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Public works: Ex-employee claims county capital work mismanaged at the top

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Don Corinna, who was fired in November after three and a half years as the county’s capital projects manager, told an employee grievance committee this week he was fired because he took issue with work performed by Applied Technology and Management. The firm is working for the county to obtain permits for a groin on the south end of Pawleys Island and designed a stormwater system at the North Causeway and Highway 17 where a drain was built too high to catch runoff.

Corinna called the Public Services director, Ray Funnye, “unprofessional, unethical and biased” in his duties.

Funnye, who received an award last year from the American Public Works Association, told the committee he has always protected the county’s interests. He called Corinna “confrontational” and “insubordinate.”

The grievance committee has 20 days to make a decision on Corinna’s appeal of his dismissal.

At the hearing, Corinna cited instances where he raised questions with Funnye about bills from ATM for stormwater projects. Corinna said he told Funnye that fees charged by the firm seemed excessive and not in keeping with industry standards.

He also said he found “considerable discrepancies” in invoices from ATM that exposed the county to “risk as well as being charged for services and deliverables contracted but not provided.”

Funnye was not responsive, Corinna said, and in one instance Corinna denied payment for a charge of about $10,000. Officials with the firm went to Funnye and Corinna said he was instructed to approve payment of items before they were delivered.

There are also issues with the North Causeway where filters were installed to clean stormwater before it reaches Pawleys Creek, according to Corinna. One catch basins is about 4 inches higher than the road and doesn’t allow runoff to enter the system. Corinna said he told Funnye about the issue and recommended that ATM be asked to redesign it at the firm’s expense.

The recommendation was not accepted and Funnye told the Coastal Observer in September that the problem wouldn’t affect functionality and couldn’t be fixed, Corinna told the committee.

“That’s not true,” he said. “I provided him with a quote of $6,770 from R.H. Moore to construct a conflict box” to fix the problem, but Funnye did not respond to the recommendation.

Corinna also questioned payments to ATM for design and permitting of a groin the county wants to build at the south end of Pawleys Island. No construction drawings other than those included in the permit document were delivered to the county, Corinna said.

Corinna wanted to terminate the ATM contract and solicit the services of another qualified firm, but the suggestion received no response from Funnye, he said.

Funnye’s action, including “ignoring staff concerns, suggestions and recommendations” and “condoning design errors and omissions by ATM” have “resulted in potential costs of thousands of dollars being unnecessarily expended by Georgetown County,” Corinna said.

Funnye went through a list of instances of insubordination by Corinna. Those includes communication with the media against county policy, Funnye said. When provided with a written warning last July, Corinna refused to sign it. He also failed to show up at a committee meeting for department heads, going instead to Andrews to inspect to capital projects under construction.

Corinna said his presence at the sites was necessary, but Funnye disagreed.

“The bottom line is there was no emergency,” Funnye said. “If there was, then I should have known about it.”

If Corinna felt he needed to be at the site, he could have waited an hour or two, and gone after the meeting, Funnye said.

He said he tried to work with Corinna. After disciplinary counseling was ordered for Corinna, Funnye held weekly meetings with him. He wanted to make sure Corinna was making progress and their relationship was improving.

However, the situation didn’t improve, he said.

“His lack of respect was still very clear,” Funnye said.

He said it was clear Corinna knew his actions were inappropriate, but he didn’t change them.

“It got to the point where it was not conducive for us to conduct business,” he said.

Corinna admitted to letting his temper show, but maintains the reasons Funnye gave for firing him were inaccurate.

Corinna said he’s looking for redress of the accusations against him. He has worked in construction and project management for 45 years and has never been accused of anything like this, he said. It’s not how he wants to end his career.

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