Kenney pulls her vote to hire labor attorney


June 16, 2011
OSSIPEE— The plan to hire a labor attorney to investigate apparent allegations of a hostile work environment will move forward despite one commissioner changing her vote that had been in favor of the idea.

At the June 8 commissioner's meeting, Commissioner Asha Kenney stated she had an announcement to make about the previous week's vote to hire the attorney. "I don't get any information in public or non-public. I don't know what it is all about. I can't support something if I have no information. I want to reconsider my vote and vote no to the labor attorney," she said.

Despite attempts by members of the audience to get more information about the cause for hiring the attorney, no new information was released. When questioned directly, Commissioner Dorothy Solomon said she did not know any more details than Kenney does. She said apparently there is an issue that needs to be investigated and that caused Commission Chair David Sorensen to make the motion at the June 1 meeting. Sorensen, on vacation, did not attend the June 8 meeting. When asked why Primex, the county's insurance carrier, is not investigating the alleged claims, Solomon said the commissioners were advised by Primex to hire an independent labor attorney to first find out if there is substance to the allegations.

Effingham resident Henry Spencer, a regular at meetings but who did not attend the June 1 meeting, questioned another vote taken. At the June 1 meeting, commissioners voted to update the policy regarding access to county employee personnel files. The new policy will be that no one except the human resources director has permission to access employee files unless by vote of the commissioners. Spencer questioned the necessity of the vote and asked if there had been a breach in confidentiality or of the existing policy. "I get no information. I have no idea. I don't know what is going on in the complex," said Kenney in response to Spencer's question. Kenney abstained from voting on the personnel policy change. Solomon told Spencer that indeed there is a current policy in place and the vote was taken to clarify the policy but did not answer whether there had been any sort of breach of policy.

Former commissioner Chip Albee, also a regular at meetings, reminded the commissioners that while there are certain protections that employees have during investigations, these same rules do not extend to public officials.

Minutes

The June 8 meeting was a quick one that might have been half as long if figuring out previous meeting minutes hadn't take up so much time. Of the hour-and-a-half meeting, about 40 minutes of it was used throughout the meeting to make corrections in content and grammar, by Solomon and by attendees. As the commissioners struggled to get the minutes of previous meetings approved, department heads waiting to give their weekly reports were left to wait.

Meeting attendees were obviously frustrated at receiving the minutes from the previous week during the June 8 meeting, having been accustomed in the past to having them available on the county's Web site or in the office days in advance of the next meeting. As the commission clerk who is ultimately charged with timely release of meeting minutes, Kenney said the public can continue to expect the minutes to not be available until the day of the meeting.

Legally, the minutes do not have to be available before the next week's meeting so apparently earlier release of minutes in the past was simply a courtesy to county residents.

The commissioners have voted to enter into an agreement with Virtual Town Hall for managing the county Web site, a move that Solomon said hopefully will give the public better access to the minutes and happenings in the county complex.

Weekly commissioner's meeting continue to be videotaped and full-length videos can be found at www.governmentoversite.com.

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