Supervisors to discuss 911 behind closed doors

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2005

[1/14/05]Warren County supervisors will take up turmoil in the 911 dispatch center at their next board meeting, but will do so during a session closed to the public.

Supervisors met informally Thursday and decided on the advice of their new attorney, Paul Winfield, to hold off any discussion about 911 personnel and the 911 Commission until their official meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Winfield said that because they will be discussing what action, if any, the board should take concerning county employees, the discussion should be in executive session.

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Under state law, public boards have the option of closing such discussions, but it is not required. Also, any votes have to be taken in open session and recorded.

Winfield said the county board can go into an executive session, closing the dialogue to the public, only during official board meetings.

District 1 Supervisor David McDonald, the supervisors’ delegate to the city-county commission that manages the center, previously told the other supervisors that the matter had been resolved, but later said he told them that to keep the public from knowing about the problems. Following McDonald’s initial statement, a motion to go into executive session during their Dec. 6 meeting was defeated 3-2.

McDonald said Thursday that he will support going into executive session next week, but doesn’t think anything will come out of the meeting.

“They keep asking me what we’re going to do, and I’ve told them I feel like we’ve done all that we’re going to do,” McDonald said. “I’m not going to vote to fire Kelly (Worthy) as the fire coordinator over something he did as a 911 Commissioner.”

Memos and grievances filed by center staff implicate Worthy, then chairman of the commission, and others in an effort to keep from other commission members an incident involving the former director who later resigned. Employees have said problems persisted for more than a month after Worthy knew that something was wrong and became worse because nothing was done. McDonald said Worthy made a judgment error as commission chairman, but that his work for the county has been exemplary.

Worthy serves on the commission by virtue of its statutory charter which designates that the person employed as Warren County Volunteer Fire Coordinator will have a seat on the 911 management panel. He has stepped down as chairman of that panel, but remains on the commission.

During the turmoil, three dispatchers have quit and another was fired.

Supervisors have not said what they will do about the problems at the 911 center, but some have indicated their frustration.

“They (the employees) are trying to decide if they’re going to run 911 or if the commission is going to run 911,” said District 5 Supervisor Richard George.

District 4 Supervisor Carl Flanders and District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon both said they wanted to hear the employees’ complaints.

“My feeling is that any time somebody says they want to talk to you and if you’re the governing body then you should listen,” Selmon said.