CHIPLEY — County Human Resources Director Heather Finch was fired for being “grossly negligent” and unethical in her job duties, according to a letter signed by County Manager Steve Joyner.
The letter is dated Feb. 26, and was hand delivered to Finch. The Washington County News obtained a copy of the letter following a request for public documents under the state Sunshine Law.
According to the letter, Finch publically discussed sensitive and privileged employment situations involving county staff and employees and abused her access to certain county information and files in providing that information for non-county related purposes.
“Said conduct was inappropriate and unethical,” the letter reads. “Further, said conduct, in your capacity as Human Resources Director for Washington County, was a breach of your fiduciary obligation(s) to the county and its employees.”
According to the letter, Finch’s behavior “illustrates that you do not possess the standard of morality or ethics to continue in your current position as Human Resources Director for Washington County.”
“I do feel that you have been grossly negligent and unethical in your job duties and have breached your fiduciary responsibility that comes with being the Washington County Human Resources Director,” the letter to Finch states.
In an e-mail reply on Tuesday, Finch said the termination letter was “a gross misrepresentation of the situation that led to my dismissal.”
Finch said she is in Houston, Texas, where her husband is hospitalized at MD Anderson Medical Center.
“I look forward to an accurate unfolding of the facts, which will reflect that I was unjustly terminated after 6 years of devoted service to our county where I consistently spoke up and officially complained about the corruption and harassment plaguing our local government,” Finch wrote.
“As a mother expecting my second daughter next month, facing this situation without my husband or a job is heartbreaking, and I cannot express enough my gratitude to the community for their generosity, prayers, and support," Finch wrote.
Attached to the letter were copies of Facebook posts from August, September and October of 2010 between Finch, Nan Thompson and Connie Jeanine Batchelor in which Finch discusses various county officials and various milled asphalt projects.
Finch also discusses county call records, noting, “CB talks to Cliff A LOT!”
“Btw, obviously, I do not want anyone to know I am able to get into the County cell info,” Finch also writes.
At the Board of County Commissioners workshop on Feb. 20, County Commissioner Joel Pate presented fellow commissioners with a computer printout and said he would like the matter taken care of by the county manager. Pate said the controversy involved the county’s interviewing process.
Copies of the documents provided to the commissioners were not provided to the media, at the time, but were included with the Sunshine Law request. The documents were listed as “Exhibit A” in the letter informing Finch that she was being fired.
After reviewing the documents, Commission Chairman Alan Bush said that the problem seemed to have less to do with the county’s interviewing process than the improper usage by county employees of social media.
Finch was never mentioned by name as being involved in the situation the commissioners were discussing, however, it was confirmed following the Feb. 20 meeting that the human resources director was involved.
In another Facebook post, Finch writes: “And for goodness sake, all of us have got to remember (esp. my boss!) that we cannot trust Commissioners!!”