Friday, January 03, 2014 10:34 PM
Hearing set for fired health director
By Olivia Neeley | Times Staff Writer
In July, ex-health director Felix Meyer filed a petition asking a court to decide if he had been fired from his job "without just cause.” And now the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings is set to hear Meyer’s case sometime during the week of Jan. 27, state officials said Friday.
The office hasn’t sent out a notice yet regarding the specific date, time and place of the hearing, according to Senior Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison Jr. with the office. That information is typically confirmed two weeks before a hearing is set to begin, Morrison said.
The hearing, which is held before a judge, is open to the public. The judge’s ruling is public record.
After the hearing, a judge will issue a final agency decision, Morrison said. If either party is dissatisfied with that decision, they can file a petition for judicial review. That particular petition would be filed in Wilson County Superior Court, state officials said.
Meyer hired attorney M.M. Jackson Nichols, of Allen, Pinnix and Nichols, a Raleigh law firm, who filed a petition on his behalf July 17 questioning whether the county had just cause in his firing. The questions stem from Meyer’s challenge to the health board’s decision to fire him May 10.
In the petition, Meyer is also questioning whether a conflict of interest exists in the case with Stephen Beaman’s dual roles representing Wilson County and the Wilson County Board of Health.
"Does the board of health have a conflict of interest in the county attorney’s dual representation of the county and the board? Should the county be a party to this action?” the petition asks.
Meyer requests in the petition include:
• A hearing from the court of administrative hearings;
• Back payment and reinstatement of benefits, attorney fees and costs;
• All inaccurate and misleading information be stricken from his personnel file and that the administrative law judge grant other relief that seems just and equitable.
RIGHT TO APPEAL
The health board unanimously voted to terminate Meyer, after several days of grueling closed session meetings to discuss personnel matters. A 14-page letter was hand-delivered to Meyer on the day of his firing. In the detailed letter, the board outlined its allegations against him. They cited reasons for their decision, including breach of confidential information, retaliatory behavior, racial inequity, unethical/inappropriate behavior and other comments, policy and procedure violations, job applicant pre-selection and inappropriate use of qualifications preferences. Meyer was given an opportunity to respond to the allegations. According to the letter, Meyer delivered his own written statement and letter to the board. The board evaluated Meyer’s responses to the allegations but still voted to terminate him, according to the board’s letter. Meyer was also given a copy of the Wilson County Health Department Appeals Policy.
According to Wilson officials, the first level of any health department employee appeal of termination goes to the immediate supervisor, which in Meyer’s case was the board of health.
In June, the health board took no action after an appeal hearing was held for Meyer, who was not present. Generally speaking, it’s an employee choice as to whether they are present for an appeal hearing, board chairman Ron Sutton said at the time.
As an employee with career status, Meyer has the right to appeal to the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings.
Meyer did not receive a severance package nor was he under contract, officials said.
Wilson County spent about $5,000 for two consultants who were asked to investigate personnel issues within the health department under Meyer.
A personnel consultant was in attendance at some of those proceedings. Meyer received payment for his accrued vacation time, which totaled a little more than $8,400, according to the county office.
He was also paid his normal monthly salary through the day of termination. Meyer, who was hired in 2007, had an annual salary of $92,978.
©The Wilson Times, Wilson, North Carolina.
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