City when the Mickster came on board saw this religious discrimination start immediately upon Mr. Berry's appointment.

First, there was a purging of all persons of color, Gay and Lesbian employees and those who espoused a liberal ideology or dared to question his dictates.

Eventually employees were either terminated or were given such horrible work conditions that they left leaving room for the Mormon invasion. This is why we have interns -- not seasoned professionals, but kids just out of college -- being moved across the country AT THE CITY'S EXPENSE during hiring and salary freezes for the rest of the employees and despite the fact that the UNC system has one of the finest Public Administration programs in the country.

Need more proof of the importance of Berry's church in his City decisions?

Berry lived in Claremont before he moved to "Hickory". As a condition of employment, he had to live within the Hickory City Limits, but to move here would have required that he lose his position within the church because Claremont is a part of the Newton-Conover Ward, which is separate and has different leaders than the Hickory ward.

Keeping that authority was important to Berry, and apparently something he didn't consider when he took the job so he had to work to find a solution.

The solution, which the Council so conveniently accommodated?? Carve out a building lot in what is on the other side of the annexation line and was supposed to be in Newton rather than Hickory, get it annexed into the City of Hickory and all of his problems are solved.

Oh, and Berry's kids? They go to Newton-Conover Schools. Check out the County Records -- his address is 1231 Bugle Lane, NEWTON, NC --

The other interesting thing there is that the County records show that they are in the Maiden school district, but somehow they've managed to get placed out-of-district in Newton-Conover.

Wonder if they're paying the fee everyone else has to pay for that.

Take heart, though, it can't last forever. Although it will take at least generation to overcome the setbacks that this administration has implemented, and it may not be possible to ever fully recover from some of the taint that has and will be spread across the City, eventually Berry will promote one of his church buddies over current head suck-up Warren Wood, at which point "Warren the Weasel" will again show his true colors and work to sabotage the City Manager.

The unfortunate reality, though, is that the people will continue to suffer with a lack of leadership and programs that work for the benefit of the citizens while Council sits around with their thumb up their a** doing nothing and allow this petty dictator to act to throw out the heretics and promote his own form of localized Dominionism.

Silence DoGood said...

Shucks. I had run up my horns and picked up my pitchfork to play devil’s advocate, but I see Anonymous has provided some stirring elucidations of things as they are presently. I will say that I can see the same thing happening among Baptists, Methodists, or another denomination. Protestants and about everybody else vilified the Jews on the same pretexts in the same manner, or worse. Oops, forgot to lower the horns; sorry.

However it does appear, based on the content of the letter and the post by Anon that something doesn’t smell quite right. My best analogy to that is, it never has smelled right, people just got used to the smell and ignored it until now. It’s working against them now. Now, they find themselves on the other side of the issue perhaps. Not an enviable place to be, is it? And yet, I wonder how many times we have all stood and watched a travesty take place and did or said nothing about it, simply because we found the parameters by which it occurred agreeable to our own points of view?

Need I gesture and point out the tenets of the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution? There is a reason for the separation of Church and State. There are valid reasons to maintain that separation, not for the abolition of either, but to preserve the autonomy of each. And here, it readily appears that lesson is lost. It readily appears that religion seems to be a motivating factor in hiring practice, compensation, advancement, and preferential treatment. It also would appear that religious belief may be the impetus behind discriminatory practices concerning employees. As an aside, maybe that’s why Rudy was so vehement against unions in public work places. He didn’t want any of this coming to light or the power of many voices and money behind a civil rights violation suit. Hickory might get a black eye on one of its many faces. Kinda trashes that whole "All American City" concept, wouldn't it?

So is this ‘just because’ Mick is a Mormon? I don’t know, but the evidence presented is certainly compelling to that conclusion. If substantiated, it appears that there is likewise collusion of the then sitting City Council who hired him and allowed him variances and a special annexation. And if the land so specified was in fact in Newton’s extra territorial jurisdiction, it would appear that the Hickory City Council is not the only culpable body politic involved in this. Although he is not the only city official living and serving under the auspices of voluntary spot annexation. Boy I’m glad I’ve got a good seat for this!

Anonymous said...

