Ruling go against former finance director

Last updated: July 22. 2013 11:19AM -
By Wendy Wood

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PILOT MOUNTAIN — The town of Pilot Mountain announced today that a challenge of an Employment Security Commission ruling concerning former town finance director, Don Keeley, found in favor of the town.

Keeley had been seeking unemployment benefits after he was fired Oct. 13, 2011, a claim that had initially been denied but was later overturned on appeal. This latest action now leaves Keeley without those benefits.

The town was notified July 16 that the decision of the initial appeal ruling by an ESC hearing officer in favor of Keeley was reversed, ending a nearly two-year process.

Keeley was fired on Oct. 13, 2011, and he filed for his unemployment benefits on Oct. 23.

Dearmin reported in a statement Monday, “At the time, the town successfully moved to deny his unemployment benefits because he exhibited negligence and incompetence in the performance of his duties, had allowed more than $100,000 of unauthorized expenditures, and failed to alert the town board with an appropriate sense of urgency concerning the town’s financial position.”

In the appeal of the initial ruling against Keeley’s request, a hearing was held March 16, 2012, during which the initial decision was reversed in Keeley’s favor.

The town appealed the hearing officer’s reversal on March 29, 2012, and just last week, 16 months later, got the news that the town had won the challenge. The town did not release that decision until today.

“The ruling reversed the decision of the hearing officer, disqualifying Mr. Keeley for unemployment benefits that the town would have had to reimburse,” said Dearmin. “A review of Mr. Keeley’s appeal found that all of the facts were not considered by the hearing officer, and their review of the evidence that was presented resulted in a finding that Mr. Keeley was terminated for substantial fault.”

Keeley was hired by the town on Jan. 27, 2010. Then, an audit of the 2010-11 fiscal year uncovered “severe financial problems, including an unrestricted fund balance that had dropped to 4.4 percent, well below the state’s recommended threshold of 8 percent,” Dearmin said.

The town continues to make strides to increase its financial health and build its fund balance. Dearmin reported that as of June 30, 2012, the town had restored its reserves to 9.75 percent.

“It has taken a lot of hard work by everyone to get Pilot Mountain back in healthy fiscal shape,” he said. “We are in much better condition than we were two years ago, and we are no longer in financial danger, but there is still work to be done to get us back to where we ought to be.

“I am proud of our current staff and elected officials and the strides we have made together.”

Dearmin said Keeley had 30 days as of the mailing date of June 20 to file any appeals challenging the recent decision with the Clerk of Superior Court, and if no appeal was filed in that 30-day period, the decision would become final.

As of Monday, Dearmin said the town had received no notice of an appeal being filed, and the Surry County Clerk of Superior Court’s office staff could find no appeal filed in Surry or Forsyth counties.

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