Archived Story

Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson to return to job March 10

Published 6:17pm Tuesday, February 4, 2014

by Leah Justice
Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson recently notified the county of his impending return from military leave with the U.S. Army Reserve on March 10.
Whitson, who has served as the county manager since 2007, said he sent a letter on Monday, Feb. 3 to commissioners of his intent and desire to return as county manager.
“Per my individual verbal conversations with you on 23 Jan. 2014, it is my intent and desire to return to work for Polk County Government as its county manager on 10 Mar 2014,” states Whitson’s letter he sent to the Bulletin on Tuesday, Feb. 4.
Whitson said his mobilization order ends on Feb. 5 and he will be on annual training orders from Feb. 6 through March 6.
“I look forward to returning to Polk County and reassuming my duties as county manager,” said Whitson in his letter. “I am glad to be coming home. Thank you for supporting me in this mobilization and for your support of the United States Army Reserve.”
Polk County Commissioners met Monday, Feb. 3 but did not disclose that Whitson is returning. The board did approve having both the interim county manager and the county manager give a daily report of their activities to commissioners.
At the close of the Feb. 3 meeting, commissioners went into closed session to discuss attorney/client matter(s) and personnel. Commissioners did not make any decisions upon returning to closed session.
Whitson told commissioners on Nov. 19, 2012 of his leave orders, which could have been for at least one year and up to three years. Commissioners appointed former information technologies director Marche Pittman as interim county manager in December 2012.
The Bulletin requested the letter from Whitson, who is still stationed as the Command Sergeant Major of the 1st Training Brigade of the United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (A) at Fort Dix, NJ.
According to Diane Juffras, professor of public records at the N.C. Institute of Government at N.C. Chapel Hill, a letter from the manager to commissioners is not public record as it is part of the manager’s personnel file unless the letter is obtained legally, particularly if given directly by the manager, who wrote the letter.
Juffras said the letter is part of the manager’s personnel file within the meaning of G.S. 153A-98(a) and does not fall into any category of public information set forth in G.S. 153A-98(b) or into any of the categories of exception set forth in subsection (c) of the statute.
“Therefore, in the hands of the county, the letter is confidential personnel information whose disclosure the law prohibits,” Juffras said.
Juffras went on to say that if the manager himself gave the Bulletin a copy, it isn’t confidential in the Bulletin’s hands.
“He (Whitson) is certainly free to disclose it,” Juffras said.
Polk County Commissioner Chair Ted Owens was contacted Tuesday, Feb. 4 but was not available as of press time for comment on Whitson’s return.
Commissioners have yet to discuss publicly what position Pittman will have with the county once Whitson returns.

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