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It all began in earnest on July 1, 2007. David Dear, Cleveland County Manager at that time, began to receive an annual substantial compensation of $10,068. This was at a time when there was an imposed wage freeze. And Dear’s annual bonus continued until it was reported in August 2011 by investigative journalists with the John Locke Foundation. Reports state that Dear was telling the Cleveland County Commissioners that he needed more money, or else he would possibly retire. He claimed that after 34 years of service, he was about ready to give it up. He was eligible for a nice retirement package, even after 30 years. But, an increase of $10,068 per year for the past four years, added a nice little addition to his soon-to-be life of leisure, if he did retire.

The Bonus

One must remember that back in July 2007, the unemployment rate in Cleveland County was hovering around 6.5 in July and around 6.1 in December 2007. (stats taken from the US Department of Labor ) In 2008, the unemployment rate had increased to about 12.5 by December of 2008. Yet, Dear received another $10,068. That’s approximately an increase of $193 per week. In Cleveland County, that is a hefty chunk of change. By December 2009, the unemployment rate had become unbearable at 15.2%, but that did not hinder the County Manager from receiving another $10,068 in order not to retire. In 2010, by the end of the year, the rate had fallen to, a still troubling 13.4%, but Dear, bravely kept doing his job while receiving another $10,068, so that he wouldn’t retire. So, after $40,272 later, Dear is still employed, and his thoughts of retirement seem to have subsided. That is until the Carolina Journal broke the story.

Soon after this information was made public, Dear announced to the commissioners that he would retire as of December 31, 2011. In January 2012, he immediately went to work for the Cleveland County Chamber of Commerce as the Special Projects Director. He even had an office, staff, and office equipment provided by the county government, even though he had given up his government job. In the newspaper accounts of Dear’s situation, it was stated that he said he was “considering” retirement and even a story posted in the Carolina Journal stated that:
In announcing his retirement, Dear said:

I have enjoyed my tenure as your manager and together we have moved our community forward during some very trying economic times. The time has come for me to move into the next phase of my life and for Cleveland County to transition to a new Management Team. I will make myself available both before and after retirement to help our County Government be prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.


Now, he was in a position where he couldn’t be fired by the county commissioners, and he only answered to the chamber bosses. Instead of retiring, it seems as if Mr. Dear caught his second wind during the holidays of the New Year, and was right back at “economic developing”. During his time as county manager, he developed an interest in investing in real estate locally, as well as investing in some property in Hilton Head, SC. From 2004 to 2014, records indicate that Dear had been active in about eight different property transactions in Hilton Head. He had been doing very well for himself in another state.

Fast forward to December 6, 2011. One of David Dear’s last acts as County Manager was to make a lucrative deal favoring local architect, Roger Holland, in an economic development project called Project Cirrus. The old Dover Mill property was given to Holland’s group, and in return, the group would tear down the old mill, but leave part of it standing, and rehabilitate the property to be used for a data center. This would turn out to be quite the deal.

Fast forward again, to December 20, 2014. Now, here comes Holland and the group back again, wanting another extension, even though the group is using wood from the old Dover structure in the new brewery project. They have had time to do all of that work, but haven’t had time to do what they had already signed on to do with the property and building that was given to them by David Dear. Now, let’s ask…why is Holland using this wood in the brewery? Because he is a partner in the brewery. I remember reading that somewhere. Haven’t you read about that in the newspaper and seen it all over the place? You haven’t?

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Now, let’s ask…why is Holland using this wood in the brewery? Because he is a partner in the brewery. As you will see, a partner of Holland’s in the brewery project, as well as ownership of the building that houses the brewery is, former Cleveland County Manager, David Dear, and now, City of Shelby Manager, Rick Howell will join the mix, as he sets out once again to pick winners and losers.

County salaries have been frozen since 2009, although Hutchins said commissioners are working to end the three-year freeze.

Dear said at the time the increases were awarded, he was considering retirement.

“Part of the reason they gave me a merit increase was for me to continue employment,” he said. “They felt like I was doing a good job and wanted to keep me a little longer.”

Dear said he has been employed by the county for about 34 years and has served as county manager since 2004.
After 30 years, government officials can retire with full benefits.

“I am of retirement age and am considering retirement,” Dear said. “I’ve enjoyed my time with Cleveland County and I think we’ve accomplished a lot. We’ve had excellent elective leadership during the time I’ve been county manager. I’m proud to have been associated with them and hope I’ve contributed.”

Hutchins said retaining Dear more than pays off.

“According to our evaluation, all county commissioners unanimously decided David’s performance was way above everyone else,” Hutchins said. “David is not only county manager, but he’s a driving force for economic development.”

“There needs to be checks and balances,” Dear said. “We’ve already started doing training for board of directors, to improve each board’s oversight for non-profits.”