County administrator asked to step down

A member of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors called for the county administrator to resign.

Crystal Harris, of the Smith River District, asked for Tom Rose, county administrator, to resign from his post, after airing several concerns, including what she called “back door politics.”

Harris said she was contacted when arrangements were in the works for a called meeting between the supervisors and the Patrick County Economic Development Authority (EDA).
The meeting was to take place Aug. 8, Harris said she was told.

She said Jane Fulk, of the Dan River District, asked for the meeting.

Harris said she called Fulk to clarify the reason for the meeting, and subsequently was told it was the result of a conversation between the board chairman, Lock Boyce, and Fulk.
Harris said Fulk told her she “would not divulge” the specifics of her conversation with Boyce.

Even after trying to contact other board members, Harris said she did not know the reason for a special meeting.

Regardless, Harris said that when she arrived for the meeting, she was told it has been cancelled – a fact that was not communicated to her beforehand.

Boyce said Rose is stellar and is honest, and that he does not support asking Rose to step down.

Following a brief discussion, the board adjourned.

Earlier in the meeting, Harris, Fulk and Boyce agreed to repay funds expended by the county as they considered ratifying the votes conducted by telephone on three separate items.

The first was $2,065.13 in grant funds for a transfer station attendant; the remaining items were two contributions totaling $800 to the Dixie Youth Baseball League, which represented Patrick County in the World Series games held in Lumberton, N.C.

Harris was the first to question the telephone votes.

The votes obtained via telephone calls to individual board members were illegal and/or unethical, Harris said.

Section 2.2-3710 of the Virginia Code states “Unless otherwise specifically provided by law, no vote of any kind of the membership, or any part thereof, of any public body shall be taken to authorize the transaction of any public business, other than a vote taken at a meeting.”

Additionally, “No public body shall vote by secret or written ballot … by telephone or other electronic communication means,” the statute states.

Harris also noted that “All of these (votes) could have been handled” at a fourth Monday meeting.

Boyce agreed.

“It gives us a warm feeling, we all rally around and vote to give money to the ball team, and we shouldn’t,” said Boyce, who along with Harris did not support contributing $500 in county funds to the team.

Boyce said the county collects tax revenues involuntarily, and will pursue legal action, if needed, to ensure taxes are paid.

By spending county monies on expenses unrelated to the core areas of public safety, education and infrastructure maintenance, “we are violating the public trust” he said.

“My feeling is, if you want to give money to a league, it should come out of your pocket,” Boyce said. “I just don’t believe this is a proper expense for county money.”
Harris offered to contribute $100 to repay the county funds providing other supervisors followed suit.

Fulk said she would contribute $100 as well.

Boyce said he would make up the $300 difference.

Harris questioned the need for the county’s involvement in ratifying another vote in which the Patrick County Tourism Advisory Council (TAC) approved a $300 contribution to the team.

She said the county does not need to ratify votes taken by the council.

Boyce said he did not understand how the league was tourism related.

In the end, a majority of the board voted to ratify, or confirm, the three votes conducted by telephone.

However, “that should never happen again,” Boyce said. “We can’t appropriate public money without having a public vote.”

Additional coverage of the meeting will be in an upcoming edition of The Enterprise, and online at www.theenterprise.net.

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