Cajah's Mountain 'starting over from scratch'

May. 11, 2014 @ 07:59 AM

Cajah’s Mountain will have only a part-time town manager from now on and will let the Western Piedmont Council of Governments handle its finances.

“We’re starting over from scratch,” Mayor Ronnie Setzer said Friday. “Nothing is hardly the same as it was before. It’s just like rebuilding an engine or something. We’re being proactive instead of reactive.”

The change will save the town $30,000 a year, Councilman Lloyd Robbins said.

The town council approved the changes at a special meeting Thursday night, including appointing Jim Chandler as interim town manager. Chandler, a retired employee of the Western Piedmont Council of Governments, will work two days a week.

“All of our finances are going to be handled by Western Piedmont Council of Government so there are checks and balances in place,” Setzer said. “Not to say there was anything wrong before, but when you’ve one person in there doing your money, we feel like this would be a good safeguard.”

The changes come after the resignation of former town manager Connie Smith on April 26. She had been town manager for 26 years.

South said in an interview Friday that she has had to confront rumors that she resigned because she had been stealing money from the town. She and Setzer said in separate interviews that those stories are false.

South said, “It had absolutely nothing to do with the town finances, and I want people to know that. I would never have taken a dime from the people of Cajah’s Mountain. The biggest thing was my back injury, and I could not perform my job and could not be there.”

She said that while at work more than a year ago she lifted a heavy table and suffered a herniated disc, which has resulted in constant pain in her spine and down her leg.

Although that had affected her ability to do her job, South said, she felt blindsided last month when the town council asked her to resign.

“After 26 years, (it's like) I’m mourning the death of a family member,” South said. “I’m devastated. It wasn’t my choice. The very last thing I wanted was to give up my job for the town, because that was my life. The other thing that bothered me more than anything was I was never consulted. I was ambushed.”

 She had not filed worker’s compensation but said she is in the process of doing so now that she is out of a job.

“I could have gone out on temporary leave, and they could have brought somebody in until I could heal,” South said.

Setzer said he could not comment on the circumstances of South's resignation. However, he said the decision had no “malice” or “ill will” attached to it.

“It’s a professional decision,” Setzer said. “It wasn’t political or personal. It was a business decision that had to be made. I was sick to my stomach the night before I had that meeting with her, and I was sick to my stomach the night after. We’ve done everything in our power to make sure she’s taken care of.”

 Robbins added, “It was not an overnight decision. There was a lot of homework, talk and a lot of praying.”