To Chairman Nathan Miller: 10 Questions Regarding NRSA Fiasco; One Asks: ‘Where Does the Buck Stop?’

Published Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 7:30 pm

BIOC chair Miller:

 
Tuesday night at the rally, you approached and asked me, along with Deborah Greene, some questions re: my letter on the NRSA deadlock.  At that time, Mr. Miller, I was very tired, having spent the previous days helping Deb on the preparations for the event. Plus, I am 64 years of age, and when I grow tired, due in part to a heart murmur, it is difficult to express myself sometimes.
 
First of all, the NRSA was set up by several counties years ago to provide behavioral healthcare. The NRSA board and finance committees were empowered to operate NRSA. This present authority and other committee/s were the result of a previous set up that had problems also.  Mr. Miller, I know you are not personally responsible for the previous NRSA, in which David Blust voted for, or the previous BOCs, but as the sitting BOC chair and a member of the present NRSA and its finance committee, you and your fellow present board members are the responsible officers now. Currently, the boards have to deal with the mistakes of previous boards. I am sorry, but that is one of the facts of governmental life. And for decades, public officials have not met these challenges–only postpone them for later officials.
 
According to the NRSA bylaws:
 
“Develop policies that define Board roles and responsibilities, including assuring that the Board is accountable to the County Commissioners and the public forcompetentconscientious, and effective accomplishments of its obligations as a body. The Board policies will assure that no officer, individual, or committee usurps the role of the Board.” 
 
When the fund balance drops below 8% of budget without approval of the Board, someone, either officer(s) or individuals, was allowed to usurp the NRSA board’s authority.
 
When the funds were drawn down without explanation, and with the treasurer’s knowledge, someone, individuals or officers, was allowed to usurp the authority of the NRSA board.  
 
When funds were withdrawn without the expressed approval of the NRSA chair and vice-chair, someone, individuals or officers, was allow to usurp the role of the board.
 
When NRSA board members knowingly and willingly allowed these roles to be usurped, they were willfully aiding and abetting the cover-up of the demise of NRSA and the accumulation of unnecessary indebtedness to the county taxpayers, whom they supposedly serve.
 
According to the minutes, all of the above “Whens” occurred while you were a member of the NRSA board.
 
I would like to ask a few questions re: whether you, as BOC chair and an interim NRSA member and County Manager Deron Geouque, as finance committee member, are presently responsible or not:  
 
1) Did you vote to put Kenny Poteat as chair of the interim NRSA board?
 
2) Did you vote to retain Bruce Kaplan as the NRSA attorney?
 
3) Did you vote to limit the scope of Martin Starnes investigation to less than one year?
 
4) Did you vote to accept the Martin Starnes report?
 
5) Did you ever, once, object to the closed session meetings or attempt to obtain responses for public records requests? 
 
6) Did you vote to appoint the prior human resources director as the current CEO of NRSA?
 
7) Did you vote to appoint the current chief finance officer, who was the prior finance officer, and on at least two occasions, was the interim chief finance officer?
 
8) When Judy Poe brought to your attention on July 2011 that NRSA was in big trouble and had failed to report to the counties, did you take steps to secure the financial records and other records of NRSA, obtain copies of such records for Watauga County, submit such copies to the county manager and finance director, and notify the county attorney and other Watauga BOC members?
 
9) When Judy Poe notified you of this situation, did you, in turn, ask her for the Smoky Mountain records, when, in fact, you already had them?
 
10) Did you ever suspect at any time that the CEO, CFO, Kenny Poteat, Mark Hurst, Zach Henderson, our county manager, finance director and auditor may not have been adequately performing their duties with respect to NRSA?  
 
In short, where does the buck stop? Where is the responsibility of the county BOC and each individual commissioner? Obviously, board members have been relying on their staffs, but when the staffs are not adequately performing their jobs and you cannot depend on them, then you need to seriously address those problems. And may I remind you that these county staff positions of responsibility are well paid with ample benefits. 
 
Now, about the subject employees, you claim the employees are not employees of the county. While they were not directly county employees paid of county funds, they were employees of the NRSA, which was a 160A agency formed by contract amongst Watauga County and four other counties. Furthermore, that contract and the law supporting the agency’s legitimacy (which the county has been funding and operating in conjunction with four other counties since 2007) provides that the counties, when NRSA can no longer meet its obligations of “indebtedness”, would assume such responsibilities. You, as BOC and NRSA member, have suggested that Watauga County is not obligated to abide by this contract, because the county manager failed to do his job by insuring that the subject contract was pre-audited. It appears to me that Watauga County has been funding behavioral healthcare services under this contract for five years, and now, all of a sudden, you claim that the county had no contractual obligations to meet these funding needs. Furthermore, after discovering that the contract was not pre-audited, as it should have been, you obligated Watauga County to fund NRSA after its funds were depleted.  This action seems to suggest that Watauga County can pick and choose which contractual obligations it is responsible for when staff willfully neglects to pre-audit contracts that BOCs vote on, pass, approve, and sign.  May I remind you that this lack of pre-audit certification is not limited to this NRSA contract–it is par for the course. Your claim is reprehensible, double-minded, contradictory, and fallacious.
 
Now, the bottom line: The policies that promise these employees deferred compensation, compensation earned but not paid, were adopted by the NRSA board.  Therefore, these employees are due this compensation. We are aware that NRSA employees were encouraged by the CEO, that was employed at your will, to not take vacation or sick leave during the final months of the NRSA demise, which was done to keep NRSA afloat. It is simply the right thing to do–to pay the employees their due compensation. The employees should not have to pay for the willful neglect and incompetence of the NRSA, CEO, CFO, and other administrative staff. 
 
In conclusion, all the BOCs, county managers, county finance directors, county auditors, and county attorneys have collectively stuck their heads in the sand. As I said in the previous email, before you accumulate any more unnecessary indebtedness on the backs of Watauga County taxpayers, it is best that you settle this matter immediately. Prior to this impasse, you could have paid less money, but now, there are attorney fees, court costs, interest accumulated, and punitive damages are also being sought.The NRSA and BOC’s lack of remorse, lack of humility, and lack of responsibility are embarrassing and appalling to this citizen. 
 
I hope this letter explains my position as a taxpaying citizen.
 
Sincerely,
 
Madeline K. Carter
Deborah B. Greene    
 
cc: Jonathan Jordan, Dan Soucek, Sharon Edmundson, Beth Wood, media and concerned citizens  
 

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