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OC Budget Committee appoints group to probe accusations against VA’s office

OC Budget Committee appoints group to probe accusations against VA’s office

Posted: Monday, May 3, 2010 9:03 pm
By: John Brannon, Staff Reporter

By JOHN BRANNON
Staff Reporter
After a full hour of testimony by opposing factions, the Obion County Budget Committee this morning voted to appoint a subcommittee to investigate accusations leveled against Obion County Veterans Service officer Chuck Ashley of Troy.
Patricia Dotson of Sam-burg asserted that Ashley is incompetent, insensitive to the needs of veterans and their families and is not duly certified as a VA advisor.
The Ashley issue was one of several on the agenda of the budget committee that met at 9 a.m. today and recessed at 10:08.
A subcommittee appointed by Jowers will take veterans’ testimony and report back to the budget committee, which will decide whether to refer the matter to the county commission.
Meeting moved
The meeting was moved from the basement conference room to the Obion County Circuit Court courtroom because of a crowd of about 45 interested people.
County commissioner Danny Jowers, who presided, allowed each side 10 minutes to speak and present documents to the committee.
“Then we’ll take it under advisement, whatever the committee wants to do,” Jowers said.
Ms. Dotson spoke first, then Ashley rose to defend himself.
Ashley provided the committee with facts and figures to support the work he’s done on behalf of Obion County veterans the last 20 years.
“It seems odd to me that I haven’t received one complaint in 20 years before this one,” Ashley told the committee.
Jowers then allowed others to speak on behalf of Ms. Dotson or Ashley.
Veterans speak
A half-dozen veterans, including World War II veteran Carl Pugh, spoke in defense of Ashley, their collective position being that Ashley has done a good job, gone the second mile and they appreciate him.
No veterans spoke on behalf of Ms. Dotson. She said there were two, but they could not attend the meeting because they had appointments at the VA center at Marion, Ill.
Serious stuff
In her address to the  committee, Ms. Dotson also questioned the expenditure of county funds used to support the Veterans Service Office and how Ashley spends the money. The office receives no state funding but is supported by appropriations from the Obion County Commission. In recent years, the appropriation has been $13,560, of which a part goes for expenses such as telephone, Internet and postage. What’s left constitutes Ashley’s salary, about $6,000 a year.
She also said some veterans were so dissatisfied with Ashley, they would come to her and she’d direct them to the VA office in Dyersburg.
She displayed a document, asserting it was one all veterans should get, but said Ashley did not distribute it. “If this one had been (made) available, there’s one veteran who would be alive today,” she said.
She urged the committee to look into the office’s activities, including a veteran who committed suicide, and ask questions.
“There’s questions y’all need to examine and ask yourselves why,” she said.
County commissioner and budget committee member Jerry Grady told Ms. Dotson she’s raised some serious topics. He asked her if she has a personal vendetta against Ashley. She said no, that she just wants veterans to get the most they can from local tax dollars and get back their respect for the office.
One man who spoke said he’s not a veteran, but he doesn’t see the need for Ashley to be on trial. Jowers swiftly replied it’s not a trial.
Published in The Messenger 5.3.10

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