So, apparently the Columbia County Board of Commissioners needs a full 10 days to cover its … well, you know.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office announced this week that it has officially concluded its investigation into claims of a “hostile work environment” brought by former EMA Director Pam Tucker and former EMA Deputy Director Rusty Welsh.
In her letter of resignation earlier this year, Tucker did not mince words about why she was leaving the job she has loved for almost two decades.
“During the last few years, I have endured a hostile work environment by the administrator, who has an on-going deliberate campaign to force me out of my job,” Tucker wrote in her Jan. 31 letter of resignation, referring to County Administrator Scott Johnson. “Time and time again, I have tried to be strong and keep focused on my job since that is my passion and has been for a large part of my life. The latest of many verbal attacks on me is more than I can suffer.”
But Welsh was equally critical of Tucker, insisting that she was “controlling, manipulative, condescending, arrogant, disrespectful, hypocritical and juvenile” while serving as his boss.
The truth of the matter is that copies of the report have been circulating around the county for more than a week.
So, to say that it was “officially concluded” on Monday, May 8, really means it has been “redacted” and “cleaned up” for more than week, according to several insiders within Columbia County.
But that’s not on the sheriff’s office.
Apparently, Major Steve Morris officially announced that two reports have been released to Columbia County Chairman Ron Cross, one dealing with the allegations made by Welsh and another one regarding Tucker’s claims that County Administrator Scott Johnson created a “hostile work environment.”
So, according to Morris, Cross received the reports on Monday, May 8, and the public and press have to wait 10 days to receive a copy of those same reports.
The sheriff’s office is saying that is “common practice with these types of investigations from the Internal Affairs division.”
Sure it is. Well, maybe in Columbia County.
Here’s the deal: The reports have been seen throughout the county prior to the “official release” to Cross on Monday.
Some people have even seen the “non-redacted version” of the report.
Yep. Folks, it’s already out there.
So, it will be very interesting to review the final version of the two reports.
If the two reports vastly differ from the original reports, the Columbia County Commission will have some serious explaining to do.
The commissioners will have to answer the following questions:
Why was it watered down?
Who is the commission trying to protect?
Don’t Columbia County residents deserve the truth?
Does the public really need spin control?
Let’s make it totally simple for each and every Columbia County commissioner to understand: If you fudge on this report, don’t expect the public or media to take it lightly.
Your job is to make sure that the local government runs smoothly, efficiently and openly to the public.
If there is a bad seed, whether it is Scott Johnson, Pam Tucker or Rusty Welsh, it needs to be exposed.
Otherwise, you are disrespecting all the time and effort put into this investigation by the sheriff’s office.
The sheriff’s office shouldn’t be used as a scapegoat. They are honorable public servants that this community genuinely trusts. If you are willing to compromise their integrity, you’ll compromise anyone.
So, commissioners, read the reports. There is no need to redact what you don’t like.
Accept the results of the sheriff’s investigation.
Change only comes when the reality of the situation is thoroughly vetted, understood, accepted and corrected.
Corrected is really the crucial step here.
If you are worried about embarrassing the county, don’t be.
As the community continues to grow, there will be more and more questions posed to Columbia County commissioners in the future about the way the county handles its finances, business relationships and future projects.
While your public relations manager is a wonderful arm of the government, you are the local elected officials.
You answer to the public.
You can’t hide from controversy.
You face it head on.
And make the county much stronger and better in the end.
The more you hide, the worse it will get.
And, seriously, no one wants that.
You may think the press loves to crucify public officials, but that’s not the case.
If something is wrong, you need to fix it.
That’s your job.