who is allowing this kind of spending in Charlotte, NC?

NC DSS spends $20,000 on holiday party, training
12:21 PM EST on Thursday, December 18, 2008
By STUART WATSON / NewsChannel 36
E-mail Stuart: SWatson@WCNC.com

December 18th, 2008 DSS spends $20,000 on holiday party.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Lots of workplaces are scaling back their holiday parties this year, cancelling caterers or off-site locations and replacing them with simpler bring-your-own covered dish luncheons at the office.

But not the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services.

DSS combined its holiday party with mandatory training and more than doubled the cost as well -- from $9,600 last year to $20,000 this year, according to Tabitha Carnes, a DSS spokeswoman.

About 1,200 DSS employees were told they were required to attend mandatory workshops along with the agency's holiday party held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.

The event was held off-site at the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church on Beattie's Ford Road in Charlotte.

Last year's holiday party for DSS was held at the Grady Cole Center, a county-owned venue, with voluntary attendance, according to Carnes.

Carnes says the $20,000 paid for heavy hors d'oeuvres, recognition items and training materials.

Friendship Baptist is coincidentally the home church of DSS Director Mary E. Wilson. But the department's spokeswoman says Wilson did not pick the site and an anonymous donor paid for the space.

Last month the NewsChannel 36 I-team reported how Wilson spent another $20,000 in public money decorating her office with all new furniture, drapes, crown molding and a flat screen TV.
When asked if reporters or photographers could attend the DSS holiday party or the workshops, Carnes said, "She (Wilson) does not want the media to be there."

County Commissioner Karen Bentley did attend the DSS function. Bentley said she observed "lots of training and very little socializing."

But when asked about the additional cost, Bentley responded, "Well I think that's a fair question. I think we absolutely need to ask those questions ... I think we need to see that breakout."

Carnes said invoices for party and training costs will be made public after the event.

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