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NHC fires Port City United director, citing insubordination, property misuse, and other policy violations

Cedric Harrison, center, director of Port City United.
Benjamin Schachtman
From left: Tufanna Bradley, assistant county manager, Cedric Harrison, director of Port City United, Rashad Gattison (now interim PCU director), at a May 2022 media briefing.

According to a dismissal letter, Cedric Harrison was fired for a host of ongoing issues which had been repeatedly addressed by county management. Those included Harrison’s use of his county role to promote his private business interests, misuse of his county credit card and department’s vehicles, absenteeism, and an attempt to go around his direct supervisor to procure equipment.

The county announced on Monday that Cedric Harrison had been “dismissed during an extended introductory period.”

In response to subsequent questions, the county acknowledged Harrison had been fired and provided his termination letter, which detailed a long history of problems with his leadership at Port City United (PCU), a new county department founded last year to address community violence.

Assistant County Manager Tufanna Bradley, who had overseen Port City United, issued the letter to Harrison, detailing her concerns.

“Even though I repeatedly addressed these concerns with you and provided you with guidance and ample opportunities to improve, your performance has not reached a level that is expected from a department head or from anyone entrusted with the responsibilities of your position,” Bradley wrote, adding that the county had made a "substantial financial investment" by contracting with a coach to help Harrison improve.

Bradley cited concerns that Harrison repeatedly 'comingled' his public position with his private role, using the county’s email and calendar software to conduct private business during work hours — and the county’s social media to promote that business. Bradley also wrote that Harrison repeatedly ignored her request for him to fill out an “outside employment request form.” She did not specify the business; Harrison founded both WilmingtoNColor, a history-themed tour service, and Support the Port, a Wilmington-based non-profit.

There were also financial concerns, including misuse of the county-issued credit card to purchase a birthday card for a business partner, as well as a PCU banner displayed in the public reception area of the PCU suite that contained an “inappropriate and offensive” gesture. Bradley also wrote that Harrison attempted to go around her to another senior administrator to try and get new laptops for his staff to replace existing iPads — despite Bradley having already told Harrison this was not needed and would not be supported.

Bradley used the laptop request as an example of insubordination, and also noted that by December, Harrison was still failing to provide her with required departmental forms, in addition to his outside employment paperwork, despite repeated requests from her.

Harrison also allegedly used a county-owned Ford Expedition for personal use, including traveling to a restaurant and transporting a child, a violation of the county's travel policy.

Bradley wrote that many of these issues had existed since Harrison was hired on March 22, 2022, and that Harrison’s introductory period had been repeatedly extended to give him the opportunity to improve. The county was unable to comment on why Harrison was hired under this introductory period or if other departmental heads had been hired under similar arrangements in the past. Bradley noted that the period cannot be extended beyond one year and, at 11 months and repeated extension, Harrison had not met expectations.

In concluding her letter, Bradley wrote, "For 11 months I have met with you, encouraged you, and provided you with helpful feedback and guidance for improvement," but when she considered the "totality" of his performance, she felt "dismissal is appropriate." Bradley’s dismissal letter noted that, because Harrison was still on an introductory status, he had no right to appeal his termination.

Harrison was hired with a salary of $118,000 which was later increased to $128,856 when he received the 9.2% market adjustment that all county employees received in July 2022, according to the county.

According to New Hanover County, the interim PCU director will be Rashad Gattison. Gattison has been part of the PCU team from the beginning as the supervisor for the PCU Connect Center, and he will continue overseeing that operation in his role as interim director. The county said Port City United has a strong and dedicated team, and their impactful work in the community will continue.

Editor's note: WHQR reached out to Harrison for comment. This article will be updated with any response.

Below: Termination letter for Cedric Harrison

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.