You hit the nail on the head, Silence, when you point out that it would be inappropriate regardless of the religion - or lack thereof - involved. It's simply easier to trace in Berry's Mormon church than it would be if disbursed among more mainline denominations.

harryhipps said...

When it comes to speaking out against this The Hickory Hound takes a back seat to no one and Thom is the most vocal and consistent voice on these issues. There are a scant few in Hickory who will add their voices, very few. So the question I have is this: If there are a couple of people that are willing to publicly stand up and say the emperor has no clothes, why is there no chorus following?
I have personally spoken to many who state some of the same concerns, but when it comes time to stand up or support someone who will stand up they aren't there.
In the end, change won't happen because the Cowboy rode into town and cleaned up the bad guys. Why the continuing apathy?

Silence DoGood said...

Thank you Anon and Right you are Harry! Which is why I consider myself fortuntate to be in such company and associated with this group. And let me say that it's my pleasure to exchange thoughts and ideas across this page with you Harry. While we may not be in agreement some of the time, there is commonality of purpose and ideologies can change. I, by no means, have the answer to everything or even most things. But I do have the capacity to reason and look for answers. And Hickory is in desperate need of answers.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with only one point that has been mentioned and that would be that I see the sort of bias shown by Mick toward his Mormon "family" as strictly a mormon/cult mindset. I would not attribute similiar actions to a Protestant city manager. Mick has clearly put his allegiance to his church above his responsibilities to the citizens of Hickory.

James Thomas Shell said...

Don't y'all think the City Council knows about this? Does that not imply that they are endorsing it? or is it that in the world that they live in that this is either a non-issue or Standard Operating Procedure?

If you go down any of those paths it does not bode well. At the very least they aren't paying attention and at worst they have given the City Manager carte blanche to do as he pleases even if it is unethical.

Either scenario speaks volumes. I think the summary of the letter says it all. And you know what. They are going to completely ignore this, because our local media is in cahoots with them and won't even ask any critical questions such as these.

Silence DoGood said...

If they aren't Roman or Orthodox Catholic, Muslim or Jewish, they're Protestant. Mormons are Protestants. They just had to have their own book. And I'm not talking about Druids, Pagans, Satanists, Scientologists, or snake cultists. For me, "I put no stock in religion. By the word 'religion', I've seen the lunacy of fanatics of all denominations be called the will of God."

However, the potential is always there for a manager or politician to conduct themselves in such a misguided manner. If their dedication to their faith is greater than their dedication to the law, and they don't have the self control to separate the two, then you have the makings of a problem.

Now, working for the City of Hickory, it readily appears that can cut two ways. If you're in the 'big club', you're good to go. If you're not, potential problem, particularly if you're prone to putting ripples upon the waters of Nirvana.

Anonymous said...

Much more to investigate. Closed doors and secrets at City Hall, unfair promotions, playing favorites, Everyone is waiting for Council to act.

Anonymous said...

It is a known fact that Mormons do this kind of stuff on a regular basis. It is as if this is normal to them.

wandaarnold1716 said...

As a fairly new reader at your site, Thom, I had no knowledge of the problems with Mick Berry and appreciate you bringing this up again.

I am responding to what Anonymous said that "Mormons do this stuff on a regular basis." As a Realtor in Northern Virginia for 33 years, I worked side by side with a Mormon for the majority of that time.

Del was an extremely good Realtor, knowledgeable and hard working. He had five children to support. He had to provide missions for all of them and a college education at BYU. His wife worked hard also, as a nurse.

Del had an arrangement with his Bishop, who is always the first person to know when a new family is scheduled to move to town. These folks automatically became Del's clients in their search for a new home and remained clients for all future real estate transactions; so he had a steady flow of good solid business and a good income.

The Mormons do stick together in everything they do. They take their 10% tithe extremely seriously and they take care of other church members who have contributed their tithe when they have problems and need help.
Their church provides wholesome activities for all age groups on a constant basis, especially for the children, so they are much together. They strive to marry within the church.

The difference between Del and Mick Berry is obvious. One worked as an independent contractor for himself. The other works as a civil servant for the people of Hickory. The difference needs to be pointed out to him in no uncertain terms.

Everyone gives preference in the form of favors to people they know and like; but cronyism should never be tolerated in city government.