Melinda Bales Reaffirms Her Commitment to Being Wrong About HFFA

Dr. Jake Houseman: I know you weren’t the one who got Penny in trouble.

Johnny Castle: Yeah.

Dr. Jake Houseman: When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.

– 1987 Best Picture Winner: Dirty Dancing

Everyone loves a sincere apology because everyone can relate to being wrong. Everyone except politicians. Even when they lose an election it’s always the voters who were wrong, never them. Politicians in Huntersville are no exception.

Near the end of Monday night’s four-hour long town board meeting, Commissioner Melinda Bales took yet another opportunity to be completely wrong about an issue related to Swim Club Management Group (“SCMG”), the current management company at the Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics facility (“HFFA”). This time it was about whether Section 7.(e)(5) of the current management contract between the town and SCMG requires Town Board approval of all sponsorship agreements. Her comments at the meeting [3:53:00 mark] were related to Item 8.B. on the agenda – Approve sponsorship agreement with Atrium Health – and were made in an exchange with Zach Brown, the Executive Director at HFFA.

[Bales] “Since we really hadn’t heard about it (the sponsorship deal) prior to it being put on the agenda, can you elaborate for us how we got here since our contract with SCMG states that sponsorships get the approval with the Board and this contract (the sponsorship deal with Atrium Health) has already been signed? So, this is kind of rubber stamping it. Again, I have no complaints about the agreement, I just want to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again and that we are working in concert with one another.”

Mr. Brown then advised Commissioner Bales that SCMG had, in fact, reviewed the proposed sponsorship agreement with both the town attorney AND town staff prior to it being signed. Only at this point does it appear to dawn on Commissioner Bales that she was wrong about the sponsorship agreement needing Town Board approval.

The relevant language in the management contract states, “All sponsorship agreement [sic] shall be approved by the Town…” The contract was signed by the CEO of SCMG, a prior town manager, our town’s CFO, and the prior town attorney. No one on the town board at the time was a signatory to the contract. Instead of taking five minutes to discuss Section 7.(e)(5) of the contract before the meeting with our full-time town attorney, Commissioner Bales thought she had a “gotcha” moment ready for the large crowd in attendance.

We should expect more from our Mayor Pro Tem.

Commissioner Bales has been opposed to SCMG since the beginning. She opposed even putting the HFFA management contract out for bid in October 2015 and she voted against awarding the management contract to SCMG in July 2017. She even went line by line through part of HFFA’s budget projections during the May 14, 2018 budget workshop in an effort to find some evidence of wrongdoing when she never went through that level of budget detail with the prior management company. She can’t afford for SCMG to continue to succeed at HFFA because it means she was wrong. And she can’t admit she was wrong.

The same Commissioner Bales who publicly made unfounded assertions of collusion against SCMG during a board meeting and has STILL never apologized for those assertions had the audacity at Monday night’s meeting to complain that she wasn’t involved in the sponsorship agreement negotiations. She had absolutely no role in bringing about this great deal for the town, but she expects SCMG to share details with her about confidential negotiations simply because she has the made-up title of HFFA “liaison?” Commissioners do not know everything that goes on in town hall – we have a professional town manager and town staff to handle the majority of the day to day operations of the town. Commissioner Bales also didn’t know about a former town board member screwing taxpayers out of over $90K while she was on the board until it was reported by a local wannabe journalist, but I don’t seem to recall her ever once complaining about this gap in her knowledge during a town board meeting.

All of us make mistakes, but most of us apologize, learn from our mistakes, and move on. It’s clear by now that Commissioner Bales will never admit she was wrong to oppose a change at HFFA, which means she doesn’t want to learn from her mistake. It’s time Huntersville moved on from this type of petty behavior. We should expect more from our representatives on the Town Board.

Eric