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Commission overturns firing

McDuffie County Commissioners overruled an employee's firing Monday, and Thomson-McDuffie IT Services Director Raymond White threatened to resign.

He later reconsidered and decided to stay on the job, according to County Manager Don Norton, who sat beside commissioners at the special called meeting.

Norton told The Mirror on Tuesday that all three members of the department remained on that job. That includes White, Alex Faircloth and Valerie Demons.

"You will have my resignation within an hour, Mr. Norton," White told County Manager Don Norton moments after commissioners voted 4-1 to overturn his firing of Demons.

Commissioner Fred Favors made the motion to overturn the firing. It was seconded by Paul McCorkle and supported by Sammie Wilson Jr. and Bill Jopling, who qualified his vote by expressing general support for White and Norton.

Commission Chairman Charlie Newton Jr. voted against overturning the firing.

The turmoil comes as the city and county are about to begin their move into the new, shared administration and courts building. White is heavily involved in the technology planning, including computer and phone systems. The IT department already handles those responsibilities for both units of local government.

Demons had appealed her termination by White, which was upheld by Norton.

Demons said that Thomson Public Works Director Scott Huff asked her to transfer his contacts and other phone contents to a new Blackberry on Feb. 18 but that she was unable to make the switch as quickly as Huff wanted. She said Huff called Norton.

Demons said she was offended when Huff went over her head, and she called City Administrator Don Powers.

"She was fired because she broke a sacred chain of command," White told commissioners.

"I was mistreated and now I'm being made out to be the culprit," Demons said.

After the vote, Norton told Demons she could resume her county job Tuesday.

White later told The Mirror that he planned to follow through with the resignation. "I've already signed it. I just have to walk it across the street," he said. "I can't run the department under these circumstances."

Some officials talked with White later in the evening, and he reconsidered, Norton said Tuesday. White was not available at his office for comment.

About 20 people attended the meeting and conferred with Demons in the hallway while commissioners met privately, then prayed with her outside the second-floor elevator after commissioners ruled in her favor.

Demons said that when she returned to work on Feb. 18 she knew something was different because White did not say good morning. She said she was called into a meeting and told she could resign or be fired.

She said she later was informed of other criticism of her work but that nothing had been said to her.

"There's no proof of these allegations and they are false," she said.

White said he had been out of town when the incident started but returned to make sure Huff had his cell phone and contacts so he could handle his duties for the city that weekend. He said Powers also told him that Demons had "blessed him out" during their phone conversation.

Favors asked why there was nothing in Demons' file to suggest other problems with her work.

White said he was afraid that any such action would have brought response from commissioners.

"I'm only one vote," Favors said.

White said that the joint services cause him frustration and that while he works with both branches of government he believes he reports to Norton.

"We already have problems with this joint services," White told commissioners. "I catch it every day."

Demons was hired by the IT department on April 17, 2006, and promoted in 2009. White was hired in December 2009 and promoted in early 2010.

An executive session was scheduled to discuss land acquisition and pending litigation. Commissioners took no action on those items Monday.

Web posted on Thursday, March 24, 2011

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