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Rountree was fired ‘without cause’

GATESVILLE – Former Gates County Manager Natalie Rountree was fired “without cause” and will receive six months of severance pay plus benefits.

Rountree lost her job on Wednesday night following a lengthy closed session held by the county’s Board of Commissioners at their regularly scheduled meeting. The vote was 4-1 to approve a motion that called for the termination of Rountree’s employment contract.

County managers across the state work “at the pleasure of the board” – meaning they can be terminated, by majority vote, at any legally advertised meeting of the board of commissioners.

“We are grateful for the service Natalie Rountree provided to Gates County over the last six years,” stated Ray Freeman, Chairman of the Gates County Board of Commissioners, on Thursday morning. “However, we felt a change in leadership was needed to better align the actions of the administration with the vision of the board of commissioners.

“We wish Natalie all the best and are confident she will be an asset wherever she works next,” Freeman added.

According to Rountree’s contract with the county – which was effective upon her first day on the job (July 1, 2014) – if she is terminated without cause she is due three months severance pay, at her rate of pay as of Wednesday, plus one additional month of severance for every two full years of employment with the county.

Following several employment evaluations since joining the county, Rountree was being paid $78,038 annually. Although the exact amount of her severance package has yet to be disclosed, it should work out to $39,019.02 (a six-month total), which according to the contract is to be paid as a lump sum within 30 calendar days of her termination.

Freeman said the commissioners next regularly scheduled meeting (Nov. 18) comes before the end of that 30-day period.

“Unless we schedule a meeting before then, we will address Natalie’s severance package and the lump sum payout at our Nov. 18 meeting,” Freeman stated.

Rountree is also due payment for all accrued vacation leave of 240 hours or less. Her contract also called for the county to pay her health insurance and any other insurance for a minimum of three months.

While the commissioners look to fill the vacancy, Diane Hendrix will serve as interim county manager effective immediately. Hendrix was the director of the county’s Customer Service department. She previously served as clerk to the board and was the administrative assistant to several former county managers.

“We will begin our search for our next county manager immediately,” Freeman said. “We will meet soon and decide how to advertise the vacancy.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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