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UPDATE: School board meets behind closed doors about director’s actions

Jared Felkins jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com • Updated Jan 20, 2014 at 10:14 AM

The Wilson County Board of Education concluded a more than two-hour executive session Sunday afternoon with a decision to think about what action to take against Director of Schools Tim Setterlund and meet later in the week to finalize that action.

For two hours and 12 minutes, the board met with board attorney Mike Jennings to discuss employment issues regarding Setterlund.

The board called the meeting to order Sunday at about 1:03 p.m. and moved to meet behind closed doors. Jennings cited prior court cases from Smith and Warren counties as precedent to allow the board to discuss employment matters.

Following the closed-door meeting, board chairman Don Weathers asked Jennings what he thought should be the board’s next action. Jennings advised the board to consider what the board had discussed and render a decision at a special called meeting later in the week.

“If action warrants a special called meeting, then that’s what we will do,” Weathers said.

Weathers and Jennings both confirmed the board discussed an incident from Thursday's Wilson County Budget Committee meeting in which Commissioner Mike Justice questioned Director of Schools Tim Setterlund on whether Setterlund had a beer at a local establishment and then drove his school board-provided Ford Expedition.

Setterlund answered Justice’s question with “yes.”

At the time, Justice said he was approached by a group of concerned citizens to question Setterlund about his actions.

On Sunday, Setterlund wasn’t present at the meeting, and Weathers said he was on extended vacation due to bad weather.

“We have heard the options our counsel has provided with us today, and we have heard a first-hand account of what transpired in the meeting,” Weathers said. “So we have a lot to think about over the next few days.”

Jennings said the board discussed two policies during the closed-door meeting as they related to Setterlund. One was a policy on drug-free workplace and the other referenced staff rights and responsibilities.

“Board members were hit with a lot of information today,” Jennings said. “The message I think you should take from today is that we have talked about the facts as we know them, school board policy, state law, all of the things that come into play. We are going to take a thorough look at this, not rush to judgment, but move fairly expeditiously and see what action needs to be taken.”

The drug-free workplace policy said, in part:

“No employee shall unlawfully manufacture, distribute, dispense, possess, or use on or in the workplace alcohol or any narcotic drug, hallucinogenic drug, amphetamine, barbiturate, marijuana, or any other controlled substance, as defined in federal law.

“’Workplace’ shall include any school building or any school property; any school owned or any other school approved vehicle used to transport students to and from school or school activities; and off school property during any school sponsored or school approved activity, event, or function.”

The policy also said, “It is a violation of Wilson County Schools policy for any employee to report to work under the influence of or while possessing in his/her body, blood, or urine illegal drugs in any detectable amount.

“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.”

In reference to the staff rights and responsibilities policy, it said, in part:

“The following four-step progressive disciplinary procedure will normally be followed in cases of alleged violation of policies by employees. The severity of some actions may result in disciplinary action starting at Step 2, Step 3 or Step 4.

“Step 1: Verbal consultation with the employee by the immediate supervisor, with written summary signed by the employee and supervisor, to be placed in the employee personnel file;

“Step 2: Written reprimand of the employee, signed by the employee and supervisor, with a copy to remain in the personnel file;

“Step 3: Suspension without pay in which the suspended employee shall relinquish all duties, responsibilities, privileges and compensation (insurance coverage to be retained); documentation, in writing, signed by the employee and supervisor, to be placed in the personnel file;

“Step 4: Dismissal.”

Board secretary Rose Ratagick and recently hired Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hutson attended the meeting but were not included in the closed-door session. A Wilson County sheriff’s deputy stood at the door to ensure no one was allowed in the meeting.

The board announced Saturday morning it would meet privately with Jennings on Sunday in an email sent to media.  

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