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Setterlund says ‘no comment’ on actions

Jared Felkins jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com • Updated Jan 23, 2014 at 12:42 PM

Wilson County Director of Schools Tim Setterlund has retained an attorney and would not comment Wednesday on a situation where he admitted he drank a beer before driving his county-issued vehicle.

“I would like to respond to the situation locally, but my attorney has advised me not to make any comments at this point,” Setterlund said Wednesday.

Setterlund, however, had more to say Sunday to WSMV.

"I think in retrospect, it was a stupid thing for me to do because it is a county vehicle, and it does have government plates on it, even though it's provided for my own personal use as if it were my own vehicle,” Setterlund told the Nashville television station, according to its website. "I should have done better. I feel bad that I brought criticism to the school system."

On Wednesday, Setterlund said he made the statements “before my attorney advised me not to comment.”

Board secretary Rose Ratagick sent a meeting notice to media Wednesday at about 7:30 p.m. with specific instructions from attorney Mike Jennings it shouldn’t be edited, according to statute.

The notice said, “The Wilson County Board of Education will meet in special called session on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 at 9 a.m. at the Central Office located at 351 Stumpy Lane, Lebanon, TN. to consider, and, if necessary, take action on, termination of the contract of Wilson County Director of Schools Dr. Timothy R. Setterlund for professional misconduct, or removal from office and any and all necessary action related thereto. This item of business shall be the first item on the agenda.”

Wilson County Board of Education chairman Don Weathers said the board has received mixed messages regarding Setterlund.

“Everybody has concerns, but [we’ve] gotten lots of support,” Weathers said. “It’s kind of a mixed bag. A lot of people want him gone while some want him to stay. I’m trying to listen to all the feedback. We really haven’t had any contact at all with him since last week.

“The board just has to weigh it out, look at policy and make a decision.”

The board concluded a more than two-hour executive session Sunday afternoon with a decision to think about what action to take against Setterlund and meet later in the week to finalize that action.

For two hours and 12 minutes, the board met with 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 in executive session.

Following the closed-door meeting, 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 last Thursday's Wilson County Budget Committee meeting in which Commissioner Mike Justice questioned 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.”

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