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Public works: Panel says manager's firing was 'warranted'

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County’s director of Public Services, Ray Funnye, was justified in dismissing Don Corinna, the county’s former capital projects manager, from his position in November, according to an employee grievance committee.

It took just one day after Corinna’s appeal for the committee to send a recommendation and for that advice to be accepted by County Administrator Sel Hemingway.

Corinna, who worked for the county for three-and-a-half years, made his case to the committee Jan. 12. In a letter to Corinna dated Jan. 13, Hemingway wrote that the committee “found the actions of the department regarding your termination to be warranted, but recommended that you be offered a final opportunity to resign your position.”

Corinna has until the end of the month to accept the offer, but said he won’t resign.

Corinna told the committee he was fired because he took issue with work performed by Applied Technology and Management. The firm was hired to obtain permits for a groin on the south end of Pawleys Island and design a stormwater system at the North Causeway and Highway 17. The groin permits have behind schedule and a drain on the causeway was built too high to catch runoff.

Corinna told the committee Funnye has a personal relationship with the firm and ignored concerns Corinna raised about charges and fees that “were excessive and not in keeping with current industry standards.”

“We have looked into his allegations and we haven’t found any evidence of anything to be concerned or alarmed about,” Hemingway said. “I don’t see anything there that warrants any attention.”

The investigation started last year, when Corinna was put on probation in the months prior to his termination, Hemingway said.

Georgetown County Council members said they are satisfied with Hemingway’s stance that there’s nothing to be worried about.

“I have confidence in the administrator to equitably sort out this kind of thing,” said Council Member Jerry Oakley.

Bob Anderson, who joined the council this month, said he checked into the matter.

“Having spent my life in the corporate world, I have been to this rodeo more than once,” he said. “I know there are two sides to every story. You can have situations where the employee is at fault and situations where management is at fault, so I went back to the government side and asked a few questions,” he said.

“I would be the first to condemn [the county] if they had done wrong,” he added, but discussions with staff left him with no concerns.

Corinna said he expected the recommendation that was handed down, but said the grievance hearing was still worth the effort. His intent wasn’t to “go on some Quixotic campaign,” but to tell his side of the story and that was accomplished.

Though the committee didn’t side with Corinna, he did get some good news last week. A notice to Corinna from the state Department of Employment and Workforce, dated the same day as the letter from Hemingway, told Corinna he is eligible for unemployment benefits.

Though he was discharged for unsatisfactory performance, “the record does not show any intentional or deliberate neglect of work on your part,” the notice states.

Corinna says that’s a victory for him and he believes it casts doubt on the reasons given for his termination.

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