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Record was changed to fix error, commissioner says

A county employee who was disciplined for changing an employee's pay records was trying to rectify an error, a commissioner says.

Paul McCorkle said in an interview with The McDuffie Mirror that Susan Smith's immediate supervisor ordered her to change the record because the employee had been promised $13 an hour but was being paid less. Public Works Director Eric Reisinger, who has since been fired, ordered the change to reconcile the difference, McCorkle said.

County Manager Don Norton, who suspended Smith for three days for changing the record, confirmed McCorkle's account in an interview Monday. But he said proper procedure was not followed in rectifying the problem.

"I'm not going to have any county employee changing county records," Norton said.

"The whole thing was wrong. She knew it was wrong; she said it was wrong. I just have to have my employees not doing things that they know are wrong.

"I mean business. We want total honesty; we want total transparency."

Smith has appealed the three-day suspension to the McDuffie County Commission. She got a hearing last week, but the commission announced after a closed-door session that it was delaying a decision because of the absence of Commissioner Sammie Wilson, who is recuperating from surgery.

The commission's next meeting is scheduled Tuesday.

Norton said Monday that the incident was also a factor in Reisinger's firing. He had previously said only that Reisinger was fired for insubordination and that he had been late for an important meeting. He also said Monday that Reisinger had taken a county vehicle outside the county on personal business, a violation of policy.

Smith has said that she changed the record at Reisinger's direction and did not go to Norton because another employee was fired earlier this year for going over a department head, an apparent reference to Valerie Demons, a Thomson-McDuffie IT employee whose dismissal was overturned by the commission in March.

Demons said that Thomson Public Works Director Scott Huff had complained to Norton about her performance. Demons said she was offended because Huff went over her head, and she called City Administrator Don Powers.

About 50 people attended the May 17 commission meeting, many apparently in support of Smith, who told the board that she had recently been diagnosed with cancer.

"This county needs to seriously look at itself and how they do their employees," she said, drawing applause from the crowd.

In his interview, McCorkle said the county has been inconsistent in its dealings with employees.

"Valerie was terminated because she refused a command," he said, noting that Smith was disciplined for obeying one.

"We have not been fair in any of our policies."

Norton said, however, that he must have latitude in such matters.

"There has to be some management discretion. At some point, if people feel like they're getting mistreated to that extent, they can find another job."

"Besides," he said, "it's not Mr. McCorke's call. It's my call."

Web posted on Thursday, May 26, 2011

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