Tempers flare at Elkton Town Council meeting

Published: Jul. 1, 2022 at 6:58 AM EDT
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ELKTON, Va. (WHSV) - On Thursday night the Elkton Town Council held a special meeting to discuss the filling of two key vacancies in the town’s leadership.

The council did not end up taking action to fill either of the openings but did hold a public comment period during which the fallout from last week’s firing of town manager Greg Lunsford continued.

It was a packed house at the Elkton Area Community Center and several people spoke out both in favor of and against the firing.

A number of people criticized the council members who voted in favor of the firing and were upset with the process and how it was handled, with some shouting at the council and saying the situation is an embarrassment.

The council members also criticized one another with Mayor Josh Gooden and Councilman Rick Workman speaking out about their opposition to the decision and how poorly they felt it was handled.

Vice Mayor Randell Snow, Councilman Jay Dean, Councilman Steve America, and Councilman Troy Eppard criticized Gooden and Workman saying they have been misrepresenting the situation by saying the reason for the firing was because Lunsford moved pool tables at the Community Center.

“We are not here to discuss personnel matters, they are protected under federal law. It is unfortunate that the only part that is being portrayed to the public is that it (the firing) was because of pool tables,” said Eppard.

The four council members who voted to fire Lunsford said it was because of deeply serious personnel matters that could not be discussed.

“I am up here to say right now that the whole truth is not out there and it probably never will be out there because I’m not going to jail for violating my oath of office,” said Councilman Jay Dean.

Councilman Steve America was especially critical of Mayor Gooden and how he claims Gooden reacted to the firing.

“It makes me sad that our Mayor would go to the media like a spoiled child,” said America.

The statement was met by a sea of boos from the crowd.

“Look at Elkton being on the front page of the paper and everything, it’s not because of these people here. It’s because a certain person ran to the media and that’s God’s honest truth. So I appreciate you all coming out here but you’re being gaslighted,” said America in response to the crowd.

A number of those in attendance at the meeting spoke in support of Gooden who said he was blindsided by the firing.

“The rash decision over the last week and a half truly left me speechless. The complete and utter disregard some people have for the betterment of the town is regretful,” said Gooden.

Gooden went on to explain how in the aftermath of Lunsford’s firing none of the other council members met with Lunsford or called to tell him he was being fired.

“When I asked at that meeting who was going to call the man and tell him he lost his job. I repeatedly heard ‘Well I’m not, I’m not’ at that time I knew I would be the only one in the room to have the common courtesy to call Mr. Lunsford and tell him the vote transpired that he had no longer had a job,” said Gooden.

Gooden added that he believes the firing has had a negative impact on the town’s employees over the last week.

“There was also no course of action for notifying town employees that they did not have a boss anymore. Sadly I think I was once again the only town elected willing to face the town employees the next day as all seemed noticeably upset that the loss of their manager but a member of their family. I’ve never seen employee morale so low in the last 10 years of council,” he said.

Gooden said that five town employees have resigned since Lunsford was fired.

Councilman Rick Workman expressed frustrations over what he said was an allegation against Lunsford that was unverified that led to his firing. He was very upset that the council did not conduct any investigation or attempt to verify the allegation prior to firing Lunsford.

“The way that we’re going to take this town backward over an allegation that was not verified is just elementary. This is so important it should’ve been verified. He should have been suspended pending verification,” said Workman.

Workman said the firing was done in haste and was an emotional decision.

“They didn’t think about the repercussions on the town, who’s gonna run the town. One person said ‘Let’s hurry up and get this done I want to go home and eat’ and then left, the next morning the town employees don’t know who the boss is,” he said.

During the meeting Vice Mayor, Randell Snow also addressed the criminal complaint filed against him by a town employee alleging assault and battery.

“Somebody reminded me one time and I don’t remember when it was, but they said the paper will lay still and let you write anything on it. That doesn’t mean it’s true and you will find out what you saw on the paper is not true,” said Snow.

After the public comment period, the council went into a closed session. When the open session resumed it was announced that after consulting with the town attorney no action would be taken on hiring an interim town manager yet and another special meeting was set for July 6th.

Council also did not appoint anyone to fill the vacant council seat of Hedi Zander who resigned after Lunsford’s firing. They said there are four candidates who have applied for the position thus far.

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