First Posted: 4/30/2009
DOBSON Veterans Service Director Don Belle announced his retirement Thursday, after being placed on administrative leave by County Manager Dennis Thompson on March 13.
While Belle would not go into details about his retirement, he said that he would still help veterans any way he can.
Belle also walked out of a recent Veteran of Foreign Wars Post meeting, resigning as commander.
Surry County commissioners are slated to discuss Belles employment at their upcoming meeting on Monday. Thompson has repeatedly said that he cannot comment on Belles employment because it is a personnel matter.
On April 22, Belles secretary, Rose Sias, said she was let go from her position. She said at 4 p.m. she was called to the county offices.
They said my job had been eliminated, Sias said Thursday.
Prior to her dismissal Sias said she received several threatening phone calls from private numbers.
They said, We got rid of him you are next, Sias reported.
Angie Thomas, who is the last county employee remaining at the Veterans Services office, was bombarded Thursday morning by veterans who requested their files. Many said they would hang on to their files until they could find someone else to represent them.
Belle feels that pressure from the county to retire comes from outside sources such as the American Legion and the local VFW.
Belle said he is a member of both organizations, but decided at the last meeting of the VFW that he no longer wanted to hold an office there.
I did walk out of that meeting, Belle said. Im not resigning from the post, I just dont want to hold an office there anymore.
He has also transferred his local membership with the American Legion to Post 220 in Winston-Salem.
In January, Belle chartered a group called the Vietnam Veterans of America, which has 130 members locally.
A group of about 15 veterans surrounded Belle at breakfast Thursday morning to talk about recent actions. Many of them alleged that the last remaining employee is a former relative of Commissioner Paul Johnson. Johnson confirmed Thursday night that Angie Thomas was formerly married to his youngest brother.
The group alleged that Thomas is still employed because of her relationship with Johnson.
Belle said during the course of his almost 11-year employment as director of Veterans Services he has helped between 20,000 and 22,000 veterans, their children and their widows receive compensation.
Belle has been employed with Veterans Services since Oct. 1, 1997, according to county Human Resources Director Sandra Snow.
The office of Veterans Services is funded by the county, Thompson said, but receives $2,000 per year through grant funding.
Belle served more than 24 years in the U.S. Air Force. He received a Bronze Star medal for his service in Operation Desert Storm and has received nine meritorious service medals.
On behalf of veterans and disabled veterans we have gone through a lot, post-traumatic stress, we dont need all of this stuff going on. This just takes away from us and our service, said veteran Junior Payne.
All Im interested in is helping veterans here in Surry County, Belle said.
Belle said at this point he just wants to be able to get into his office and retrieve his things.
Johnson reputed Belles claim, saying, Thats not true. He has had ample time to get with the county manager to retrieve his belongings.
Johnson said the commissioner will be discussing Belles replacement at the next meeting on Monday night.
We want to make sure that we define what that person is responsible for and that they do what we are actually paying them to do serving the veterans, Johnson said.
Belle said his next objective is to open an office on his own so that he can still help local veterans. He did not explain how that office would be funded.
Contact Mondee Tilley at [email protected] or at 719-1930.