Summersville man fired days after expressing his concern over a large gathering of volunteers

SUMMERSVILLE, WV (WOAY) – In Governor Jim Justice’s press conference on Monday, he said someone “needs to speak up” when they see large gatherings, and that message really hit home for one Summersville man.

Dwayne O’Dell worked as a trade specialist at the Summersville Armory and when he spoke out about a large group of volunteers gathering to assemble meals, he received termination papers days later. 

Nicholas County Schools began serving meals for students out of the Summersville Armory last week. When O’Dell, a 24-year Veteran who works at the armory doing maintenance, starting setting up the space for the dozens of volunteers in the arena, he said he knew the program was needed but he felt the setup was not following state guidelines. 

The next day, he tells the National Guard, his employer, thinking he is doing what is right, but then two days later, the unexpected happens. 

“And then they show up, hand me a termination letter and then I’ve got my immediate supervisor in Charleston: ‘I hate to let you go. I hate it, but this is out of my hands.’ Says, ‘You’re a good worker.’ So I know this has nothing to do with my work,” he said. 

He believes it has everything to do with speaking out about the crowd.

He also raised his concerns with Summersville Mayor Robert Shafer that day at the armory asking him if this was a way to “flatten the curve.” 

When asked about the confrontation, Shafer said he is not downplaying the concern but that the volunteers were authorized to be there to provide a vital service and were screened by a nurse practitioner before entering. 

“If you’re going to prepare 8,000 meals like we did that day, roughly, almost 8,000 meals, you’re not going to do that with the 10 people,” Shafer said. “And I believe in the governor’s executive order there are provisions for these feeding programs that allow to bring in the help that’s needed to execute the programs for the purpose intended and that’s to make sure those little mouths don’t go unfed.” 

O’Dell said he is not against the program whatsoever but just wants it dispersed out in the county with small groups of volunteers.

Now, he is out of a job with his own health concerns and with a wife who is also at risk. He worries that what has happened to him is what is keeping others from speaking out about crowds at their workplace. 

“That makes me sick to my stomach. That makes me feel like all of this is in vain,” O’Dell said.  

Mayor Shafer made it clear that he did not recommend to anyone that O’Dell should be terminated.

In the termination letter from General Hoyer. it does state that because O’Dell was in an at-will position a cause for termination is not required.

Now O’Dell just wants an explanation, but until then, he says he will focus on his health and will continue to pray. 

“I will be praying for the governor. I pray for General Hoyer. I pray for the mayor. But I kind of feel like I got run clear over in all this,” he said. 

Nicholas County Schools is now doing their feeding program out of Nicholas County High School. Mayor Shafer says this was in response to the state sending out pre-packaged meals and it also frees up the armory if it would be needed in a crisis.

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Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.