Hiring process questioned for veterans postVeterans upset with outcome
The recent hiring of a new county veterans service officer and a subsequent complaint about the hiring process has triggered an internal investigation into the matter.
A group of veterans addressed the county board of commissioners Monday alleging questionable hiring practices and potential unlawful activities.
Veteran Mark Schuler read a letter stating only one of the applicants for the veterans officer position was asked whether he had a disability and what percentage.
The letter also questioned the timing of changes to the job requirements and job description.
“We strongly believe the changes were made in response to one applicant’s written letter of interest in the position,” the letter stated. “We have obtained information that a meeting was convened between a Haywood County government official and two members of the interview panel shortly after this letter of interest had been received.”
The job requirement change raised the educational level for the position from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree, a change the letter said was made less than 24 hours before the position was posted.
Schuler said the group believed the assistant county veterans services officer was the most qualified candidate and alleged the job description change took him out of the running.
He said the veterans felt obligated to take action when they believed the rights of veterans are violated.
County Commission Chairman Mark Swanger said this is the first the board heard of the issue and asked County Manager Marty Stamey to look into it.
On Tuesday, a statement released by the county said an investigation will be conducted by the county attorney and another attorney employed by the county but not involved in the hiring process.
“Because this complaint relates to a particular hiring and concerns personnel matters, only the board of commissioners will be briefed on the specific issues concerned,” the statement read.
Kathi McClure, director of the county's human resources department, said questions about disabilities are prohibited. She was present during the interview process, along with a member of the area veterans council and a state representative who works with veterans. She didn't recall any disability-related question being asked.
"We had structured questions," she said. "I know that questions like that are a ‘no-no' in any kind of interview. If I would hear that, I would speak up and tell the applicant not to answer that question.”
McClure said she didn't believe anyone on the panel walked off the interview with an applicant or spoke with them privately.
She said the county has a thorough process that is consistently followed for filling any vacancy. Part of that process is to review the job description and make adjustments before the position is actually posted. That occurred in this case, she said.
Earlier this month, the county announced the veterans services office will operate as normal until the September arrival of new director Stephen J. Allred who would replace Brandon Wilson.
Wilson transferred to the North Carolina Division of Veterans Affairs District 12 Office in Canton.
A Brevard native, Allred served in the U.S. Army and currently holds the rank of captain in the Tennessee Army National Guard 278th Armored Cavalry Third Squadron. He lives in Canton and is scheduled to begin his duties on Sept. 3.
Until then, the Haywood County office will continue to be staffed by Wilson, John Shaw and others from the District Office, and by Deborah Caldwell, administrative assistant for the Haywood County office.
The Veterans Services office works with veterans and their dependents to help them receive VA benefits, including pension and compensation; educational assistance (both federal mandated benefits and state scholarships); medical- and nursing home-related benefits, burial, VA loans, insurance, yearly income verification reports and waiver requests among other things.
The Haywood County Veterans’ Services Office is located on the third floor of the Haywood County Courthouse in Waynesville. For questions, call 452-6634.