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Planning commissioner: Allegations false
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Forsyth County News
With the prospects of a hearing on his conduct looming, Planning Commissioner Brant Meadows said Friday the allegations against him are false.

County commissioner Patrick Bell suggested earlier in the week that the commission hold a hearing to consider removing Meadows from the board for what Bell considered possible ethical violations.

Bell alluded to two employees who contend Meadows had been threatening or confrontational in regards to decisions they had made.

“I’ve never threatened anyone,” Meadows said. “But Patrick Bell chooses to communicate through the media regarding very sensitive personnel issues ... He’s exposing us to legal liability.”

The employees to which Bell was referring at Tuesday’s work session are Jeff Chance, the county’s suspended planning director, and a department of engineering worker.

Chance, who has been on paid administrative leave since May, sued the county in July contending that his rights as a whistleblower had been violated.

The suit maintains that when Chance brought forth information about Meadows’ alleged threats, he was met with an investigation into his management practices and computer use.

That investigation found 12 violations of county policies, including sending and receiving personal and inappropriate e-mails at work.

Citing the litigation, the commission has not made a decision on Chance’s job status.

Laughinghouse said Bell’s suggestion to hold a hearing for Meadows might be an attempt to “deflect attention away from Jeff Chance and place it somewhere else.”

The department of engineering employee also reported having an “uncomfortable” conversation with Meadows on a variance decision.

The incident is mentioned in a July 26 letter from Chairman Charles Laughinghouse to Meadows, a copy of which was released last week.

“He urged me to use extreme caution when making this decision because if we stayed with our current interpretation, he would run the issue up the flag pole and call everyone he needed to in order to make this his new number one issue,” the employee wrote in a recollection of his phone conversation with Meadows.

According to the letter, the employee said Meadows implied there would be consequences if the wrong decision on a variance was made.

“In light of that,” Laughinghouse wrote, “I would request that in the future if you have a question regarding determinations made by county staff, that you direct your inquiries to either the county manager or deputy county manager.”

Laughinghouse said Meadows agreed to the request.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Laughinghouse questioned whether a hearing into the allegations against Meadows could be considered retaliatory action on a whistleblower.

Meadows said he’s in a “don’t shoot the messenger” situation.

“I would appear to be the one who’s the whistleblower,” Meadows said. “I’m just the one who brought forth the information that was revealed to me. I turned it over to the county manager.”

Bell also said Meadows revealed a commission decision prior to a public meeting. Meadows said he’s not sure what situation Bell could be referring to.

“It is not common practice at all,” he said. “I do not reveal votes prior to hearings and meetings.”

Laughinghouse said Meadows’ term on the planning commission will end in December, so he felt there was no reason to put the issue into the public eye.

“It might be very damaging to him and to Mr. Chance and possibly to the county,” he said.

So as not to appear politically motivated, Bell said he waited to raise the issue until after the July 20 primary election in which Meadows unsuccessfully sought the District 1 commission seat being vacated by Laughinghouse.

“If somebody has done wrong, ignoring it and letting time run out is not the best way to handle it,” Bell said.

In light of the Chance lawsuit, Bell said he did privately recommend to Laughinghouse prior to the election that Meadows step down temporarily from his planning commission post.

Commissioners plan to revisit the issue at their next work session when all five members are present. That could be Aug. 24.

“We will hear Mr. Bell again,” Laughinghouse said. “Whether we will have the hearing for Mr. Meadows is a matter of conjecture.”

Bell said he felt there was enough evidence that the board should move forward and feel out the situation.

“I just want to get to the bottom of this,” he said. “If three out of five feel nothing happened, then nothing happened.”