BURGAW – In a not so subtle message to the board of health, one county commissioner has made his feelings known as to its members’ futures.
“In January 2012 there are seven members of the board of health who terms expires,” said Commissioner David Williams. “I think we should advertise for those positions.”
Williams’ comments, made at Monday’s commissioners meeting, comes a few weeks after the board was advised that one of its health inspectors had allegedly informed a Hampstead business owner the day before about an appointment regarding a possible complaint about the business. That tip led to a confrontation outside the county annex in Hampstead.
Then last week at a special, closed meeting of the board of health, Chairman Terri King told both County Manager Rick Benton and Attorney Trey Thurman to leave.
According to Commissioner Chairman George Brown, King dismissed the two county officials from the meeting over his objections.
“I was embarrassed for them,” said Brown. “This was not done by the board or with the sanction of the board, but by Mrs. King, although looking at the board I think she would have had most of their support.”
Brown said since the retirement of the former health director, Dr. Jack Griffith, in October, the commissioners had requested that Benton and/or Thurman attend the meetings to help advise the board.
But last Wednesday Brown said King did not want any assistance from the two.
“The dismissing of Mr. Benton and Mr. Thurman was perceived by the commissioners as arrogance,” said Brown. “They were a resource to help the health board deal with some of the issues we have been and are still being forced to deal with.”
Last summer Brown was very critical of the health board and its lack of action during a time when employees were making complaints such as improper treatment and mismanagement by Griffith and his administrative officer Gwenn Smith.
Brown was appointed to the commissioner’s seat on the health board in December and said he has tried to put aside the problems of the past in an attempt to get along.
“But it is getting very difficult to serve as a commissioner and on that board, because before I could be openly critical of certain behavior but now I am trying to get along with them but I still see a need and the opportunity to be critical,” he said.
When asked why he thought the manager and attorney were dismissed Brown said he believes he knows why but refused to elaborate.
“I will say I was very disappointed and annoyed,” he added.
Brown said there is hostility from some on the board toward the commissioners, which he believes has to do with certain members feeling the commissioners are overstepping their authority.
There is also an animosity, according to Brown, for the commissioners for pushing to have a few board members removed due to a conflict of interest.
“I can feel it when I am sitting in those meetings,” he said.
Brown said there is hostility by some but not all the members of the health board.
“There are a few members who are new and they are just caught in the middle,” he said. “They don’t know all the history of what has gone on.”
As for the most recent problem involving the inspector, Brown said due to the nature of personnel issues, he could not address it publicly.
“I may not be able to address this because it is a personnel issue but I can be angry about bad behavior and, in my opinion, the lack of addressing bad behavior,” he said.
Brown went on to say he agreed with Williams’ comments that the commissioners need to advertise for the positions on the health board as they become available.
“I think we should advertise for those positions and I think we are going to advertise for those positions,” he said. “I am tired of people not stepping up to the plate and not taking responsibility and I am tired of the arrogance.”
The commissioners and the health board will hold a joint meeting on March 21 at 7 p.m. in Burgaw.
“It should be an interesting meeting,” said Brown.