‘Appetite of the board’ will determine Setterlund’s future
AMELIA MORRISON HIPPS
The next step regarding the future of Director of Schools Dr. Tim Setterlund lies with the Wilson County Board of Education.
BOE Chair Don Weathers of Mt. Juliet spoke to The Wilson Post on his way home from a business trip in Pennsylvania Friday morning.
He said he does know about the Budget Committee meeting Thursday night where Commissioner and committee Chair Mike Justice asked Setterlund if he had ever consumed alcohol and then driven his county-assigned vehicle, to which he said, “Yes.”
Following the meeting, Setterlund, who has been on the job since July 1, 2013, told The Post, “I didn’t think it would be a problem. My contract reads that that vehicle is provided for my personal use, so I use that vehicle like I would my personal vehicle.”
Weathers, who said he has not spoken with Setterlund, did say he had talked to a few people since Thursday night – some who were at the meeting and some who were not.
“I think there would've been a much better way for it to be done, but it is what it is, as far as being made public,” he said.
“But now that it is known by the school board members and the public in general, it is something that the board will meet as soon as we can get everyone together to discuss exactly how we want to deal with this situation.”
When asked by The Post Friday morning if he considered going to a single BOE member or the entire board with his information, Justice said, “No.
“The people that came to me were scared at the repercussions that might come back to them and were scared to lose their jobs, and I did not want him or anybody else to try to manipulate around the fact.”
Justice also said, “I don’t apologize for it, and I won’t. It’s in the open. I don’t do things in private when it comes to elected business.”
The 15th District commissioner added that Setterlund has scheduled meetings with “a lot of county commissioners, and I didn’t go because I felt like that if we had a meeting, it should be open.
“That’s [been] my policy from the beginning,” Justice said. “I’m not going to sit in his office when I could do everything we do in the open. I have meetings with him, but they’re open to the public.”
Justice also noted that he raised his concerns Thursday in the Budget Committee because “I didn’t want to do it in a bigger setting. It was a smaller setting, and everything was done in the open.”
BOE policy and contract questions
The Post asked Weathers if he felt Setterlund had violated the BOE’s Drug Free Workplace policy, if it is true that he had a beer during a school day and returned to work.
The policy states: “It is a violation of Wilson County Schools policy for any employee to report to work under the influence or impaired by alcohol or to engage in the use of alcohol during work hours. … Violations of this policy are subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.”
“I don’t know if this occurred during work hours,” Weathers said. “I've not spoken with Tim about any of the details at all. That's questions the board is going to have to get answered. We just have some discovery work that we have to do.”
The Post also asked the chairman about a paragraph in Setterlund’s contract that deals with dismissal “For Cause,” which reads: “This Employment Contract may be terminated by the BOARD for cause upon sufficient proof of improper conduct, inefficient service or neglect of duty, including failure to follow the policies of the Wilson County Board of Education. If the BOARD terminates this Contract for cause, the DIRECTOR would be entitled to no further benefits or compensation.”
“Until we speak with our attorney (Mike Jennings) on that, I’m going to have to let the policy say what it says,” Weathers said. “We've had directors that violated board policies before and they were not terminated.
“So, it would be, I guess, a matter if we just wanted to use this to make a statement. Termination is something that the board would have to decide as a whole, but until we speak as a group and with our attorney, that's something I don't want to speculate on. It'll be strictly up to the appetite of the board.”
Weathers said he has spoken to two board members, but before setting a time and date for a meeting wanted to talk to Jennings “first to see what his suggestion or recommendation for us would be.”
He said he and Jennings had exchanged texts earlier Friday morning, but they were unable to talk due to Jennings being in meetings that he could not avoid attending. The Wilson County Board of Zoning Appeals met at 8:30 a.m. Friday, followed by the Planning Commission.
However, Weathers said they planned to talk as soon as Jennings was available and see what the next steps might be.
Deliberations would be private, actions would be public
He noted that any deliberation about Setterlund’s situation would be done in executive session, which is closed to the public, whenever the BOE meets. However, any votes or decisions would be done in an open meeting.
“I think the board would be much more constructive by doing that because personnel matters are confidential,” Weathers said. “At the same time, we have a duty to the public to let them know what's going on.
“If the board decides to take any action, then that would have to be done in an open session. We cannot make any decisions or take any kind of vote in a closed session – nor would we want to.”
Correspondent Amelia Morrison Hipps may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.