Loris council referenced mechanic post cut during budget hearing
By JENN CAUSEY
What did Loris City Council members know about terminating the city’s mechanic position, and when did they know it?
Evidence in plain sight, though previously unnoticed, indicates council was briefed on the plan during the its annual budget process, and members knew on June 20, when they approved a city budget for the year that began July 1, that Billy Kent Wright’s long-held job wasn’t funded.
Two council members, Mike Suggs and Carroll Padgett, expressed surprise at the budget decision during council’s July 11 meeting after Wright’s daughter-in-law spoke passionately of his firing, complaining that he was given just six-days’ notice that his job had been cut, with no explanation.
Kenya Wright said Kent Wright enjoyed the work, which paid less than $50,000 per year, and never received a negative performance review during many years on that job.
“This is a travesty,” Suggs said during the July 11 meeting. “I was surprised and shocked. He was only given a six-day notice. He had no disciplinary action, and we never took a vote to terminate the position or thanked him for his service. It is not right.”
Mayor Todd Harrelson challenged Sugg’s view, and said council knew the budget proposed eliminated funding for the mechanic’s post.
“We had a conversation in executive session, and I thought it was plainly made clear what everyone was voting for,” Harrelson said.
Though council’s June 20 meeting was livestreamed on the city’s Facebook page, the recorded session now available online does not show the entire session.
Tabor-Loris Tribune was the only person attending the meeting other than council and city staff, and recorded the session. It went quickly during the meeting, but a later review showed that City Administrator Clay Young referenced two budget proposals before council unanimously adopted the one without funding for the mechanic.
“The budget will be passed with no mileage increase, but there was increase with solid waste,” Young said. “The rate structure with water and sewer will be done through a separate ordinance. Budget A is as is the way it is without mechanic position in budget. Budget B would be with mechanic.”
Video posted to the city’s YouTube page did not record that portion of the June 20 meeting. An “AUDIO ONLY” recording that included the budget discussion was posted Friday, after Tabor-Loris Tribune began asking about the budgets and vote.
Kent Wright, during the July 11 meeting, gave council notice of appeal for his dismissal, requesting a grievance hearing “for termination without cause.” He declined to comment for this story.
Both Padgett and Suggs said they stand by their position that Wright’s firing was handled improperly, and they did not realize their vote included eliminating the mechanic’s job.
Look for more on this story in this week’s Tabor-Loris Tribune, available now in print and online.