An investigation into the firing of a subcontractor working with Wake County revealed she was removed from her duties with the county for "using extremely profane language" and acting "unprofessionally."
Veda Renfrow said she lost her job one day after the board voted to support the proposed state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. She also said she came out as being gay privately to co-workers the same day commissioners voted to support the amendment.
She says she worked for four years as a broadcast technician recording commission meetings.
"I got a call the next day from my boss, who was a contractor with their contractor, Wake County's contractor. I was told, basically, that Wake County did not want me back," she said.
An investigation into her firing, however, revealed the company that employed Renfrow, Velasquez Digital Media Communications, offered to reassign her after receiving a report that she used "extremely profane language" and acted "inappropriately to the County staff supervisor."
Renfrow, though, called the claims made against her "a distortion of the truth and purposeful slander to discredit me."
"I will not stand for my name to be discredited after four years of good work in that position with no complaints, write-ups, reprimands or anything of the like," Renfrow said.
In an incident report from County Manager David Cooke, staff present in the control room on Feb. 20 say Renfro "attempted to take control of the camera system to capture video of a crowd of vocal protestors that were unhappy with a board decision."
"When requested by County staff to leave the camera equipment alone, Ms. Renfrow became angry and refused, using extremely profane language," the report says.
The report indicates the county staff supervisor was able to regain controls, but Renfrow "responded with vulgar language and continued to act unprofessionally."
An employee with Sound Advice, the company who subcontracted Velasquez Digital Media Communications, reported the incident to his supervisor, which led to VDMC offering Renfrow the opportunity to work in another location. VDMC says Renfrow refused that assignment.
Renfrow acknowledges that she attempted to use a shot of the audience, but says her co-worker "had control over the cameras at all times." Renfrow also says taking the wide shot of the crowd is a standard procedure as acknowledged by Cooke.
Cooke says standard procedure dictates that "the staff operating the cameras is to go to wide shot for a vote, and then return the camera shot to the chair when he or she has resumed the meeting and is moving to the next agenda item."
"That day it happened to show a good 10 to 20 people really upset about the way that vote went down," Renfrow said.
"If they are trying to say that I was trying to show a camera shot of an angry crowd (when I did not have control over the camera), then it sounds like they were trying to sensor the truth."
She said when she initially saw the agenda item, she contacted people she knew in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Renfrow says she wonders if spreading the word may have led to her firing.
"If that's part of why I was let go, then I mean, it doesn't really make much sense because it's supposed to be transparency of government anyway and it's on an agenda item online," she said. "I was also told that room was a safe space for us to express ourselves as long as it didn't interfere with our job."
Renfrow also acknowledges that VDMC offered her the chance to work elsewhere, but said it would have meant a commute to Chapel Hill.
"I was indeed offered work at another location, however that location is in Chapel Hill for their meetings there that start around 7 p.m. and sometimes go until midnight," Renfrow said. "I do not have reliable transportation to get from Raleigh to Chapel Hill, nor does a bus run at midnight from here to there."
She added, "The fact they left that out makes it sound like I 'refused the assignment' as they said. But that is not true. By boss at VDMC was very sorry this was all happening. I do not blame her."
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