Whitesburg KY

Water & sewer board delivers partial apology

The Board of Directors of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District has declined to take disciplinary action against Water Superintendent Tim Reed concerning an incident that included allegations of Reed removing records from his personnel file and cursing then District Office Manager Jackie Joseph. Joseph has since resigned, and her husband Mike attended both the September and October meetings and demanded an apology.

The board delivered a letter of apology at its October meeting in hope of putting the resignation of Mrs. Joseph and the events surrounding it to rest. After emerging from a short executive session, Board Chair Phillip “Pee Wee” Back read a prepared letter to a small audience including Mike Joseph, who told Back that his patience was wearing thin just before Back produced the letter.

“This problem is like a sore,” said Mike Joseph. “If you don’t take care of it, it rots. It’s got bad for me. All I asked was for an apology. It’s been 43 days. That’s unacceptable. You need to get your priorities straight. I feel you should have addressed that. She (Jackie Joseph) was jumped on because she did the right thing. She was a good employee, and a hard worker. All because she told the judge’s secretary that a drug test had been taken from a file, and she thought a truck had been purchased illegally. This process just isn’t working for me. I’ll just have to explore other areas.”

Back then said the executive session had concerned the incident with Tim Reed and Joseph, and read the following letter:

“On the issue of Jackie Joseph, I would like to start out by saying Jackie was an instrumental part of the water district for the 2-1/2 years that she worked for the district. Her dedication to her job was second to none. The district relied on her for many task beyond simply an office manager. She played a big role in seeing the Letcher County Water and Sewer District customer base triple in recent years. I wish she would have given the district a chance to address her problems before so abruptly resigning. After discussing this matter with the Water District employees and the Water District Board, I would just like to apologize on the Water District’s behalf for any hard feelings that have developed from this situation. However, after speaking with Tim, and hearing his side of the story and not being able to discuss the situation with Jackie personally, I feel it would be unjust to punish anyone for the incident. I will ask for Tim Reed to place a detailed report of what took place in his personnel file. Again, I would like to reiterate what a good employee Jackie was and how much she will be missed and I wish we could have worked through the situation. Everyone in the district is doing the best they can to supply Letcher County with clean, safe drinking water and no one wants to see anyone with hard feelings against this board or any of the Water District’s employees. For those that have these feelings we again apologize and hope we can work through them.”

The letter was signed by Phillip (Pee Wee) Back, James Flynn and Richard Carter.

Board members Fred Webb and Billy Stamper did not attend the meeting.

Mike Joseph took the letter and left the meeting, but before leaving he told Back it would have been easy to find out Jackie Joseph’s “part of the story.”

“All you had to do was call her for her side of the story,” he said.

Mike Joseph later released a statement to The Mountain

Eagle concerning what he called the “poor excuse for an apology letter.” Joseph’s statement read:

“In the poor excuse for an apology letter, Phillip Back stated that he wished Jackie had given the district a chance to address her problems before so abruptly resigning. This is not a true statement. Jackie called Phillip Back the day that she resigned and told him that she was resigning due to something had happened between Tim Reed, the superintendent, and her and that she was resigning and that she was going to leave her keys at the Judge’s office. Phillip Back did not ask what happened that day. Jackie always conducted herself with integrity and had done the politically correct thing. That was the reason that he did not care what had happened. He wanted to get rid of everyone that worked for the Water District who questioned what the board was doing, whether it was legal or illegal.

“Phillip stated in the poor excuse of an apology letter that he discussed the issue with the Water District employees and the Water District Board. My wife Jackie Joseph received calls from James Flynn, Billy Stamper and Fred Webb and she told all of them what had happened and what caused her to resign. She told them that she went to the Judge’s office and told the Judge’s secretary that Tim had taken (certain records) out of his files, and that purchasing the truck for more than $20,000 might not be legal. The next day when she went to work the superintendent, Tim Reed, came into the office, disrespected my wife, cursed at her and told her that she was going to get him fired by telling the Judge’s secretary that he had taken his drug test and that she was just mad because he bought that “f-ing” truck and that he would never step foot back in that office again. At least three of the board members had heard Jackie’s side of the story prior to Phillip writing this letter and I find it hard to believe that none of them told Phillip what had happened.

“James Flynn also called Jackie on Oct. 15, 2009 and told her that he was sorry what had happened and that he was going to resign from the board, but he did not and that tells me a lot about him.

“Phillip also stated in the poor excuse of an apology letter that after speaking with Tim Reed, the superintendent, and not being able to speak with Jackie personally that it would be unjust to punish anyone for the incident. Phillip could have asked Jackie when she resigned what had happened but he failed to. I was wondering if Phillip Back knows what a phone is. All he had to do was to pick up the phone and call Jackie and get her side of the story. I would think that one of the three board members that Jackie told her side of the story to had already told Phillip what had happened. If they did not tell Phillip Back, the chairman of the board, then they are either afraid of Phillip Back or the board has no communication between each other at all. This was and is a serious incident. Phillip Back talked about justice but he has no ideal of the meaning of the word justice.

