Why Did Mayor Shaw Blame Our Police Department For All The OSHA Fines?

September 12, 2019 Off By Jay Hubbard

Mayor Danny Shaw has a well earned reputation for bending rules and twisting facts to suit his personal agenda. He often tries to justify this behavior saying he’s trying to protect the town, but ignoring regular order and covering up administrative incompetence doesn’t protect our town. If anything it makes matters worse.

The Board of Commissioners met Monday, September 9, at 7pm, for a special closed meeting to discuss “personnel”.  The meeting was called to order inside the municipal office without acknowledging the four or five people gathered in the public meeting room at the time. After almost twenty-five years on the board, Mayor Shaw should know better. The statute, quoted in part below, details how and why a special meeting is to be called.

§ 143-318.11.(c) Calling a Closed Session reads: A public body may hold a closed session only upon a motion duly made and adopted at an open meeting. Every motion to close a meeting shall cite one or more of the permissible purposes listed in subsection (a) of this section. A motion based on subdivision (a)(1) of this section shall also state the name or citation of the law that renders the information to be discussed privileged or confidential. A motion based on subdivision (a)(3) of this section shall identify the parties in each existing lawsuit concerning which the public body expects to receive advice during the closed session.”

None of the above was followed Monday night. The Board members gathered in the office, and before anyone in the meeting room realized it, they were doing business behind closed doors. No public call to order; nothing. I’m not saying it was illegal, but I am saying it was wrong.

When the executive session ended and the commissioners had trickled in to take their seats, the first of two public hearings was called to order. The public hearings were about imposing commercial zoning the recently annexed property at the corner of Reed Creek Road and US 64, and a proposed moratorium on new applications for gaming establishments. Both were passed during the regular meeting that followed.

Citation 01 Item 001a

The first item of new business Monday night was a report from Mayor Shaw about a recent OSHA inspection by the North Carolina Department of Labor, which resulted in several fines totaling $1,000.

While it’s true that the biggest fine was imposed because our police department failed to review and maintain an up-to-date “Control Plan” for bloodborne pathogen exposures, the mayor’s report made it sound as if responsibility for all the inspection failures and fines rests solely on the police department. That is simply not the truth.

There are image or text links to copies of all six of the citations received embedded in this article, and  Mayor Shaw’s report is viewable in the short video clip below.

Citation 02 Item 001

The citation for failure to get required Hepatitis B vaccines, mentioned by Mayor Shaw, carried no financial penalty. In fact, three of the six citations received levied no fines at all. Failure to keep and produce records in a timely fashion are what brought about the additional $400 fined.

Why didn’t Mayor Shaw mention that and place blame where it belonged, in the municipal office? Why attempt to make our police department look unprofessional for things they had no part in?

Citation 02, item 001 was issued for failure to maintain “OSHA 300 log, the privacy case list, the annual summary, or the OSHA 301 Incident Report(s)” for the years 2015, 2016, and 2017, facility wide. Facility wide means all departments, the entire town. These records must be kept by all employers in our state, and retained for five years. Anyone as deeply involved in our town government for as long as Mayor Shaw has been should probably be aware of this.

Citation 02 Item 002

Citation 02 item 002 was issued for failure to provide the records within four (4) hours of request by an authorized representative of the state, for all departments. That’s what the law requires, and it’s been that way for many years. While the offenses were deemed “nonserious” by the NCDoL, they were serious enough to merit two fines totalling four hundred dollars. The sixth citation was for failing to keep portable fire extinguishers visually inspected in any public buildings, no fine imposed for that violation.

Mayor Shaw’s report made it sound like our police department is to blame for all of the fines because they forgot to update a vaccine and get a little occupational safety training. We have a small but dedicated police force in Ramseur. They’re human, and they’re busy doing their jobs, being cops, patrolling and answering calls. They do a lot with a little. Even if all the fines had fallen within the police department alone, Chief Lewallen and his officers shouldn’t be the ones getting thrown under the bus.

The commissioner in charge of our police and fire departments shouldn’t be blamed either. He’s a barber, not a human resources specialist. We pay him and the other commissioners $150 a month. None of the members of our Board of Commissioners should be expected to administer things like this.

We’re supposed to have department heads – paid full time employees with specialized training and experience needed to run their departments – and an administrator to coordinate things like compliance with labor laws and other administrative duties. Local government is too complex to leave five or six part time elected officials in charge of it. It’s not 1950 anymore folks. The world changed and it’s past time to start catching up around here.

Governing boards are elected to set policy and hire employees to carry them out, but that’s not how we do things in Ramseur, and that’s the root of the problem. Anyone who thinks five or six people who won popularity contests should be running the day to day operation of a town, even a town this size, is very unrealistic and naive.

Most of the issues that led to the citations listed above might have been avoided if our municipal office was properly staffed. For most of the past four years Ramseur’s administration has consisted of Bobbie Hatley, our former town clerk, zoning administrator, and chief financial officer. Bobbie’s defacto assistant was Grant Cheek, and Mayor Shaw spends time in the office several days each week. That’s our town administration.

Bobbie Hatley did an admirable job, considering what she had to work with, but she was asked to carry too much, and she was obviously not qualified to do all of those jobs. We have an opportunity for a much needed hard reset of our local government, in both hiring new employees and electing a new mayor and the majority of the board. Our town cannot afford to go another year without professional administration.

If we can only afford two full time employees in the office we should seek to hire a financial officer/administrator and a town clerk. Between them they need experience in human resource management and grant writing/procurement, as well as experience in or a willingness to learn how local government works. Zoning administration should be contracted to JIll Wood, if she’s willing to continue when we reach that point.

As for a water billing clerk, if we find that we need additional help in the office to process water bills and payments, I’m certain we can find one or two high school or RCC students willing to work 10 – 15 hours each month, accepting payments and running front desk and telephone interference, for a price we can afford. Generating water bills should by now be an automated process requiring little more than loading the blank bills in a printer and executing a program. If not we should all be demanding a detailed explanation of why it isn’t.

Mayors and commissioners are not supposed to act as town administrators. In many cases that is prohibited by statute, but it goes on in Ramseur, just as it has for decades in the past. The most dangerous words in the English language are, “We’ve always done it that way.”

Doing the same thing again and again while expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. It’s time for a change in Ramseur. Mayor Shaw has proven himself incapable or unwilling to conduct meetings in a proper manner. He has earned a reputation for distorting facts when the truth reflects poorly on his leadership.

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