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Emert offers clarification, new details on Bartlett’s status

Prospect District Supervisor and Board Vice Chairman J. David Emert provided new details regarding the status of County Administrator Wade Bartlett Friday, April 17.

J. David Emert

The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors voted 5-3 Tuesday, April 14, not to renew Bartlett’s contract, which expires June 30.

Emert addressed comments made by Lockett District Supervisor Robert M. “Bobby” Jones. 

Jones in a Wednesday, April 15, interview. Jones said Board Chairman Jerry R. Townsend and Emert met with Bartlett privately after Tuesday’s board meeting adjourned and took his keys away and put him on suspension from work, and there was no board vote to do so.

Emert explained the purpose of what he characterized as a brief talk he and Townsend had with Bartlett in another room after the board meeting.

“We just wanted Mr. Bartlett to take a couple days off and just get a little rest, talk to his wife, have a day or two where he didn’t have to come to work or whatever else,” Emert said. “It definitely wasn’t, ‘We’re suspending you,’ or ‘We’re getting rid of you,’ or ‘You’re no longer hired’ or anything else. I don’t know how that got misconstrued.”

Emert agreed with comments Jones made about how a suspension of Bartlett would need to be a decision of the board.

A call to the county administrator’s office Friday morning revealed Bartlett was not in.

Presented with the notion of Bartlett being under an informal suspension, Emert said there is no such thing. 

“You’re more than welcome to talk to the county attorney or whatever, but if I’m not mistaken, the way that all of that would read would be that just because Mr. Bartlett doesn’t necessarily have his keys — if that’s what you want to say — doesn’t mean that he’s not at work or whatever else,” Emert said. “It just merely means that he’s not coming to the courthouse.”

Emert said as far as he knows, Bartlett will be back at the courthouse Monday, April 20, or maybe earlier.

“As far as I personally know, he may be back this afternoon,” Emert said. “I can’t answer those questions, because I don’t know. He’s not suspended. I can tell you that. I guess that’s the main thing. Mr. Bartlett has not been suspended from work for cause or any other wise. Merely, he’s not in the office for three days.”

Wade Bartlett

Bartlett was asked Thursday, April 16, if he would continue in his duties as county administrator through June 30, or if he was done.

“It’s my understanding that I will be, but I’m not sure there’s any one person that can answer that question,” he said. “It would take a board vote to make that decision, and they did not vote on that. The only vote they took was not to offer a new contract.”

Jones said all the supervisors compliment the work Bartlett does, but some of them have issues with other things.

Robert M. “Bobby” Jones

“One, I believe, has issues with the fact that Wade has enforced some violations of ordinances on him, and he seems to blame Wade for that, where he is in violation of these ordinances, and he hasn’t done anything to correct them,” Jones said.

Emert has dealt with legal complaints in the past with regard to the maintenance and appearance of some of his property and the lack of containment of livestock. According to online court records, in some cases he was found not guilty or the case was dismissed, and in others he was found guilty and paid a fine. Two cases involving charges of zoning ordinance noncompliance, for which Bartlett is listed as the complainant, have been continued to May 6.

Emert said those two cases did not have anything to do with his decision-making with regard to his “yes” vote.

“Absolutely not, but (those cases haven’t) even been decided, so how in the world could I use it?” he said. “Mr. Bartlett is only the one enforcing something that the county has.”

Offering insight into why he voted the way he did, Emert said his vote had nothing to do with whether Bartlett is good or bad at certain issues.

“I think some people have said, ‘Well, he’s terrific with financing, and he’s terrific with this and whatever else,’” Emert said. “I will not disagree that Wade has his extremely strong points, but I feel like in the direction that the county must go in the future that there are some weaknesses that would not be handled as well with the administrator we have now, I guess, is the correct way to say that.”

He noted that more information will come out of future meetings, including some questions that have not necessarily been answered that will shed light on why he voted the way he did.

“With the exception of Mr. Jones, the people that voted to keep him were people who haven’t even been on the board a long time to know any of the ins and outs or wherewithals or anything of the nature,” Emert said.

Emert said the board has not made any plans yet regarding the search for the next county administrator, noting Bartlett is still under contract through June 30.

As for whether or not the county has a contingency plan in place in case Bartlett were unavailable to perform his duties, Emert was surprised by the question.

“Someone did call me and ask me if there was anything in place or whatever else, and the county has had an assistant county administrator for years, so why the question would even come up, ‘Was there anything in place?’, we’ve had something in place should something ever happen to Mr. Bartlett, for any reason, whether it’s employment or sickness or anything else,” he said.