Beaufort County building-codes director won't be punished for misrepresentation

cconley@islandpacket.comJune 6, 2012 

Beaufort County's new building codes director won't be punished for misrepresenting his work history during the hiring process, county administrator Gary Kubic said.

Chuck Atkinson worked as a town of Port Royal building inspector for nearly 11 months in 2005 and 2006 after a stint in a similar job with Beaufort County. However, the application and resume he submitted last summer, when he sought to replace longtime building codes chief Arthur Cummings, indicated he went directly from Beaufort County to a job with Florence County.

There is "not going to be an administrative action to sanction or terminate Charles Atkinson for this omission," Kubic said Wednesday.Atkinson's resume indicated he worked as chief building inspector for Beaufort County from June 2002 to May 2005, when he began a job as director of codes in Florence County, a position he kept until January 2008.

He was hired as Beaufort County's building codes director last December. Most recently, he had worked for the International Code Council, according to his application.

While working for Port Royal, a balcony on a building in Jefferson Commons, which Atkinson inspected in 2006 collapsed in February 2008, injuring a 72-year-old man.

The S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation found Atkinson violated no laws or regulations, although he performed 10 of the 11 inspections of the building that took place during his tenure. Atkinson's boss, who performed the final inspection, was stripped of his license by the state board. Atkinson worked for Port Royal from Oct. 17, 2005, until Sept. 22, 2006, according to Port Royal town manager Van Willis said.

Atkinson has said he simply forgot to list his time at Port Royal on the resume because he didn't work there for long.

Atkinson was born in Beaufort County and is the son of former county Councilman Ron Atkinson, who owns a construction company. Cummings, the man he sought to replace, was his boss during his first stint with Beaufort County and was listed as a reference on his application.

He was recommended for the county job by a three-member search committee that included county director of employee services Suzanne Gregory, planner Tony Criscitiello and then-deputy facilities management director Larry Beckler.

Gregory has said that when Atkinson learned the committee would recommend him for the job, he told her he had worked for Port Royal. She said she jotted a note to that effect on his application. The collapse of the Jefferson Commons balcony never came up, Gregory has said.

Kubic said Wednesday he hired Atkinson based on the committee's recommendation and assumed the panel had thoroughly vetted his work history.

"Would I have done some things differently if I had the ability to go back and have all those facts? I might have, I couldn't say for sure," Kubic said. "I don't know how relevant that is right now."

Although Atkinson is "responsible for perhaps that omission on his application," Kubic said he has done some good things for the department so far.

County Council Chairman Weston Newton, who is running for the S.C. House District 120 seat, says he expects to discuss the Atkinson issue during a future council meeting. But with school and county budgets dominating council agendas, it's not clear when that might happen, he said.

"County Council members may have questions to ask Mr. Kubic about the process, about what happened, so there is a clear understanding," Newton said. "Was there any omission or was there not an omission? What was known and when was it known?"

Newton said he'll insist any discussion on the subject occur in open session, not in executive session.

County Councilman Jerry Stewart, who is running against Newton for the Republican nomination for the S.C. House seat, said council doesn't get involved with administrative matters such as hiring or firing of staff.

"We can discuss it with (Kubic), but we don't have the right to tell him what to do," Stewart said.

Kubic stands by the search that produced Atkinson, which he says was created to prevent nepotism and politics from influencing hiring decisions. But he says the process isn't perfect.

"If the standard of measurement is that it has to be totally accurate and totally without a flaw each and every time, I don't think that is humanly possible," he said.

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