Sam Dickson and Bob Martin agree that there was a two-day meeting involving most of the current board of Carroll County Supervisors on Dec. 16, 2011, at a Christiansburg hotel, but each has a different take on what took place. Martin, who at that time had not been sworn in as a newly-elected supervisor, feels the meeting should never have been held out of the county, while Dixon says there are valid reasons for the move.
Martin says he questioned the meeting from the start.
“I got an e-mail about the meeting that said we had booked rooms at a Christiansburg hotel for you folks. We’ll be taking care of the meals and such,” he says. “I called Josh (Hendrick, another newly-elected supervisor) and said I’m not going to stay down there. Why can’t we have it here in Carroll County? Josh agreed and said ‘I’m not staying either’.”
When Martin arrived, he found Dixon and fellow supervisor David Hutchins there, as well as county administrator Gary Larrowe, assistant county administrator Nikki Shank, county attorney Jim Cornwell, and Hendrick and Phil McCraw, the third newly-elected supervisor.
“One of the things most disturbing things was Cornwell, our county attorney, and some of his pages from his law firm were there. I’ve served under some good attorneys – John Perry Alderman, Craig Teller, Tom Jackson, Phillip Jones, Brad Dalton – and I can’t think of a time when one of them would have said they thought this would be a good idea.”
Martin asked where the remaining supervisor, Dr. Tom Littrell, was. He claims he was told “he can’t be here. That would make it a legal meeting, and we’d have to advertise it. We got out of Carroll County so we can speak freely and openly.
“I thought, ‘hello’, this is going to be a good one to explain.”
Martin says Hendrick “didn’t stay and paid for all of his meals. I arrived late, about 12:45 p.m. and told the waitress to give me my bill. Shank spoke up and said the county is paying for it. When we finished, I asked the waitress for my bill, but she said it had already been taken care of.”
Martin points out that although he hasn’t reimbursed the county for the one meal, he did not turn in a mileage sheet for reimbursement, saying, “I didn’t feel right about it.”
As far as the business discussed, Martin says it was “legitimate business.”
“It wasn’t anything that should have been heard in executive session, but things that would have been discussed in open session.”
“I just didn’t feel good about it, and I still don’t. I didn’t want to go to the meeting and neither did Josh, but we wanted to get along with the others.”
Dickson, chairman of the board of supervisors, says there was nothing illegal about the meeting since the law requires at least three serving supervisors to be present to make it official. He claims that it was more of a “retreat” than a meeting .
“David (Hutchins), I and Tom (Littrell) were left over from the previous board and felt we had made a lot of progress. With all the things going on and three new members, we thought it would be a good idea to get them up to date, and give them as much information as possible,” says Dickson. “We prepared a bunch of material – comprehensive plans and pertinent information – for them. We were just trying to bring the new guys up to speed. We wanted them to come in at full speed.”
The reason for holding the meeting was two-fold, adds Dickson.
“Gary (Larrowe) had to be down there for another meeting, and we wanted to do this retreat, so we could get them (new-elected supervisors) out of town, to get them more involved, more focused. If we’d met locally, maybe the wife calls or the baby gets sick, and people end up leaving, so we scheduled it out of town. It’s worked before and I think it did this time.”
Dickson notes that a meeting such as this is not something out of the ordinary.
“It’s just something a lot counties do, the schools do it, businesses do it. I think it worked pretty good, well worth the time spent. A lot of people gave up their weekend to go down there and help these guys. If someone had done that for me, I would have appreciated it.”