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Judge: Compton should be reinstated

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

 

Tom Compton, an employee of the town of Pulaski who was terminated last April, should be reinstated to his position and afforded the hearing he was denied at the time of his dismissal, according to a Pulaski County judge.

“Because the town failed to provide a hearing before discharging Compton, he was not properly removed from his position in the town and should be reinstated,” Circuit Court Judge Colin Gibb states in a recent opinion letter. He granted the Writ of Mandamus Compton was seeking and directed Compton’s attorney to prepare such an order. The order has not been officially filed with the court.

In his letter, Gibb cites a section of the Virginia Administrative Code (VAC) stating that a building official, after permanent appointment, “shall not be removed from his office except for cause after having been afforded a full opportunity to be heard on specific and relevant charges by and before the appointing authority,” in this case, Pulaski Town Council.

Compton, a 63-year-old 27-year employee of Pulaski, filed for a Writ of Mandamus in May seeking to force the town to reinstate him with full benefits and demanding that he be given an “evidentiary hearing” before town council. The petition sought to have the Writ directed to Pulaski Engineer Bill Pedigo and town council.

Gibb said the “narrow question” in the case was whether Compton was the town’s “building official” and, therefore, entitled to a hearing before council. The judge found that Compton was indeed the “de facto building official” even though the town contended that was not Compton’s position.

The judge found that Compton was “the” building official for the town at the time of his termination and “for many years prior” since Compton was the town official with the authority to issue and review permits, as required under the VAC.

“He signed on behalf of the town in legal matters pertaining to the building code,” Gibb says of Compton. “In effect, he served as ‘the chief officer in charge of the State Building Code.’”

Despite the fact the town hired Compton as its “code compliance officer” and Compton was never formally appointed as building official, the job “evolved into the building inspector and de facto building official,” said the judge. Code compliance officers are not afforded the protection of the VAC hearing requirement.

“While it was in the town’s interest for him to serve as the building official, the town cloaked him with the authority of the office and position,” Gibb said. “It was only after the town’s interests apparently shifted that the town has rescinded their recognition of that authority.”

According to Gibb, the purpose of the VAC hearing requirement is to ensure “fair and impartial administration and enforcement of the building code” for an official who may become embroiled in controversy when dealing with the public by virtue of the job’s requirements.

Comments

comments

7 Responses to Judge: Compton should be reinstated

  1. Will

    February 24, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    About time. His replacement is the very definition of useless.

  2. Larry

    February 25, 2014 at 8:06 am

    It is about time Tom has been an as asset to the Town for 20+ years. I have worked Tom on a professional and on a citizen level. Some people may not have liked some of his code enforcements but he always went by the code no matter who you were.

    • Anonymous

      February 25, 2014 at 11:24 am

      He was seldom in his office because he was playing golf. He enforced the code according to whether he liked you or not.

  3. concerned citizen

    February 25, 2014 at 11:28 am

    I would think that if Compton did this job for 27 years with out the town being concerned with his credentials until now, then anyone that got a building permit and had the town inspect their work would have a legal right to go back on the town for not having the proper building officials to do the job correctly.If the town officials are saying he was never the inspector then why is it just being addressed now, and who decided that after all these years he wasn’t qualified to do the job, and how much is all this legal battle gonna cost the tax payers for their mistake

  4. Jerry

    February 25, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    God bless you Tom . This shows what we have known for years . We do not have the proper people running the town of Pulaski. All they no is how to raise taxe’s.

  5. Casper

    February 25, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    He should also get back pay for the time terminated to the time of reinstatement.

  6. Ron Nuckolls

    March 7, 2014 at 4:12 am

    i have never understood why the town let him go. i have always found him not only professional but very helpful on projects i have done in pulaski.

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