Military veteran tapped for 911 post|[2/23/05]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A military veteran with 10 years of experience as a communications specialist was hired this morning to be the new director for the troubled E-911 dispatch center.

Geoffrey Greetham, 51, of Vicksburg was officially hired by the E-911 Commission and will take office Tuesday, nearly four months after his predecessor, Allen Maxwell, resigned. Peggy Wright has been interim director.

Greetham said he served 18 years in the Army and has 10 years’ experience in the private sector as a project manager and communications specialist.

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At the request of Mayor Laurence Leyens, a Vicksburg representative on the commission, commissioners set a March 4 orientation meeting with Greetham, who has lived in Vicksburg for 18 months.

“Here are the problems; we all agree are there,” Leyens said of the kind of information he hopes commissioners will discuss with Greetham at that meeting.

“The standards need to be set by the commission,” not individual commissioners, Leyens said.

Separately, in their meeting Tuesday, Warren County supervisors decided to write letters to two dispatchers who previously filed complaints. The letters say the board has issued to the E-911 commission a recommendation that personnel policies be instituted for the dispatch center.

The letter is “so that they have direct communication back from us,” District 4 Supervisor Carl Flanders said. Attached to it will be a copy of a letter supervisors sent Jan. 19 to the E-911 commission, citing “a need to create uniform operating procedures in relation to employment issues and personnel practices.”

Flanders’ motion passed 4-1, with Supervisor Richard George of District 5 casting the dissenting vote.

Supervisor Charles Selmon of District 3 voted for the proposal, but said he thought sending the proposed letter could “open up a can of worms by responding to a letter that was not addressed to us.”

He was referring to memos from dispatchers that discussed personnel problems at the center. The problems they documented included verbal and physical confrontations on Oct. 4.

Memos they wrote describing the events are addressed to commission members or are not addressed. Included in them are accounts of pleas for help from other commission members and supervisors following what their authors describe as inaction or attempts to suppress their complaints by the commission’s then-chairman, county volunteer fire coordinator Kelly Worthy, and commissioner L.W. “Bump” Callaway, the county director of emergency management.

In the wake of the problems Maxwell resigned Nov. 3. Four dispatchers also left the center, including one who was fired. Worthy also resigned as chairman but remains a member of the commission.

Dispatchers said they asked McDonald for help but were rebuffed.

McDonald has said he didn’t find out about the problems until November and that he believed Maxwell’s resignation would have resolved much of the matter. He also has said he made a mistake in judgment by not bringing the matter to the attention of the full commission.

Supervisors asked attorney Paul Winfield to draft the letter to the dispatchers.

The new director was selected from among 71 who applied to head the center, which operates on a budget of about $800,000 a year and handles all emergency calls for Warren County, both inside and outside Vicksburg.