Maintenance veteran fired
by PHILLIP WILLIAMS
Nov 22, 2012 | 1017 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In a surprise move, Upshur County Commissioners Court voted 3-0 with one abstention Monday to fire longtime county Building Maintenance Supervisor Charles Daniels for what County Judge Dean Fowler termed violating “rules for the use of outside trustees from the jail.”

Daniels supervised inmates who cleaned the courthouse, landscaped county property, and maintained other county buildings.

After Monday’s meeting of the court, Fowler said Daniels improperly took inmates to Gregg County several times when he went to buy supplies for projects, and that he let them “use the land line in his office for personal calls . . . a very serious breach of security.”

“On one occasion, he left four inmates unattended in the parking lot at Sam’s (in Longview) for over half an hour,” Fowler said. An Upshur County resident who saw Daniels and the inmates there called Pct. 2 County Commissioner Cole Hefner, the judge said.

On occasions when Daniels went to Sam’s for supplies, he took inmates with him instead of returning them to jail and “he didn’t think there was anything wrong with it,” the judge said.

But “the violations were serious enough that he could have lost his jail certificate,” Fowler told The Mirror. And most commissioners “felt like this is the only decision they could make in order to maintain the use of jail trustees.”

However, Fowler said Daniels broke no laws “that I’m aware of.”

Daniels, 62, had worked for the county nearly 19 1/2 years, including 12 as building maintenance supervisor. He was in the courtroom audience when the court terminated him, and declined comment immediately after the meeting.

Hefner, saying it was “probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make since I’ve been here,” made the motion to fire Daniels after the court met with the supervisor during portions of an approximately one-hour closed session.

“I think the world of you, Charlie,” Hefner said, but added he was moving to terminate the supervisor “due to the circumstances.” Neither he nor any other member of the court offered any specific reasons for the firing during the meeting.

Pct. 4 Comm. Mike Spencer and Pct. 3 Comm. Lloyd Crabtree voted for the motion, while Pct. 1 Comm. James Crittenden abstained. Fowler, who normally casts only tie-breaking votes, did not vote.

When the court first reconvened in open session and Fowler asked if any there was any action to be taken, a silence of perhaps 30 seconds or more passed as Hefner and Spencer looked at each other before Hefner made the motion. Spencer seconded it, citing the “circumstances.”

Daniels told Crabtree in the courthouse hallway afterward, “Ain’t no big deal. . .I’ve been blessed,” and expressed appreciation for having had the opportunity to work for the county.

Soon after that, as Daniels was in the elevator to leave, Hefner said, “I’m sorry, Charles.” Daniels responded, “No problem.”

Fowler said the termination was “pretty emotional for me” since he has been county judge 10 years and Daniels has “been here with me the whole time.”

After terminating Daniels, commissioners voted 3-0 with Crabtree abstaining to name county employee Tim Saxon as interim building maintenance supervisor with no raise in his current salary. Crabtree argued the court needed to “look into it more (who to put in charge).”

The county will advertise for Daniels’s replacement, and Fowler said he would accept applications through Jan. 5. Crittenden and Crabtree, who were defeated for reelection earlier this year, serve their last day in office Dec. 31, and will be succeeded by Paula Gentry and Frank Berka, respectively.

“The new court needs to hire the new person,” Crabtree said before Fowler said he would accept applications into the new year.

During Monday’s special session, the court also accepted County Road Engineer Eric Fisher’s resignation, which was submitted the prior week and was effective Nov. 20 (see separate story).
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