TYRON, NC – Polk County is currently seeking a new emergency medical services (EMS) director after terminating Sandra Halford effective Tuesday, June 4. The county’s reasons for terminating Halford include sexual harassment, lying to public officials and creating or causing a hostile or abusive work environment through means of verbal abuse, intimidation and retaliation, according to a letter sent to Halford via certified mail on June 5 signed by interim county manager Marche Pittman and county board of commissioner chairman Michael Gage.
Halford had been on paid administrative leave since May 8.
Halford was sent an initial certified letter on June 4 by Polk County saying her employment with the county was terminated. She was sent another letter on Wednesday, June 5 stating that it had come to the county’s attention that recent changes to personnel records law require the county provide Halford with specific reasons for the finding of just cause for her termination.
“You are hereby advised that the specific reasons for finding detrimental and unacceptable personal conduct are as follows,” states the county’s letter dated June 5. “1. Sexual harassment in violation of Title VII, Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (both quid pro quo and sexual favoritism), 2. Impeding the course of an official investigation by lying to public officials, and 3. Creating or causing a hostile or abusive work environment through means of verbal abuse, intimidation and retaliation.”
The first letter, dated June 4 said that Halford was hereby advised that effective immediately, her employment with Polk County was terminated with just cause. “This decision was reached based upon the evidence summarized to you during the pre-dismissal conference held with you on May 31, 2013, as well as your (lack of) response thereto,” states the June 4 letter, also signed by Pittman and Gage. “The specific reasons for your dismissal are detrimental personal conduct as defined in the Polk County Personnel Manual, as well as current incidents of unacceptable personal conduct as defined in North Carolina Administrative Code OII.2304.”
The June 4 letter also advised Halford of her rights to appeal the decision and attached a document with information on her appeal rights.
Pittman said EMS employee Penny Evans is taking care of the department’s day-to-day operations and he intends to move quickly to advertise to fill the position. The county is also in the process of hiring a fire marshal/emergency management director after deciding earlier this year to split Halford’s duties. She was the EMS director, as well as the county’s fire marshal and emergency management director.
Pittman said applications are being reviewed for the fire marshal/emergency management director and he would like to have someone in place to begin on July 1, when the new budget year begins.
Halford worked with Polk County for almost 23 years. She started as a paramedic on July 1, 1990, was hired as the county’s emergency management director in 1999 and as the EMS/emergency management director in 2004.
Halford did not respond to a message for comment as of press time.