Smithfield Times reprimands

The Smithfield Times - Wed., March 9, 2011 - Page 5

Supers threaten reprimands

By Diana McFarland

News editor

The Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors discussed a potential new policy Thursday concerning questions

posed to employees by supervisors.  The issue was discussed during closed session, which caused Smithfield

Supervisor Al Casteen to hesitate on whether to “certify” the session or not. “I’m not sure. I’m not sure it wasn’t a policy decision or an individual thing,” Casteen said in open session. The Virginia Freedom of Information Act requires that, following a closed session, the supervisors have to vote to certify that all items discussed in the session were legitimate topics for a private discussion under the act. If a supervisor believes a discussion during the session was inappropriate under the law, he or she is required to vote against certification and to explain their reason for doing so. Personnel matters involving individual employees are legitimate topics for closed session, but general

policy matters not involving individuals are not under the exemption provided in FOIA. Isle of Wight County attorney

Paul Burton was asked to leave the session before the discussion began. Although he eventually voted to certify the session, Casteen said the questionable discussion centered on whether or not employees should receive formal reprimands for answering questions asked them by supervisors. The proposed policy would apply to employees

below the director level. The new policy would require employees to refer all questions by supervisors to their director. According to Casteen, Newport Supervisor Stan Clark took issue with him going to Burton’s office and

asking about a request for $85,000 in additional funding for professional services that was approved Feb. 17.

Carrsville Supervisor Ken Bunch initiated the reprimand idea during the March 3 closed session. When asked about the proposed policy Bunch said, “I’m not going to comment on anything in closed session.” Isle of Wight County

spokesman Don Robertson said there hasn’t been any directive given to the employees about a formal reprimand

since the closed session. Fellow board members have chastised Casteen in the past for requesting information

from county employees. According to FOIA, had Casteen decided to vote not to certify the meeting, he would have been required to state his reasons in open session. Instead, he chose to vote yes and later told The Smithfield Times what the issue was about. The suggestion to place reprimands in employee files follows on the heels of a Feb. 17 decision to require questions of employees below the director level be vetted through their director or Isle of Wight County Administrator Doug Caskey. That policy decision was introduced by Clark and approved by a 4-1 vote. Voting for the policy were Clark, Tom Wright, Bunch and JoAnn Hall. Casteen cast the lone dissenting vote.