At the Sept. 18 Board of Supervisors meeting two county employees were publically terminated. One of them attended the meeting and was not allowed to publically respond. Board policy is that you have to be on the agenda to speak. While the now-former employee’s name was on the agenda as a termination, he was not allowed to speak.
The terminated employee was at the meeting and had, according to what he and others said in the meeting, asked to speak. He was told by Board President Kelle Barfield and attorney Blake Teller that he had to follow the grievance process. The employee attempted to speak several times and was silenced every time by the board.
“I have two things. I have a recommendation to remove (county employee name redacted) from the road department payroll as he violated Warren County Board of Supervisors personnel policy,” said Archie West, Assistant Road Manager for Warren County. The board unanimously approved the removal. West continued, “I also have a recommendation to remove (county employee name redacted) from the road department payroll as he violated the Warren County Board of Supervisors personnel policy. And, I see that he is here. I guess he wants to contest or whatever. ”
The board approved his removal and engaged in conversation about it. President Barfield and county attorney Blake Teller can be heard saying the employee has to go through the grievance process. Regardless, the employee spoke and made the board aware he was at the working session (a public meeting by the board held every other week) last Monday and was told to come to this meeting.
The employee stated, “I’ve got something to say now. I came into the Board of Supervisors last week and they told me to come in at 9 o’clock.”
Further discussions from board members to Teller were held with Teller saying, “He needs to bring it up through the policies and procedures.”
The employee was advised to follow the grievance policy to lodge his complaint. Instead, he shook his head in obvious disgust and said, “Forget it” as he got up and left the meeting. Warren County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Bobby Stewart was seen speaking with and comforting the employee as he left the meeting.
County Attorney Blake Teller, when asked by the Vicksburg Daily News, stated, “The goal is not to discuss employee performance, that is subject matter for executive session.” When asked if that approach caused any harm to that employee’s reputation Teller flatly said, “No.”
Board President Kelle Barfield said, “There is a grievance process and I’m not aware of the aftermath of that discussion.”
When asked why the county names individuals who are terminated Barfield replied, “Well we, in every board meeting just like today, we added employees by name to the payroll and remove employees by name from the payroll. We just always do that for clarity.”
The county grievance process allows employees to challenge decisions that affect them and includes working up the authority ladder all the way to the Board of Supervisors.
When asked if it is the right thing to do, to name someone they are terminating, Barfield said, “We remove people by name from the payroll. That’s the way the county has operated. I guess no one has ever questioned before why we need to do that. But, I will say, when this board took office, a reason for doing something, we made very clear, cannot be because we’ve always done it that way. So, in other cases when practices protocols processes have been questioned we’re certainly willing to consider that and we can do so now. If somebody wants to question removing employees from payroll by name we can certainly entertain, what are the ethics, the legalities, the precedent in other counties. What would state auditors or attorney general advise? We do diligently look into process changes when those are questioned.”
As a final question, Barfield was asked if she felt someone is harmed if they’re publically terminated if their reputation is harmed, Barfield replied, “I don’t really have an opinion on that.”
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