by Eric Ginsburg
Eric Robert, a downtown property owner who was not invited to rejoin Downtown Greensboro Inc.’s board with a slate of new candidates last week, is claiming the organization’s president lied on his résumé.
Robert said that Cannon wrote on his résumé that he had a master’s in public administration from NC State University but had not actually finished the degree.
“Jason told me that he was only missing one class,” Robert said. “It seems that the search committee was well aware of that and still they pushed him through. I don’t think that a master’s in public administration is needed, so the fact that he felt the need to lie about it is a little puzzling to me. The fact that the organization felt the need to cover it up is a little disturbing to me.”
Former mayor Robbie Perkins, who was part of the search committee that hired Cannon, said Robert isn’t a reliable source and is just carrying out a vendetta after his departure from the board.
“I’m not going to comment on any of this and it’s a bunch of baloney,” Perkins said. “I don’t think Jason cannon lied to anybody… Let’s go joust at some more windmills. That’s what we’re doing.”
Councilman Zack Matheny, whose district includes much of downtown and who has butted heads with Cannon several times, said he would like an answer to the allegations that are also circulating online.
“I sent an email to Jason asking for information and he hasn’t responded,” Matheny said, adding that he has sent the question several times to no avail. “I was not on the hiring committee so the only resume I’ve seen is one that is posted online. It certainly is something that probably needs to be answered and addressed. It’s something to me that seems could be pretty easily cleared up if it is true or is not true.”
Matheny added that, since the city funds DGI, he would like an answer.
NC State public information officer Mick Kulikowski said that he couldn’t comment on whether Cannon received a degree or anything else about his educational history, a situation that only arises when a student has placed a privacy block on their records.
“I can’t tell you anything,” Kulikowski said. “Students can place privacy blocks on their information that would keep people at the university from telling people anything about them. If a student doesn’t have that type of block, [graduation] information is well within the bounds of what information I can provide. It’s probably relatively rare but in some cases it happens. Athletes often do it.”
Kulikowski confirmed that there is someone named Jason Cannon in the school’s database.
Cannon declined to comment on the record to Triad City Beat about the issue. New board chair Gary Brame refuted Robert’s allegation.
“His resume says that he attended the NC State master’s program and listed the dates,” Brame said. “At no time did it say that he has a master’s. He is not required to have a position regardless. Without any prompting from DGI, he did go back and finish the master’s and he has the degree today. So anything saying he lied is patently false, and anybody that was on the search committee will tell you the same thing. “
Brame was not on the search committee that hired Cannon in 2013 but was the board’s secretary at the time and said he has seen the résumé himself. Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan, who was on the search committee, declined to say anything.
“I’m not going to comment on a personnel issue,” Vaughan said.
Sam Simpson, who resigned as DGI’s board chair last week because he is too busy with work, also declined to comment.
Downtown Greensboro Inc. sent out a press release at the time of Cannon’s hiring on September 16, 2013 that claims Cannon obtained the master’s degree. In the release, the information is attributed to then board chair Dawn Chaney, who was not part of the search committee. News reports in multiple outlets at the time quoted from the press release and wrote that Cannon completed the master’s program.
Brame said he didn’t recall that being included, but after making several phone calls Brame said he isn’t sure exactly what happened.
“The members of the committee I talked to aren’t clear to who prepared the memo,” he said, adding that Chaney told him she didn’t write it either even though the information is attributed to her.
Brame said DGI staff is also unsure about the source of the press release and said they wouldn’t have been privy to Cannon’s résumé. Brame said it appears the release was not proofread before being sent out, but that if someone did review it who knew the information was inaccurate, that would be concerning.
“I’m not really sure what happened,” he said. “It’s incorrect and should not have been done that way.”
Chaney could not immediately be reached for comment.
In 2013, Cannon was selected for Triad Business Journal’s “40 Leaders Under Forty” while still at the Greensboro Partnership. The profile on him, which is still online but predates his hiring at DGI, claims Cannon already had the master’s degree from NC State.
Triad Business Journal Editor Mark Sutter said it is possible that the person who nominated someone for the list would have provided the information on the questionnaire, but said that generally isn’t how the process works. Sutter couldn’t comment directly on Cannon’s information because the person who compiled the list that year is no longer employed at TBJ.
“For the most part it is submitted information,” he said. “Typically it’s supplied by the person who is being honored.”