Wilson County Commissioners on Monday will consider a vote of “no confidence” in the school district’s controversial director.
Commissioner William Glover filed a resolution expressing “no confidence” in Director of Schools Tim Setterlund’s “continued leadership.” Glover said he’s expecting at least 13-14 other commissioners to cosponsor the measure.
He said that although day-to-day operations for the school district are mostly out of the county commission’s domain, which deals primarily with budgetary matters, he and other commissioners want to send a message.
“We kind of wanted to send out a message of, ‘We’re not happy with the direction that Dr. Setterlund is taking our county, with the firing of our hometown people, the lawsuits, the leading by intimidation and fear,’” said Glover. “The morale is extremely low right now.”
The resolution details a laundry list of complaints, citing “a number of actions that many County Commissioners feel have been harmful to our school system in particular and our county and its citizens in general.”
The actions include the creation of three new deputy director positions at salaries of $120,000 each per year.
“Dr. Setterlund requested, in his first few weeks on the job, for the County Commission to fund the creation of the new multiple Deputy Director positions, with the County Commission advising Dr. Setterlund that those positions could not be funded in this year’s budget, yet he moved money away from other areas of the school system that were important enough to be included in the budget adopted in August, 2013, then changed only a few weeks later,” according to the resolution.
It continues on to note that two of the three positions were ultimately filled with “friends and employees of the Shelby County school system,” where Setterlund previously worked as assistant superintendent.
The resolution also details the dismissal of several longtime Wilson County Schools employees.
“[D]ue to the reckless firing of longtime school system employees, some for the stated purpose only of ‘they didn’t share my vision for the school system,’ two of those longtime employees have filed lawsuits against the Wilson County school system,” according to the resolution.
It also noted Setterlund’s recent admission of drinking alcohol during school business hours and then operating his county-owned vehicle, “which appears to be a violation of Wilson County Board of Education policy and could expose Wilson County to additional liability.”
Glover said that sends a bad example to students.
“The top leader for our school system is supposed to lead by example,” said Glover.
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.”
School board members will meet in a special called meeting Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Central Office, located at 351 Stumpy Lane in Lebanon, “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,” according to a public notice from the school board.
Glover said that although he wouldn’t be able to attend Saturday’s school board meeting, he’s urging his constituents to attend.
“I’m going to try to get as many people as I can that’s from my district to go,” said Glover.
Setterlund did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Thursday.
Director of Content Jared Felkins contributed to this report.