The Carroll County Public Service Authority (PSA) hopes action it took Thursday morning during a special called meeting will allow federal funding to resume for inspection services of the Fancy Gap water and sewer projects.
On Wednesday evening, Laurel Fork Supervisor Joshua Hendrick resigned from his position as Vice President of Nehemiah Engineering, Inc. (NEI), two days after Franklin County Commonwealth’s Attorney Timothy Allen ruled that Hendrick’s involvement with the company and the board of supervisors was a conflict of interest. NEI has provided inspection services for the Fancy Gap utilities projects. An investigation into the matter was conducted by the Virginia State Police after Rural Development wrote the Carroll PSA a letter on April 16 stating that a conflict of interest may exist, and that it would stop disbursing inspection funds for the project until the conflict was resolved.
In a letter to NEI company president Jeremy Hendrick, Joshua Hendrick stated that because of Allen’s ruling of a conflict of interest, he would be resigning immediately as Vice President of the company with the security of other Nehemiah Engineering, Inc. employees in mind.
In a separate letter, Joshua Hendrick stated that both he and NEI operated in good faith that a conflict was not present and that he would not have proceeded if he had believed the situation to be a conflict.
“My stance and good faith was based upon legal counsel, including the County Attorney, Jim Cornwell,” Hendrick wrote. “With the issuance of Mr. Allen’s opinion, it is the best interest of the County, NEI, and myself to resign as Vice President of NEI, effective immediately. My sincerest apologies to all parties involved for the undesired work and attention this situation has brought.”
Hendrick also wanted to especially thank the displaced employees of NEI for their understanding and support, adding that he was truly sorry his involvement in local government caused their lives to be disrupted.
“I respect the position of Mr. Timothy Allen and the opinion that he has issued on this situation. However, since my actions were in good faith and the contract in question was awarded to NEI prior to myself taking office on the board of supervisors, I intend to seek an appeal to the Attorney General,” Hendrick wrote. “I trust my resignation from NEI will allow all functions to remit to their prior states.”
After a 75-minute closed session, the Carroll County PSA adopted a new inspection policy May 14. The policy was discussed during the Authority’s April meeting, but tabled. PSA member David Hutchins made the motion to adopt the inspection policy ‘to satisfy the requirements of Rural Development.’ The motion passed unanimously.
Cornwell then addressed the Authority to remind them of the Rural Development letter from April 16 stating a conflict of interest may exist with the Fancy Gap projects, and that it would not disburse funds for inspection services until a satisfactory response was received from the PSA. Since that time, Cornwell said Allen has ruled the situation a conflict of interest and Joshua Hendrick has resigned from the PSA.
“According to the letter from Rural Development, they have requested a response from the Authority about the issues of conflict of interest and what actions have been taken to correct it,” Cornwell said. “It is my recommendation that the PSA sends to Rural Development in writing the opinion of the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the letter from Nehemiah Engineering, along with the resignation letter from Josh Hendrick, and ask Rural Development if they will lift the hold on funding inspection services at the project based upon this opinion and the action that has been taken by Josh Hendrick. Obviously the hold is in place until Rural Development lifts it. We are hoping this response will satisfy those.”
Cornwell said the Authority would also hope that the action would also allow NEI to resume inspection services on the Fancy Gap projects.
Authority member David Hutchins said the point was to satisfy Rural Development. He then made a motion for the PSA to forward Rural Development the opinion of the Franklin County Commonwealth’s Attorney and Joshua Hendrick’s resignation, along with a letter stating Hendrick has resigned.
“And that we would ask (Rural Development) based on this information if that is adequate to allow us to resume inspection services to Nehemiah Engineering,” Hutchins said. “That would be my motion.”
Authority member James Light seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.