Council Faces Public Outrage Over Administrator’s Probation

Fairfield County residents packed Council chambers Monday night to express their dismay at what they perceived as lenient punishment for the County Administrator.

FAIRFIELD – County Council drew a packed house Monday as the public leveed some harsh criticism over Council’s June 5 decision to sanction Phil Hinely, the County Administrator.

“A pay cut doesn’t seem like much of a punishment,” said Christina Fair, referring to Council’s decision to reduce Hinely’s pay by 5 percent during a six-month probationary period. “Instead of going to work every day, looking at pornography, you get to take a paid vacation.”

“I realize you would all like to have Mr. Hinely’s alleged reprehensible behavior go away,” said Bob Carrison. “The Administrator has violated the public trust and a moral code. How can we trust this man? The hypocrisy should be obvious to all of you. I would like you to reconsider your decision.”

Hinely’s alleged emails, said Wanda Bright, put the County in a vulnerable position for sexual discrimination lawsuits.

“Shame on all of you,” Bright said to Council. “It seems that many of you have forgotten who you serve. Phil Hinely should be setting an example of professional conduct, not of misconduct.”

Brenda Miller offered what she called “The state of the County” in her remarks.

“This statement is painful to me because, as individuals, I count Council members among my friends. But in recent years I have developed a lack of trust and lack of confidence in Council’s ability. As a Council, there’s a pattern of a lack of coordination between the County and the municipalities. Council has developed a ‘my way or the highway’ ideology. We have to have new, professional leadership. The County has the money to hire the best professionals available. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem and you should resign.”

William Coleman said he feared this mark on Hinely’s reputation would damage the County’s ability to attract industry and urged Council to revisit their decision. Near the close of Monday’s meeting, Council addressed the public outrage.

“It’s amazing to me the feeding frenzy,” said Councilwoman Mary Lynn Kinley (District 6). “We didn’t vote earlier (to discipline Hinely) because we didn’t have all the facts. I still don’t know if we have all the facts.”

Kinley said she was surprised at charges of being uncooperative, and said the County has never turned down a request from the hospital, tried to meet with the School Board on their recent bond issue to build a new career center and works well with Winnsboro and Ridgeway.

Vice Chairman Dwayne Perry (District 1) said he was wary of the alleged emails circulating among the public.

“I know how things can be Photoshopped,” Perry said. “I did not have the opportunity to speak with anyone at SLED (the State Law Enforcement Division, which opened a case file on the alleged emails in February and closed the file two weeks later after determining they contained no illegal content). I would like to know the legitimacy of the emails. As someone who lives in this county, I am still concerned with the legitimacy of all the information.”

Council Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) said the Council had made its final decision on the Hinely matter and, in spite of the public outcry Monday night, would not be revisiting the issue. And the Council made their decision in their own time, Ferguson said.

“We told the public we would withhold anything we were going to do until we got the whole story,” Ferguson said, “not because the public made us do anything. Threats don’t get us anywhere. Has Mr. Hinely made a mistake? Yes, he did. Did Council address it? Yes, we did. Is Council going to go back and readdress this? No, we’re not.”

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