Chairman issues apology

Published 1:08 pm Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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Garland H. “Butch”
Hamlett Jr.

Charlotte County Board of Supervisors Chairman Garland “Butch” Hamlett Jr. has issued a public apology and written statement to President and Owner of GCS Electronics and Communications Giles Smith in relation to GCS and comments that were made and their part in the county’s selection of the new communication system provider.

Hamlett read a statement during the BOS Jan. 8 meeting.

Giles, who has been serving the county’s communication needs since 1995, says he and his company was portrayed in a false light.

In a letter dated Dec. 11  Giles addressed the situation to the Chairman “Over the past several months you, other members of the Board of Supervisors, and other public officials have made statements in various venues about GCS that were and are misleading, inaccurate, and, in some instances, entirely false,” the letter cited.

According to Giles, of primary concern was a statement made about GCS at a Nov. 19 special called meeting. “At that meeting, you said, referring to GCS by name, that company backed out because he couldn’t perform, he couldn’t provide a performance bond,” Giles said in his letter to Hamlett. “This statement is simply untrue.”

Giles says that the promise of a performance bond was never part of the initial RFP in which GCS participated.

Ultimately GSC withdrew their bid for the county’s new communication system, and Radio Communications of Virginia (RCV) of Glen Allen was selected as the provider at the cost of around $3.4 million, but not until several meetings and discussions were held.

“The request for a performance bond was in no way the reason that GCS withdrew from consideration for the county’s communications contract,” explained Giles. “I withdrew from consideration primarily because extreme variances from the RFP were requested by the Board as the process progressed. These changes gave me genuine concerns for the safety of the end-users of the system. The entire process had devolved to such a point that it was apparent that those end-users, with whom GCS has a longstanding and overwhelmingly positive relationship, were not having their needs, wishes and safety considered adequately.”

Throughout the discussions of what was needed and what was going to be delivered to the county’s Fire, EMS, Sheriff, and school system when it came to the new system at one point end-users stated they were not happy with what RCV was going to provide.

In his letter, Giles continued to state that he believed that the false statements made at the Nov. 19 meeting were defamatory and have the likely effect of causing financial harm to his company.

“I demand that you make an immediate public retraction of those statements,” Giles stated in his letter. “I have consulted with my attorneys and believe that if you refuse to issue a public retraction of your false statements, GCS would have a viable action for defamation against you.”

During the Jan. 8 BOS meeting, supervisors did not discuss Giles’s letter or the issues rather; Chairman Hamlett read a statement. “When explaining the status of the communications systems procurement, I made reference to GCS. I stated, “that company backed out because he couldn’t, he couldn’t provide a performance bond.” At the time, I believed this to be accurate, based on the proximity between the request for a performance bond, and GCS’s withdrawal from the bid process. Your letter, however, states that the performance bond request in no way was the reason that GCS withdrew from the bid process. I accept your statement, and I apologize for my error and misunderstanding and retract my prior statement,” the chairman read.

In a letter to Giles Hamlett’s statements were, “While I believe these statements about the benefits of a performance bond, your letter raises the concern that I was suggesting that GCS is not “solid” and does not have a “good financial background.” I understand why you raised this concern, but I want you to know that such an implication regarding GCS was not my intent, nor is it my belief. I apologize for my inartful wording. To the extent that my statements were or could have been perceived in that light, I apologize and retract any such negative implications about GCS.”