Originally created 07/24/01

Veterans candidate leaves job



AIKEN - The second in command at the Aiken County Veterans Affairs office and a finalist for the top job resigned Monday, calling the selection process "political and manipulative."

Wade Fulmer, who was one of four finalists for the position, said a June 15 meeting with Rep. Roland Smith, R-Langley, the chairman of the Aiken County legislative delegation, and another candidate heightened the secrecy of the search for a replacement for now-retired Robin Starks.

Mr. Smith confirmed that the meeting took place.

"This is not any kind of reflection toward the person who got the job," Mr. Fulmer said in reference to new Director James "Sonny" Riggs.

Mr. Fulmer said his problem was exclusively with the way things were handled.

He said he and the other candidate at the meeting, Pam Griffin, who also works in the veterans office, were told not to talk to anyone about the search process and that all questions should be handled through Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith said the meeting was held to tell Mr. Fulmer and Ms. Griffin that the county delegation, as a body, would be taking over as interim veterans officer. He said the reason was delegation members did not want to show favoritism to the two finalists - either of whom could have been chosen as interim director.

There was no attempt to be secretive, Mr. Smith said.

"Apparently, Mr. Fulmer thought he had the job," Mr. Smith said. "It was totally open and fair. It was the best process we've been through."

But Mr. Fulmer said the search committee, which was filled with veterans, should have been allowed to rank the finalists it chose for the delegation - something denied to them by Mr. Smith.

"I always think the person who gets the job ought to be the most qualified," Mr. Fulmer said.Mr. Riggs, at his first day of work Monday, said Mr. Fulmer might have been premature in his action, and that the process was aboveboard to his knowledge.

"I think it was very fair, and I think it ran very well," he said.

Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or mboedy@augusta.com.