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Jefferson Co. government administrator terminated

Commission votes 3-2 to remove Leslie Smith from her job

Commission votes 3-2 to remove Leslie Smith from her job

September 24, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Jefferson County's government administrator, who has worked at the job for more than 15 years, was removed from her position Thursday during a tense Jefferson County Commission meeting.

Leslie Smith was removed from her job by a 3-2 vote of the five-member commission.

Commissioner Lyn Widmyer, who made the motion to remove Smith, noted Smith's dedication to her job in a video recording of the meeting that was posted on the commission's Web site.

But Widmyer said Smith's responses during an evaluation did not calm some of her concerns.

Commissioner Jim Surkamp, who voted along with Widmyer and Commissioner Frances Morgan to remove Smith, referred to his concern of "running into a wall everyday. I'm in that ambivalent spot."

Commission President Dale Manuel and Commissioner Patsy Noland voted against removing Smith from her job. The motion to remove Smith from her post calls for putting Smith on paid administrative leave until Oct. 24 until Smith's attorney and a county attorney can work out a severance package for her, Manuel said.

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Smith was seated next to her attorney, Peter Chakmakian, as the commissioners talked about her in an open session.

Smith elected to have the meeting open, Widmyer said.

Although Widmyer "very reluctantly" made the motion to remove Smith, Widmyer said she thinks the next 10 years in the county is going to be more challenging than the past 10 years.

Widmyer also couched her comments on the fact that she ran for effective government in her campaign for commission.

In a telephone interview Thursday night, Widmyer said she was troubled that she did not see any policies dealing with issues like how to address weaknesses in an auditor's report.

Noland started to talk about Smith during the commission meeting Thursday but then there was a long pause. Then Noland continued commenting.

"I think this commission is making a terrible mistake," Noland said during the meeting.

Noland described Smith during the meeting as the "right hand of this commission" and claimed that Smith had been "set up to fail." Manuel said Smith was a source of information about county issues and if she did not know the answer to a question, she knew where to get it.

"She stays up there until the wee hours of the night working on those budgets. We had a dedicated, educated person with 20 years experience and we're putting her in the trash can," Manuel said during the meeting.

Smith completed a self-evaluation of her work, Manuel said. Also, Surkamp, Morgan and Widmyer had come up with deficiencies in Smith's work, Manuel said.

Chakmakian rebutted the issues when he read a 25-page statement Thursday, Manuel said.

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