- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
County Administrator Rebecca Bridgett was fired last week, but is serving out the two-week notice period specified in her contract, a county spokeswoman said Monday.
Bridgett has not come to the office since the Charles County commissioners met in private June 26, Crystal Hunt said. Her statement ends a week of confusion about Bridgett’s status, during which Hunt and the commissioners said they could not say whether Bridgett was still employed.
Bridgett posted a copy of her termination letter, dated June 27, on her Facebook page.
“I wish to inform you that the Board of County Commissioners has determined to end your at-will employment relationship with the county,” the one-paragraph letter begins. “We are giving you a letter which serves as the ten (10) day written notice of this decision, ending July 11, 2012. During this time you will be on paid administrative leave.”
The letter was signed by Commissioner Reuben B. Collins II (D), who is board vice president. Commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly (D), who usually signs board correspondence, did not immediately return a call Monday seeking clarification about the signature.
Bridgett has referred questions to her attorney, former county attorney Roger Fink, who Monday said that things had “not really” changed since last week, but that negotiations with the Office of the County Attorney were going well.
Last Thursday, Fink said county government had violated Bridgett’s contract by acknowledging her termination to the media within a day.
Bridgett’s contract entitles her to two weeks’ notice before termination, and one week’s “prior notice” before the public is notified, giving her a chance to resign instead, Fink said.
Well-wishers have flooded Bridgett’s Facebook page.
“I have been touched by the kind words, encouragement and support. Thank you all. Here’s to the weekend,” Bridgett wrote Friday, a statement that garnered 33 “likes,” including from Commissioner Ken Robinson (D), who also wrote that she was “the best co-worker anyone could ever ask for.”
Also on Facebook, Pauleen Brewer of Hughesville has launched “Bring back Becky!” urging people to show up at the July 10 commissioners meeting to protest Bridgett’s removal. By Monday evening, 26 people had signed up. Brewer, who also has promoted the demonstration on The Delusional Duck, a blog about Charles County politics, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.
One man who plans to be there is Mike Billard of Waldorf, who said he is tired of what he said is a pattern of secrecy among the three commissioners reported to have voted to fire Bridgett. The vote was held in private, and no commissioner has confirmed how any of them voted.
“We’re seeing a pattern of behavior among three particular commissioners where they seem to be ramrodding their own agendas through, oftentimes with short notice. … There’s a point where the public needs to stand up and say, ‘This overall issue is important. You need to stop,’” Billard said.
He confirmed that he was referring to Commissioners Reuben B. Collins II (D), Debra M. Davis (D) and Bobby Rucci (D), but had particular ire for Collins, especially his decision to abstain on the vote passing the fiscal 2013 budget, which took effect Sunday.
The protest might not “bring back” Bridgett as administrator, Billard said, but he wanted “absolutely to register displeasure and hopefully give more voices to our displeasure. If a single person writes one letter to the editor, even if that attitude represents 50 people, that’s still just one voice in the newspaper. We need all 50 people to show up at the meeting. Even if it’s not a public [forum], you don’t get to speak, they need to see you. Just be there.”
Barbara Talcott of La Plata, a regular spectator at commissioner meetings, said she doesn’t know Bridgett personally but knows her by a golden reputation.
“You know, my husband worked for the county for a long time and he’s worked under administrators and other commissioners, and she really keeps the county together. … And her smarts, sophistication, integrity, ideals were just so, I don’t want to say intimidating, but way above the level of most people here in the county that it’s just a shame to get rid of her,” said Talcott, who also plans to show up next week and object.
Another protester, Cheryl Thomas of Welcome, said she’s upset the commissioners haven’t explained the firing.
“It seemed to have been decided at the spur of the moment. That’s the way I see it. No reason was given. No one knows why she was fired or terminated or whatever word you want to use, and I don’t understand why what was. … It just doesn’t sound right it. It just doesn’t pass the smell test in my opinion. Why fire someone that’s been as good as she’s been? She’s been such a great county administrator in my opinion,” Thomas said.
Commissioners Collins, Davis and Rucci did not immediately return calls seeking comment.