After four years of working as Wake County’s broadcast technician, Veda Renfrow was abruptly fired following commissioners’ approval of a resolution supporting a constitutional amendment that would only allow marriages between men and women.
County officials said she acted unprofessionally after the controversial Amendment One vote on Feb. 20. But Renfrow said she was fired for coming out as a lesbian.
Renfrow, a Raleigh resident, was responsible for running the broadcasting control room when commission meetings are filmed and broadcast live on RTV and online.
Renfrow is not a full-time county employee; she was a contracted worker for Sound Advice, a company hired by the county to manage the broadcasts.
Because North Carolina law allows employers to fire their employees without cause, Renfrow said she was never given a reason as to why she was fired from her post.
“All I can do is speculate,” she said.
Like the federal employment law, North Carolina employment law doesn’t protect against discrimination for sexual orientation.
Normally behind the scenes, Renfrow got in front of the camera and commissioners when she told her story during the board’s April 16 meeting.
Because she was fired the day after the vote on Amendment One, she said that at the time that she could only assume her connection to the gay community had something to do with her dismissal.
Renfrow watched the video of that meeting to check for possible mistakes and found none. But, she also speculated that her firing could have come from a particular wide shot of the audience leaving angrily after the vote. However, she said such a shot is standard procedure, and she had done it countless times during previous meetings in four years with the county.
County Manager David Cooke told the Record that, according to a county employee who was supervising the broadcast, Renfrow was one of two people operating equipment in the control room, but was not responsible for running the camera that day.
At the end of the vote, Renfrow tried to take control of the camera to air a shot of the angry crowd leaving the meeting room. The county employee told her to stop and she refused, resulting in a heated argument that, Cooke said, included foul language.
Sound Advice let Renfrow go after the county employee filed a complaint against her behavior.
Renfrow responded to Cooke’s statement by saying that while she was visibly upset after the vote had taken place, there was no argument.
“It’s impossible to take control of the camera,” she said adding that she and her coworker, who was also contracted by Sound Advice, often work together helping each other out with all responsibilities.
Renfrow countered that it was the county employee who wanted them to avoid showing the standard wide shot of the room after the vote.
While Renfrow said she never hid her sexual orientation, she never made it a topic of discussion until the day of the vote. She told some coworkers that she was one of the people that this amendment would be adversely affecting. During a break, she also said hello to some of her friends who were at the February meeting.
About 100 people in total attended the meeting and about 20 spoke out against the resolution.