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Tax office terminations questioned

Emotions ran high at 2012’s first LincolnCounty Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday as six women recentlyterminated from the county tax assessor/collector’s office appearedto speak before the board.

    The board discussed the situation in executive session as apersonnel matter. Supervisors took no action after returning fromthe closed meeting, which lasted about 20 minutes.

    Later, Mavis Henderson Stewart said she and five other employeeswere terminated Monday night after Rita Goss assumed leadership ofthe office. Goss was elected in November after Nancy Jordan decidednot to seek re-election.

    Stewart said she has worked at the office for 14 years without anysuspensions or write-ups. She said she mostly wanted to know areason so she can give her children and future potential employersan explanation.

    “I love my job, and I have a passion for working with people,” shesaid. “I wanted an answer.”

    Shannon May, another who was terminated, said she was most upsetabout the abruptness of the termination. She said it appeared asthough her job would be secure after the change of leadership.

    “The rug was just pulled out from under us,” he said. “She couldhave at least given us notice.”

    Stewart said one reason could be because both she and AprilWilliford, who was also terminated, were candidates for the taxoffice leadership post. Stewart was an independent candidate whileWilliford ran as a Democrat.

    Stewart said all the other women, May, Krystle Irving, TessaStinson and Inga Young, publicly were in support of Stewart in thegeneral election. Williford was defeated in the primary.

    “Lincoln County has a right to know what happened to us,” shesaid.

    When contacted later Tuesday, Goss, who did not attend the countyboard meeting, denied that the elections were related to theterminations. She declined further comment.

    On Wednesday morning, Vewanna Nations said she was terminated fromthe tax assessor/collector’s office late Tuesday. She said she hadworked at the office for more than eight years and had neverreceived any disciplinary actions.

    Nations, who also ran unsuccessfully for the tax assessor/collectorpost last year, said she is worried about the state of theoffice.

    “No one else in that office knows my job,” she said.

    The jobs are considered will and pleasure positions, which givesGoss the ability to terminate her employees.

    The rest of the Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting, whichincluded three new members: Jimmy Diamond, C.E. “Eddie” Brown andDudley Nations from Districts Two, Four and Five, respectively,addressed routine issues.

    The new board unanimously voted Nolan Earl Williamson of DistrictThree president and Brown as vice president. The board also renewedall appointed county positions.

    In other matters, Roy Smith, a concerned citizen, asked for theboard to consider naming the courthouse building for Lamar “Ditney”Smith.

    Smith was a black farmer in Lincoln County who was a communityactivist and helped register other blacks to vote. On Aug. 13,1955, he helped deliver absentee ballots to the Lincoln CountyCourthouse, where he was killed in an altercation with three whitemen. Arrests were made, but no one was ever indicted with themurder.

    Smith said renaming the courthouse would send a message of changeto the community, state and even nation.

    “Why put off for tomorrow what has been put off for 50 years?” heconcluded.

    Supervisors took no action on Smith’s request.

    Clifford Galey asked on behalf of the Brookhaven Board of Aldermenthat supervisors pay for half of a weather siren that would beplaced on Industrial Park Road.

    He said the siren could potentially help bring more industries tothat area. The Rev. Jerry Wilson, of District One, supported theproposal.

    “If it saves even one life, it’s worth it,” he said.

    Wilson suggested to the rest of the board that during travel,everyone should receive the allotted $35 for food regardless ofwhether or not a receipt was provided. The board voted 3-2 infavor, with Wilson, Diamond and Nations voting for the measure andWilliamson and Brown voting against.

    Jeff Dungan, of Dungan Engineering, gave an update on projects inthe planning period. There are currently six projects in some stageof planning. Two projects, one on Greenview Trail and one onHopewell Road, were voted for re-approval due to the change ofofficials. They were both unanimously approved.