The explosion of anger occurred during discussion of a county employee recognition program developed by Human Resources Director Gail Parrish and a team of county employees.

Sprung from a survey in which Parrish said county employees indicated they do not feel recognized for their service, the program formalizes certain forms of recognition for outstanding work.  Most notably the program offers a bonus of $100 per month for 12 months to the employee selected for the top “P.R.I.D.E. in Public Service” award each year.  It also offers a one-time $250 bonus to five finalists.  Parrish estimated the yearly cost of the program at $2,400 to $5,000.

“I have a multitude of problems with this,” Ullenbruch declared. “This world is getting to the point where you come in 10th place in Little League and you should get a trophy anyway…. This is getting out of hand.”  Rather than looking for plaques and awards in what he called a “subjective” recognition program, Ullenbruch said people should do their “damn job.”

Supervisors quibble over small amounts of money in the budget, Ullenbruch said, but then adopt programs with price tags.  “This one here is $5,000 that’s $5,000 too much,” he stated.

“Divisive” programs such as these create “an atmosphere of rewards and plaques and atta-boys, and in the back in the little huddles in the little corners it becomes a bitch session,” Ullenbruch said.  “The intent is not for that to happen but it happens.”

“You sound like a Communist, Bob,” said Supervisor Tony O’Brien.  “I mean, honestly, why don’t we just–”

“Wow, that’s on tape,” Ullenbruch said.

“Your idea is that people don’t appreciate recognition,” O’Brien said, “that they should just do their damn job, to use your words.”

“Why’d you call me a Communist?” Ullenbruch asked, getting to his feet.

“Because that’s what you sound like,” O’Brien said, “You basically sound like you’re saying–”

And the two talked simultaneously till Ullenbruch said, “I insult people but I don’t even come that close,” and walked out of the courtroom.

“Sorry, apologies,” O’Brien said to the remaining Board members.  “Honestly, I just think that a fundamental part of any organization is to recognize its people.  Maybe the amount is too much, but to argue that people should just do their damn job, and they should just like it – I find that offensive to the people who work in this county.”

Supervisor Mike Sheridan said that recognition is one thing but adding bonuses is another.  Selecting one employee from an office of four is merely going to make the other three wonder why they didn’t get picked, he said.

Chairperson Mozell Booker stated that she’s never worked anywhere that didn’t have a mechanism for awarding deserving employees.  People may complain if they aren’t chosen, she said, but most won’t.

Four minutes after his departure Ullenbruch returned to collect his things.  “We have a code of ethics and disrespect to the members of this Board is part of that code of ethics,” he declared.  “And it just showed just now, in front of everybody, in front of all the employees, what we think of our code of ethics.”  Turning to O’Brien, he said, “If I made a statement like that to you–”

“Then what do you think I’d say?” O’Brien asked.  “Call me an anarchist, Bob, I don’t care.”

“I would never do that,” Ullenbruch said from the doorway.  “You know I would never do that.”

“You know what?” O’Brien said.  “You can be a professional and sit down.”

“Bob, you need to come back and have a seat,” Booker said, but Ullenbruch left.

“Apologies, Madam Chair,” O’Brien said.  “I didn’t mean to cause a ruckus.”

“Right,” Booker said.  “You can’t control other people’s actions.”

Supervisor Don Weaver took issue with the idea of, as he put it, using money to train people to do what the county wants.  “It really, really concerns me,” he said.

“We reward what we value,” County Administrator Steve Nichols said, explaining that the county currently has no consistent program for staff recognition.

“I see the importance of recognition…[but] it doesn’t make you work another 2 percent harder than the 100 percent you’re already working,” Weaver responded.  “Some people you can give them anything and you’re going to see the same work day after day.”

“Mr. Weaver, those are the people who are not going to get this award,” Nichols replied.

“And that was the point I was trying to make when I said, ‘You sound like a Communist,’” O’Brien said, “and apologies on the public record to Mr. Ullenbruch, because I didn’t get to finish my statement, but the point that I was trying to make is when you basically assume that recognition doesn’t matter and everybody’s just gotta do it – well, it does matter.”  And, he continued, people who “skate under the radar and do as little as possible” aren’t desirable employees anyway.

Nichols urged the Board to defer voting on the recognition program until it was tweaked.  “I’d like to get to something that all of you can reasonably and legitimately support, because that sends a message to staff too,” he said.  Supervisors agreed to defer.

After the ruckus Nichols presented the modified JRWA service agreement to the Board, explaining that some passages the Board considered troublesome have been adjusted.  Each county will receive 50 percent allocation of the water pulled from the James River, though the counties are free to shift portions of their allocations to each other if both counties agree.

The JRWA plans to construct an intake facility at the James River near Columbia to withdraw 3 million gallons of water per day.  The JRWA will construct a pipeline ending in a junction roughly to Rt. 6, at which point Louisa County Water Authority will take over with construction of a pipeline at its own expense northeast through Fluvanna into Louisa.

“I don’t want to take on any more debt,” Weaver said, adding that the people at Lake Monticello will now pay for two water systems: this system, which “they really don’t have much to do with,” and their own water system.  “I don’t think this is the best alternative.  I didn’t support it to begin with,” he said.  “I don’t see how we can continue to spend money like we have been spending money.”

O’Brien countered that growth at Zion Crossroads, where some supervisors hope to eventually pipe the water, will benefit all county residents.

Supervisors approved the JRWA service agreement 3-1, with Weaver opposed and Ullenbruch absent.

Though the Board held a public hearing on the fiscal year 2016 real estate tax rate, not a single citizen spoke.  Supervisors advertised a real property tax rate of 93.5 cents per $100 valuation, though their current budget draft uses a real property tax rate of 89.9 cents.

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