Guilford County Commissioner Frankie Jones Jr. had some interesting comments when he addressed the adoption of the 2022-2023 Guilford County budget at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Thursday, June 16.
After speaking passionately about how the new budget would address the needs of county residents, Jones turned his attention to a Republican county commissioner and chastised him for not taking part in the budget process.
Jones didn’t refer to Republican Commissioner James Upchurch by name, but it was obvious that Jones was calling out Upchurch, which Jones later confirmed.
Guilford County held five budget workshops before adopting the budget and Upchurch didn’t attend any of them, either in-person or virtually.
Jones voted for the budget, while Upchurch voted against it – and Upchurch blasted the budget saying it was too expensive and lacked direction. Upchurch participated in the June 16 county commissioners meeting by phone, while the other eight commissioners were at the meeting.
Jones took issue with the fact that Upchurch was criticizing the budget but Upchurch had missed all of the budget work sessions.
“I salute everyone here who is in attendance at this meeting for putting in the work,” Jones said. “They came. They did the work. We have a duty to actually show up and do the work.”
He added, “But I find it disrespectful to every member of the staff and everybody on the Board of Commissioners to voice opposition but not even represent your citizens.”
Jones said Republican Commissioners Justin Conrad and Alan Perdue hadn’t voted for the budget, but they had come to the work sessions, fought to represent their constituents, and had gotten items included in the budget because of that.
He said Upchurch, on the other hand, hadn’t participated at all.
Jones said the day after the meeting when the budget was adopted, when asked about the comments, that his remarks weren’t personal. He said he gets along with Upchurch and the two have a pleasant relationship – but he added that he took offense at the fact that Upchurch criticized the budget without putting an ounce of effort into it.
Upchurch on Friday, June 17, said he was surprised by Jones’ comments because he has served for months with Jones and has had no issues with him. Upchurch has, however, had major battles with Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston.
“I figured Skip put him up to it,” Upchurch said. “He [Jones] was reading from a piece of paper so I figured it was planned.”
Upchurch said he saw early on in the budget process that the Democrats were going to railroad through an absurdly large budget that placed way too much burden on county taxpayers, and the proposal was so far out there it really wasn’t even in a realm where negotiations would do any good. He also said he saw that writing on the wall from early on in the process.
“If they’ve already made a decision and I complain, then I’m just throwing gas on the fire,” Upchurch said.
When asked about the situation, Alston said that he wasn’t surprised at all that Jones spoke about Upchurch, and Alston said, “I think he should have named him at the meeting.”
Alston said Upchurch took a county commissioner’s job paying $30,000 a year and he needs to do something to earn that money. He said Upchurch is being completely unfair to the people in his district by not representing them.
Alston also said that Upchurch, in addition to not taking part in the budget process, didn’t participate in any of the interviews to choose a new county attorney.
Upchurch said, in that hiring process too, he felt as though at the start that the decision had already pretty much been made.
Upchurch pointed out that he did vote to hire the new attorney.
“I don’t think she’s incompetent – I think she’ll be fine,” he said. “I voted for her.”
Jones, who is an attorney, said that he felt the county attorney hiring process was very open and fair, and that the commissioners took the job seriously and selected the best candidate after a good deal of deliberation. He said the new attorney’s extensive work in local government law was a big factor in her selection.