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I looked at the front page of the June 24 edition of The Lancaster News (June 27 in Carolina Gateway) and saw the headline, “Firing stuns Karres.” I was stunned, too. I soon found out I was not the only one stunned. Many other Lancasterians were just as stunned. Karres didn’t know himself until he was called to the office of County Administrator Steve Willis, where Karres was informed he was fired, but no reason was given as to why he was fired.
Most of Lancaster County Council members have stressed that they never take a vote in executive sessions. Only contractual, personnel and legal matters are to be discussed in executive sessions. No votes are to be taken in executive sessions. Willis sits in on executive sessions and is to determine what actions need to be taken. Remember, all buildings have tiny ears in the walls.
People in Indian Land like to sound off on issues in their club meetings. That creates more tiny ears and confusion.
Karres has been planning director for Lancaster County for 15 years. The whispers now are that nothing is happening in central Lancaster anymore. Perhaps someone with fresh ideas could get this county moving and prospering again. Karres seems to be the logical fly in the ointment. The southern portion of Lancaster experienced some growth for awhile and then halted. Central Lancaster died when Springs Mills left. Indian Land is booming.
Karres is planning director for all of Lancaster County, not just the sluggish part. Why is Karres not credited for the Panhandle growth? I recently heard that another business in central Lancaster wants to move to Indian Land. I wonder how many County Council members have bought merchandise from this company to help keep it in central Lancaster?
Karres’ firing has been the main conversation recently in the city and county. All have questions and none have answers.
On June 26, some of Karres’ co-workers and friends held a farewell get-together for him at a Mexican restaurant.
About 60 people showed up and filled the large dining area. They brought gifts and gave hugs and pats on the back as they raised glasses of iced tea and gave kudos to Karres. Others would have been there had they known about the get-together. I give Willis credit for one thing, he stopped by.
County employees who’ve known Karres will tell you he is as honest as the day is long and a very hard worker.
Take a look at Karres’ work record. He was employed in Wilmington, N.C., for three years in planning. He worked in Norfolk, Va. for three and one-half years. He worked in Hickory, N.C., for four months and then came to Lancaster, where he has been for the past 15 years. He was not fired from these positions. He voluntarily resigned those posts to take promotions in salary and benefits.
He stayed in Lancaster because he fell in love with the the county. His elderly mother and only brother live in Charlotte.
Imagine if we were in Karres’ shoes and had to go job hunting. He’s 49 years old (that’s considered middle-aged) and a lot of Americans are looking for work in this slow economy. Yet, his last employment document says he was fired and with no legitimate reason. What company or county wants to hire someone with three strikes against you?
Lancaster County owes Karres big time. The county or the administrator needs to expunge the word “fired” from Karres’ record and give him the choice to resign or have the document read “fired without cause.”
Under South Carolina Law, Willis does not have to offer an employee the option of resigning instead of being fired. Nor does he have to give a reason for the employee’s dismissal. But what is strange is that he fires Karres and then allows him to work another week until Council meets.
Willis also allows Karres to dismantle his own office and pack his own files, which is very unusual. I guess that is a testament to Karres’ trustworthiness. Being fired usually means your employer says, “We will supervise your packing of your stuff and then we will walk you to the exit.”
Thank you, Chris Karres, for your 15 years of service to Lancaster County.