The majority of a joint meeting Monday between the Patrick County Board of Supervisors and the Patrick County Economic Development Authority (EDA) was held in closed session to discuss a single item: personnel.
Debbie Foley, director of the agency, submitted her resignation last week.
“I had hoped that I would have more support and an atmosphere conducive to effectively perform my duties,” Foley said, but declined to elaborate. (See related story)
Although neither board made a formal statement after the brief meeting, the chairman of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors Lock Boyce, of the Mayo River District, said the meeting was unnecessary.
The EDA “wanted input in who we will replace Debbie Foley with, and under the rules, the decision as to who gets selected is by an open vote by the Board of Supervisors,” Boyce said. “We never should have gone into executive session.”
He added the board can meet in closed session to discuss a particular staff person, but not staffing in general.
The position will be advertised locally and on the state level, according to Boyce who speculated last week the resignation was prompted by “her perceived slighting” when excluded from a conference call with state officials.
“They all got mad about what happened with the hospital situation with the EDA,” Boyce said of Foley and the EDA board. He noted that the supervisors previously reached a unanimous agreement that Foley and the EDA should take the lead on the effort to reopen a local hospital.
At the time, they also directed County Administrator Tom Rose to keep Foley abreast of any developments on the project.
In hindsight, Boyce said he thought it was a mistake to ask Foley to lead the project.
“She was in over her head,” he said, adding that Foley and her board had worked with State Sen. Bill Stanley and others, and made numerous trips to Richmond while working on the project. He said Stanley’s impact on the bid to reopen the hospital also would be minimal.
“The key to the problem has been in the governor’s office,” Boyce said, and added that he “made some calls to people I know in the governor’s office, and as a result, a call came from the governor’s office” in which a request was made for the county administrator and the board chairman to participate in a conference call with state officials.
The request for the 30-minute conference call with Health and Human Services Secretary Daniel Carey and Deputy Secretary Marvin Figueroa was contained in an August 1 email.
The email was sent to Rose; Boyce was copied in the communication.
Foley was not among listed among the recipients.
The email did not specify a location or limit the number of call participants.
Boyce said that because he has a secure building and a toll free telephone number, he and Rose met in his veterinary clinic to participate in the conference call.
He described the call as “brief,” and said he “was able to express the fact there is no other potential buyer for the hospital other than the county” to state officials, who requested financial information and an assessment of the former hospital property. He said the fair market value of the property is likely less than $1 million, and added that “You’re selling an old, empty building in need of repairs.”
Boyce said he and Rose then worked with Foley and the EDA to gather requested information.
It “was all very straightforward,” he said.