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Public works: State panel finds no cause to fire project manager

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County didn’t have cause to fire its former capital projects manager, Don Corinna, according to a ruling by the state Department of Employment and Workforce.

The ruling was in response to an appeal the county filed over the department’s decision to allow Corinna to receive unemployment benefits.

The county must reimburse the state for any benefits paid to Corinna, said County Administrator Sel Hemingway.

After hearing the appeal earlier this month, a panel determined the county failed to prove Corinna violated any reasonable rules or regulations, or showed a disregard for standards of behavior.

“The criteria [the department] uses to determine cause for purposes of eligibility for unemployment benefits is different from cause as the county sees it,” said Greg Troutman, the county’s director of administrative services and human resources.

The county maintains its termination of Corinna was justified and appropriate.

Corinna, who was the capital projects manager for three-and-a -half years, was fired in November after repeated run-ins with the director of the Department of Public Services, Ray Funnye.

Corinna claims he was fired because he took issue with work performed by Applied Technology and Management. The firm was contracted by 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.

There were problems with both projects.

Corinna said Funnye ignored concerns Corinna raised about bills from the firm and fees that “were excessive and not in keeping with current industry standards.”

According to county officials, Corinna was fired because he was insubordinate and confrontational. He also violated the county’s policy on interaction with media.

An employee grievance committee sided with the county last month, and after looking into Corinna’s allegations, county officials found no evidence of “anything to be concerned or alarmed about,” Hemingway said.

A complaint from the county that Corinna failed to attend a meeting of a safety committee he was appointed to chair was shot down by the Employment and Workforce panel. Corinna asked to relinquish the role of chairman and was denied. The assignment “was not a primary or even a secondary responsibility of the claimant’s employment,” according to the ruling.

Though the tribunal found Corinna eligible to receive benefits based on the circumstances of his termination, benefits are being withheld due to something Corinna said during the hearing.

“The claimant indicated he was not seeking full-time employment and had no intention of seeking full-time work,” the ruling states. Corinna was ordered to return benefits already received.

“Some comments I made were taken out of context and misconstrued,” Corinna explained.

The comments were made as he addressed a complaint from the county that he had failed to work 40 hours a week during his employment.

Corinna said he is seeking full-time work and has filed an appeal of the decision not to offer benefits.

Still, he considers the decision regarding his termination to be a victory, he said.

Though Corinna is no longer employed by the county, he is still working on county projects.

Corinna is employed on an “as needed” basis with Liberty Mutual Surety. The company is working to correct a problem at the $7 million Carroll Ashmore Campbell Marine Complex, which opened last year on the Sampit River.

An asphalt approach leading to three of the complex’s six boat ramps is sinking, Hemingway said. The asphalt has settled at least 3 or 4 inches since the facility opened, and is getting worse, he said.

A boat show at the facility March 18 and 19 won’t be affected by the work.

Corinna said he can’t comment on the project. He hasn’t been authorized to speak for Liberty Mutual, and didn’t want to violate the company’s policies.

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