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Durham County Manager Talks About Controversial Firing

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DURHAM, N.C. — Durham County Manager Mike Ruffin has spent much of this week going over e-mail from county employees. He said the show of public support at a county commissioners' meeting humbled him. He admits getting fired has been difficult.

"I haven't had my time to cry yet. That will come, I'm not ashamed to say," he said.

On Monday night, the board of commissioners voted to let Ruffin go after four years on the job.

"I think I was done wrong. I think it was an injustice the way I was treated. I think the right thing to have done was to let me know it was coming and no one did that," he said.

Commissioner Joe Bowser spearheaded the effort to dismiss Ruffin.

"There have been confrontations where he wanted things done a certain way and they were not done. I think over time it, very much, strained the relationship with him," Ruffin said.

Bowser and two other two commissioners said they do not agree with Ruffin on how to manage the county. For his part, Ruffin said he is proud of the positive changes he has helped lead: the American Tobacco redevelopment project is taking shape, pharmaceutical giant Merck will break ground next month on a new facility, and the county's finances are looking up.

"We stayed in the black. I put millions of dollars in the bank. We had a 9 percent fund balance and it's 13 percent now," he said.

Ruffin has no regrets and no hard feelings. He said he would be thrilled if the newly elected board votes to rehire him at a later date.

"I'm not going to fool anyone. I love my job. I've enjoyed it here and I've made a difference," he said. "Would I love to come back? Certainly."

Ruffin said he has relied on his faith to get him through the week. He plans to use the next few weeks to reflect and be with his family.


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