Axed employee: Georgetown County ripped off

The former capital projects division manager for Georgetown County, Don Corinna, is alleging that he was fired, not for insubordination but for refusing to sign off on what he thought were unfair charges to the county.

Corinna, who was the division manager until Nov. 23, said during an employee grievance hearing Wednesday that he refused on a few occasions to approve requests from Applied Technology and Management, a company that is under contract with Georgetown County for stormwater and engineering services.

He said he refused to approve some of those requests and informed the director of public services, Ray Funnye, that he thought the amounts requested were inflated or were for things that had not been delivered.

He told the employee grievance committee that he believes he was fired for "having taken issue with the conduct of work performed by a particular engineering consultant, ATM, with whom the director of public services has for several years maintained a personal relationship."

Funnye said during the hearing that Corinna was fired for insubordination and for not complying with the county's policies on media relations.

Funnye said he simply had a "contractual" relationship with ATM for several years.

"Never did I disregard Georgetown County's interests" when dealing with ATM, Funnye said.

But Corinna alleged that Funnye did not respond on the several occasions when he pointed out problems with ATM's work or with their requests.

For example, he said three orders totaling more than $10,000 were a result of design deficiencies by ATM. Corinna said he recommended to Funnye that the company be charged for those associated costs, but he "refused to accept my recommendation and approved the change orders, the additional costs for which was borne by the county."

Corinna was placed on suspension in October for talking to members of the media, which Funnye said was a violation of the county policy, and for insubordination.

The suspension resulted in regular meetings with Funnye to update him on the status of the projects and to see whether his attitude improved.

Corinna said Funnye did not have a problem with him talking to the media until the amount paid to ATM by the county was mentioned, and he said the main reason he was accused of insubordination was because he did not go to a safety committee meeting and did not tell Funnye that he would not be there.

Corinna said he did not go to the meeting because there was an emergency situation in Andrews dealing with the removal of asbestos that he tended to instead.

Funnye said Corinna told him about the situation in Andrews and that "his comment to me is that he will provide to me the information [about the situation] when he gets around to it."

"That is no way of communicating with a supervisor," Funnye said.

Corinna admitted that he regretted his attitude later but said it happened "because I was being treated like a child. I had never been treated this way, and I did resent it."

Corinna said he is seeking "a redress of the issues" that led to his termination.

"I'm looking for someone to come back and say maybe we did make a mistake," he said, but noted he doubts that will happen.

He said he cannot receive unemployment benefits because he was fired and would like to have that resolved. He said he was offered the chance to resign and turned it down because he did not want to find another job since he was semi-retired.

The committee will file a report with its findings to County Administrator Sel Hemmingway, who will make the ultimate decision about what to do. The committee has up to 20 days to file that report.

Tony Maglione, ATM's vice president for the South Carolina/Georgia coastal region, said, "Since this is a personnel issue within the county it is not appropriate for us to comment at this time."