07/20/13 — The right way: Commissioner's call for ouster nothing short of wrong

View Archive

The right way: Commissioner's call for ouster nothing short of wrong

To be honest, it took a couple of days to digest -- and to believe.

A sitting Wayne County commissioner made a motion that seemed to come from out of the blue to fire the county manager -- with no backup in place, no reasoned thought about what would happen next, no alternative for leadership for a county that employs hundreds.


And then, when we had kicked it around, thought about it a little while, we felt ready.

So, let's address Joe Daughtery's motion to oust County Manager Lee Smith.

It was impetuous.

It was inappropriate.

It was irresponsible.

One of the criticisms that has been levied at the current board of the county commission is that some of its members seem to speak without any basis in fact or reality -- and they do not let that small fact stop them from making policy decisions.

That attribute can be classified as arrogance -- and it is deadly to running an organization responsibly.

One of the claims that this commissioner has made is that he has run a business -- and knows his way around personnel, finance and all the stuff that goes along with making sure you keep your doors open and your bills paid.

We have reminded him -- and others -- that knowing how to run a small business does not qualify you to run a county.

And now we have proof.

There is no business in the country that would announce an intent to fire an employee without two things in place -- a consensus among supervisors and a record of fireable offenses.

Daughtery had neither.

When asked if he could discuss the specific examples of why he felt a call to fire the county manager was appropriate, he answered that he could not, but that he could have them by Monday.

So, a county leader made a motion to relieve a county employee without any sort of record or discussion of evidence that supported a claim that the employee was not doing his job.

It does not take a seasoned businessperson to know how ill-advised that was.

And we have not even addressed the fact that Daughtery called Smith a liar who had repeatedly misled county leaders and the people of Wayne County.

What is even more disturbing is that Daughtery's fellow commissioners seemed not even to know the call was coming.

But it was there that we saw a glimmer of hope.

Chairman Steve Keen and the rest of the Republicans on the board did the right thing -- and acted like leaders, not rabid sheep.

They refused to support the motion, saying Smith deserved the right to hear concerns about his performance and to answer those objections and that such an action was significant and needed to be addressed fairly and with respect and discretion.

They called for fairness and a sound decision based on facts, not a spur of the moment rant.


That is how you prove that you have what it takes to set the course for this county's future.

This is not about power.

It is not about who gets the most changes made in the shortest time.

It is about the people whose futures depend on the health and prosperity of this county.

At least, that is what every sitting member of the commission who was put in office last fall said it was about.

And it is high time that someone put it as Job 1.

It is not hard to see that there is no love lost between some of the commissioners and Smith. They have made that obvious from Day 1.

But saying something is going on -- and claiming an employee is incompetent --  is one thing. Having the evidence to back it up is another.

And we have said before, and stand by it to this day: If the commission has a real concern about the county manager, present the evidence to the public along with an unbiased third-party analysis of the county's financial situation -- and be open about the discussion and the results.

That's the right way. That's the responsible, fair way.

Published in Editorials on July 20, 2013 11:02 PM