Dawson County District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix was publicly reprimanded by the rest of the board Thursday night when the board voted 3-1 to approve a resolution of censure against her for repeatedly disclosing confidential information to a county employee via email.
District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines made a motion to approve the resolution during the Feb. 21 meeting, and District 3 Commissioner Tim Satterfield moved to second the motion.
Nix abstained from the vote and District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett voted against the motion.
Fausett said she felt the resolution was too harsh and that she didn’t think it was necessary.
“I feel like if it had just been...an open, oral reprimand, you know, out here, just like this, and everybody hears it and whatnot, to me that would have sufficed,” she said.
Fausett also addressed Nix directly in some of her comments, and stated that the resolution was “just overkill.”
“I don’t think you’ll ever do this again, I still trust you, I still got faith in you, I still got confidence in you,” she said. “You’ve had years and years of public service and I don’t want this to define you; I think you have been a part of great, great things for this county, and I appreciate what you’ve done.”
Nix said she accepts responsibility for sharing the information, but that she sent it with no plans or desire to benefit herself or anyone else.
“This was just done really to assist an experienced employee just packed with a knowledge and information, who I felt wasn’t getting all of the information needed to really do her job,” Nix said. “And so without prejudice toward this board, because this is all about Dawson County, it’s not about me, it’s not about a mistake, but it's all about our citizens and us working for them. So without being prejudiced or upset, I would just like to apologize to the board, I’ve actually already apologized to you, but I would also like to apologize to the citizens that we’re even wasting time on this.”
Board Chairman Billy Thurmond, who also voted in favor of the censure, said the resolution was not personal.
“We are a county of rules and if you don’t have rules then you don’t have any structure,” he said. “This was drafted in reference to following those rules and I feel like this will make sure that regardless of who it is on the board, whether it's Ms. Nix or myself or anyone else, they will better understand the rules and better follow the rules and that’s what this censure is all about. And whether you’ve been here 18 years or you’ve been here 18 months, there are rules that have to be followed, and that’s the way we're set up.”
The reprimand will be recorded in the minutes of the board meeting.
Nix currently faces no other repercussions at this time.
A lifelong county resident, she became the first woman elected to the commission in 1996. After taking four years off following her first term, she was re-elected in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016.
She is currently the longest serving member on the commission.
Prior to the board’s discussion of the censure, local attorney Joey Homans asked that the board strike a line from the resolution that references the employee who received communications from Nix, and states the employee had been “taking positions adverse to Dawson County’s interests” when the communication was received.
The employee is presumably former Human Resources Director Danielle Yarbrough, though her name is not referenced in the document. Yarbrough was fired Feb. 8 for not communicating to the county manager that she had received the confidential information, both prior to and after signing a confidentiality agreement.
“As best I can tell from reading that (clause), that addresses Ms. Danielle Yarbrough,” Homans said. “Ms. Yarbrough has been a 20-year employee of Dawson County and as to the allegations set forth that she was taking positions adverse to Dawson County’s interest, we submit there is no basis for that line we ask it be stricken from the resolution...I understand that the rest of it is a matter for the board, but to the extent that makes a statement of fact; at the time she was serving as the HR director and the assistant clerk and was not acting adverse to Dawson County’s interest.”
The board did not move to strike the line from the resolution.