“Phillip stated that he did not talk to Jackie to get her side of the story but the LCWSD (Letcher County Water and Sewer District) employees and the Judge’s secretary did not hesitate to call Jackie several times between them to get information and ask questions about the LCWSD. I would like to ask these people not to call and ask my wife any questions concerning the LCWSD. If they want to call her and talk about other issues that would be fine but she should not have to put up with any calls about the Water District due to the way she has been mistreated.

“I stated in the prior meetings that the only thing that I wanted was a public apology. This means a public apology from Tim Reed, the person that disrespected my wife and from him only. The apology that the board gave on Oct. 15, 2009 was nothing but an insult and was only given to halt bad publicity and for that reason only.”

The truck Mike Joseph referred to in his statement is a new pickup the board authorized for purchase even though its cost exceeded $20,000, the amount above which Kentucky state law requires to be advertised for bids.

In other business, the board received a list of projects and their state of readiness for production from Bell Engineering. Lee Lowe of Bell Engineering reported that the crucial Knott County Interconnect is nearing the construction phase. Bids were opened on Sept. 22 and the low bid of $899,382.20 was submitted by Stotts Construction Inc. of Columbia. Bell recommended the project be awarded to the low bidder and the board voted unanimously to award it to Stotts. The project can begin upon receipt of the Public Service Commission’s approval of the application. The Interconnect will allow the Knott County Water District to supply water to Letcher County from Carr Creek Lake and will meet all the county’s water needs.

Plans for the Blackey Water Treatment Plant static mixer were submitted to the Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) on Aug. 24 and Bell provided further information on them on Oct. 11. The plans are awaiting approval from DOW. The Elk Creek, Bull Creek, Pine Creek, Pert Creek, and Cram Creek study conducted by Kentucky Abandoned Mine Lands is complete and awaits AML’s decision.

Phase II and III of the Craft’s Colly Water Improvements Project awaits condemnation of property by the Kentucky Department of Highways to run a permanent water line to replace a temporary line running alongside a bridge to Copperhead Road.

The Camp Branch Area Two, Kentucky 7, and Little Dry Fork Water System Improvement is complete and awaits the submission of the final pay request form by the contractor. The Garner Mountain Water Extension awaits Kentucky DOW approval of the extension and project layouts on the Thornton and Premium/Highway160 Water Improvements Projects are complete and will be submitted to the DOW after contracts for the Knott-Letcher County Interconnect are awarded.

Project layouts for Pert Creek, Cram Creek, Bull Creek, Elk Creek, and Carcassonne Water Improvement Projects are complete and await AML’s directive concerning the availability of funding. Layouts for Red Star, Ulvah, and Hallie Water Improvement Projects are also complete and have been submitted to DOW. Project design continues on the Millstone Water Improvement Project

Plans to relocate the chlorination point from the pump station to the tanks’ sites are being prepared for the Little Cowan and Sandlick Chlorinators for submission to DOW and AML has initiated a study of Deane, Mill Creek, Rockhouse Creek, and Stevens Fork to determine if the areas were impacted by pre-law mining activities and are eli- gible for funding.

Board Chair Back also asked the board to elect a vice chairman in case of his absence, but Richard Carter said he would rather wait until the full board is present. Superintendent Reed told the board the contract with Knott County to supply water to Letcher County has been signed and asked the board to allow him to spend several hundred dollars on tools for the Blackey Water Plant including a “saws-all.” The board approved his request.

Reed also said he is having a hard time getting the City of Cumberland to cooperate on an agreement to supply water to the Cumberland River Water Project area. First District Magistrate Bobby Lewis, whose district includes Cumberland River, said he would ask Letcher County Judge/ Executive Jim Ward to speak to the Cumberland officials and the Harlan County Fiscal Court again to try get things moving.

Chairman Back told the board he had spoken with Mrs. Kilgore of the Pound, Va. Water District and she had told him she would contact the board of directors and see what is keeping it from sending the contract back for Pound to act as a water supply source for Cumberland River. Reed said there were some problems with a prior contract the Pound District has to also supply water to Norton, Va.

Board Chair Back also asked Reed for a current list of past-due water bills and Reed said that some bills have gotten quite large, with one over $1,100. He said he hopes to get a computer program that will identify past due bills automatically if those who owe the bills try to re-connect.

Board Attorney Jamie Hatton asked Back if the board has a policy for the collection of delinquent accounts and added that it should have a uniform policy for collection. Hatton also said he had spoken with the Knott County Water and Sewer District and the signed agreement should be in the mail the next day. He said he has also received the agreement with Bell Engineering to turn the Payne Gap Water Project over to the City of Jenkins.

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