Cogdell Backed Adding $110,000 In Funding To Nonprofit That Later Hired Him
New Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners Chairman Harold Cogdell on Wednesday denied that a nonprofit health provider hired him because he lobbied commissioners to substantially increase its county funding. County Manager Harry Jones recommended in June that commissioners give $280,000 to C.W. Williams Community Health Center, which offers medical care for the poor. But board members voted to increase the amount to $390,000 after Cogdell suggested they allocate more money to the center's homeless health care initiative. About two months later, Cogdell said he was hired as an attorney for C.W. Williams. "There was no connection," Cogdell told the Observer. Officials from C.W. Williams did not return phone calls seeking comment. Cogdell would not say how much the nonprofit pays him. His comments came one day after a contentious vote that unseated Democrat Jennifer Roberts as chair and replaced her with Cogdell. Fellow Democrats painted Cogdell as a traitor, pointing out he captured the post by securing support from Republicans. In a public meeting Tuesday, Democratic commissioner George Dunlap raised the issue of Cogdell's employment with an unnamed nonprofit and his stances during budget negotiations in June. "I'm not saying there was a quid pro quo, but it doesn't look good," Dunlap said. Dunlap noted Cogdell earlier this year opposed increased funding for a program that helps the poor obtain prescription medicine. He also said Cogdell supported a measure to cut outlays for the Department of Social Services by $2 million. After Dunlap spoke, Cogdell did not respond. On Wednesday, he said he was shaking his head out of "disappointment." "At the end of the day, it's politics," Cogdell said. He said he and Dunlap have since spoken to clear the air. Cogdell said they both promised to move past the episode. "There's no place for taking things personally," he said. In May, Cogdell resigned as chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Charlotte, less than one month after he took the job. A Big Brothers Big Sisters leader said at the time officials were stunned when Cogdell submitted a two-sentence resignation letter. Cogdell has never publicly explained why he quit. On Wednesday, he said he has a confidentiality agreement with Big Brothers Big Sisters prohibiting either side from publicly discussing his departure. During budget discussions around that time, County Manager Jones recommended commissioners decrease funding for C.W. Williams from $281,957 to $280,000. Commissioner Vilma Leake asked the board to increase Jones' suggested allotment for the nonprofit's homeless health care initiative by $2,000. Cogdell proposed the commissioners give $110,000 more than Jones recommended. The measure passed 6-3. Cogdell said he wanted the county to bolster funding because he is "passionate" about increasing access to health care for the underserved. He said he believes the social safety net is vital to the community and that C.W. Williams provides a valuable service. Cogdell did add that the county must "hold accountable" social service agencies it funds. "We have to make sure we are getting a return on our investment," he said. "We have limited resources."