By Virginia Bridges
A Durham County Republican Party news release questioning Fred Foster’s integrity as a former county employee could thwart the push to appoint him to finish Joe Bowser’s vacated seat on the Board of County Commissioners.
Commissioners were poised to vote on Bowser’s replacement at their 7 p.m. meeting tonight before they received the release Saturday afternoon calling for Foster to withdraw his name from the list of candidates. The release highlights a 1991 state Office of Administrative Hearings document concluding Foster used county resources to send his private mail and worked on a second job, his insurance business, on county time while he was employed by Durham County Department of Social Services.
The report indicates that Foster “exhibited an utter disdain for Durham County taxpayers,” the news release states.
In response, Foster contends Republicans have misconstrued the information in an attempt to stack the board with “persons who are subservient to their interests, and perhaps open to a ‘play for pay’ arrangements.”
According to information provided by the county, Foster worked for DSS from 1979 to Jan. 5 1990, when he resigned from an administrative assistant position. Foster said he challenged the county on a claim that he used his position to mail business and personal material. The document that the county GOP provided, a June 11, 1991, recommended decision signed by Administrative Law Judge Michael Rivers Morgan, indicates Foster was given the option to resign or be dismissed for sending personal mail through the county system and working on his insurance business while being paid by the county.
If Foster resigned, a dismissal letter detailing the cause of his termination would be removed from his personnel file, the Administrative Hearing document states. The document concludes that Foster violated county standards “by placing his personal mail in the Durham County mail system” and “by conducting business affairs of his secondary employment, his insurance business,” during county work hours.
Foster, however, claims that those findings were “incomplete” and he resigned from his post “because of a series of misunderstandings and false claims.”
Foster finished second in the 14-person Democratic primary for five seats on the board. He served as the president of the Durham North Carolina Chapter of the NAACP, and is currently president of the Old Farm Neighborhood Association. On May 31 Foster received the Democratic Party recommendation to the commissioners to take the seat that Bowser vacated after he finished seventh in the primary.
Commissioner Vice Chair Ellen Reckhow said some board members have indicated they are no longer ready to vote for someone to take Bowser’s seat. “We may defer any type of action to try to take some time to sort things,” Reckhow said.
The document provided by county Republicans, Reckhow said, does raise some concerns, but it relates to actions that occurred a long time ago. Foster also has other has other countervailing positives, she said.
“I think that clearly there may have been some errors in judgment,” Reckhow said. “But on the other hand it was 22 years ago. I am trying to give Fred the benefit of doubt.”