Horse farm dominant

Tammy Woodburn, owner of Blueberry Hill Farm, explains her concerns about the potential of an industrial complex being built near her farm located near Holder. Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith, though, chided the land development director for proposing a buffer of trees and shrubs to separate the industrial park from her and neighbors.

County commissioners took exception Monday to a column penned by Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith that suggested the county planning director lose her job over a proposed tree regulation in the Holder Industrial Park.

Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. said Smith’s column, which targets Land Development Director Joanna Coutu but not by name, violated a county ordinance intended to separate commissioners from overseeing anyone but the county administrator and attorney.

Kitchen said the column, printed in Sunday’s Chronicle, “creates the potential for a hostile workplace environment.”

Smith, according to his column, was upset that Coutu added a condition for a proposed industrial park, recommended by Duke Energy and county economic leaders. The condition calls for a buffer of trees and shrubs separating nearby residences from the industrial park property.

Smith also sent emails to County Administrator Randy Oliver that were critical of Coutu.

“...While I would not assume to suggest you either release or reassign her, I would not oppose it either and could suggest as much in the future,” Smith wrote to Oliver.

Smith’s column offered a similar view.

“If I had my way, we would either ask for the head of the land development division to resign or have that person moved to a position in the planning section that doesn’t have direct impact on our ability to grow much needed jobs,” he wrote.

And he said much the same thing directly in an email to Coutu:

“I've lost confidence in your leadership and while I would not suggest randy move you, I would not oppose it.”

Kitchen said Smith’s comments in the column were inappropriate in that Coutu works for the administrator, not the commissioners.

“To attack our employees in the media is reprehensible,” Kitchen said.

Kitchen asked that commissioners vocalize their support for Coutu. Instead, Commissioners Brian Coleman, Scott Carnahan and Chairman Jeff Kinnard said they would support the ordinance that prohibits commissioners from interfering with the staff.

Smith offered no thoughts during the discussion. Afterward, he said he did nothing wrong.

“I’ve been very open with my displeasure,” Smith said. “I think you should be transparent.”

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Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.

(5) comments

SAL

Someone needs to do something about this. Jimmie Smith is out of control!

JHen1

As usual, the ignorance of a commissioner is for all to see. Tell us how you really feel, Smith? Disgusting to have to work under these circumstances. First, get the facts straight, staff makes recommendations, PDC yea's or nay's, adds or subtracts, all under the guise of well researched, vetted publicly, professional interpretations of the LDC and the Comprehensive Plan. Read it! The public has the right to make comment, listen! This is not "make it up as you go along", which appears to be what you believe. How about getting with the program or get out of the way! And quit berating staff in public!

DandyCandy535

Smith's strategy is same a Frump's. Anything which keeps his name in the press. We should blame ourselves for not running a strong candidate against him back in 2016.

jens

Little Jimmie T's arrogance became obvious while running for State Representative and continued throughout his two terms. He was humbled and embarrassed when the party told him to back off from running for the State Senate. So needing a job, he decided to run for the BOCC on name recognition only. He is still the same arrogant politician but on a smaller stage. Implying that a county worker should resign because he didn't like the recommendation is beyond arrogance. It is fool hardy. Can someone say Scott Adams Jr?

Ssabmud

If it works for Trump, it should work for Smith. Sounds exactly like Volume II of the Mueller Report. Transparency is not a get-out-of-jail free-card for doing things that are just downright wrong.

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