Employee issues dominate Snead council session

First reported last week, two town employees tendered their resignations. Town clerk Rae Ware read a statement announcing her retirement followed by Mayor La’Shone Price reading town hall employee Kay Whitman’s resignation letter.

Ware provided The Blount Countian a copy of the statement she read to the council, and the newspaper obtained a copy of the Whitman public resignation letter. Those appear on page A9.

Price advised the council of a letter from the local district attorney of the failure of the Snead court clerk to forward payments to her office covering the months of November 2018 through February 2019. The letter asserts those payments are due by the 15th of the month following their collection. [See article page A11.]

In other personnel matters, the council accepted police chief Stephen Gunn’s recommendations to promote, hire, and add to the police department and its reserve program. They promoted Skylar Kennedy from part-time to full, hired Eric Doran as a parttime officer, and added Michael Brooks as a reserve auxiliary (all pending background checks and physicals).

Gunn won approval to buy new radios. He also thanked the community for its support in his recent department-sponsored “Run, Hide, Fight” active shooter training.

Councilman Tim Kent asked utilities head Jeff Whited of progress on pothole repairs to a couple of town roads. Kent advised of his inspection of several roads to determine which need the most immediate attention and his desire to set a long-term schedule for such a program. He asked council consideration of widening narrow roads within the town.

Related to that, councilor Greg Ogles asked again of town progress in its stated effort to obtain additional right-of-way and the widening of Dodd Road. Attorney King reported preliminary progress in that effort.

Resident Gene Roberts asked the council arrange for trimming huge tree limbs at Criswell and Lurleen drives. Whited advised that work will require expertise beyond his department. Council members asked Whited to get quotes on the work.

Whited reported the town’s sewer permit renewal will cost around $5,000. He won approval to purchase new scales for weighing chlorine whose cost will likely run another $4,000 to $5,000.

Ogles reported on continued work on the town’s softball field. He quoted a price of $560 to repair fencing around the dugouts.

Ware reminded members of their duty to file statements of economic interest by April 30. Robert Avery of the 2020 Census invited residents to apply for jobs with that agency in preparation for the upcoming national census.

Perhaps indicative of the reported council division, members would not win approval of the prior meeting’s minutes. Three voted to approve while three abstained; Ware noted four votes were needed to pass. Members agreed to table that until their next meeting.

On the advice of King and in the presence of visiting attorney Stacy Moon, the council recessed into executive session. King held the session met the “possible litigation” executive session exception. He promised there would be no action following that session.

Before moving into the session, resident Jane Childers asked permission to speak. She proceeded to chide several councilors for prior decisions and actions. She noted that only one of the councilors had faced opposition in the most recent election and warned that could change in 2020.

Phillip McHan, Dale Snead, and Ann Sullins joined Price, Kent, and Ogles for the March 25 meeting. The council has scheduled its regular sessions for the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 7 p.m. in the town community center.

Statement from former Snead Town Clerk Rae Ware:

It has been my honor to serve the citizens of Snead and the Mayors and Council members. I would like to thank Mayor LaShone Price and Council member Ann G. Sullins for their faith in me and their kindness. Due to the tension between the Council and the hostile environment that has developed at the office over the last year; After much prayer and talking with my family I had decided to retire. March 29, 2019 will be my last day.

Kay Whitman’s resignation letter:

Dear Mayor Price and Snead Town Council, My last day will be March 27th, 2019. I have thought a lot about what to say and how to say it. After the few short months I have been here I have come to the conclusion that working for the Town of Snead is not for me. While I have enjoyed my job, the hostile work environment, the dysfunction of the office and lack of respect shown to employees is something I do not wish to be a part of. I feel that there are policies in place that are not being followed by everyone. I think employees are treated differently depending on who likes you.

My wish for the Town of Snead is that you, Mayor Price and Council members, learn to work together for the citizens of the town of which you were elected to serve. I hope you can put your differences and dislike for one another and employees aside to create a work environment that is better than it is now. My fear is that without change, it will be hard to find good, productive employees that will stay.

I value myself as a person and an employee to work for someone that offers a work environment that challenges me to be the best I can be.