MONTICELLO — Piatt County likely has a new Emergency Management Agency director.
The county board EMA committee Sept. 10 recommended hiring Atwood Police Chief Rob Bross for the half-time position.
He would perform the tasks in addition to his current police duties.
“We are happy. Yes. It seems like this interview process has been going on a long time,” EMA committee and county board Chairman Ray Spencer said.
The search process began in February and featured at least three rounds of advertising.
Bross said he would accept the post if the hire gets the necessary approval from the county board, which is expected in October.
He said his wife, Lindsey, is a county-wide school resource officer, and that the EMA position also gives him a chance to serve the entire county.
“I thought it would be a really good fit for me. I’m still working in Atwood, but after work I live in Monticello. It’s just another way to serve the greater community, not just Atwood but the entire county,” Bross said.
“I thought this was a way to serve the greater good,” he added.
Bross has been a police officer for 17 years, the past decade as the Atwood Police Chief. He reached out to the county after talking about the position with Interim EMA Director John Carter.
The county has been employing interim directors since last December. It started with Piatt County Sheriff David Hunt filling in during the sick leave of Director Mike Holmes, who left the county employ in January.
Holmes has since filed a lawsuit claiming the county violated federal law by changing his position from full-time to part-time while he was on approved leave through the Family Medical Leave Act.
After advertising the opening several times, no candidate until Bross accepted the position, which is budgeted to pay $16,000 annually after a budgeted salary of $37,740 in 2019-20.
Spencer feels a “cloud” over the EMA may have given potential directors pause, and called for former Piatt County State’s Attorney Dana Rhoades to recant a statement made to WCIA in June of last year claiming the Illinois State Police and FBI were looking into EMA grant mismanagement by the county.
“I want this person starting with a clean slate and not have this hanging over their head,” Spencer said. “I think that’s scared away some of our applicants.”
“I would agree with that statement, that our applicants have been limited because of it,” agreed committee member Shannon Carroll.
In a Sept. 2 letter to the editor in the News-Gazette, Spencer said, “Now, as Piatt County looks to hire a new EMA director, it would be a good time for Rhoades to explain why she made the statements about grant funds being misappropriated.”
The letter ended with a claim that, “Her false statements created a toxic work environment. That must change. Rhoades setting the record straight on these spurious investigation claims would be a good place to start.”
When asked for comment, Rhoades, now a Piatt County judge, said, “As the former state’s attorney, it would not be appropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation, and that the FBI does not supply information to the public on pending investigations.”
Holmes has also claimed in the federal lawsuit against the county that between 2007 and 2018 about $292,000 in state grant money meant for the Piatt County EMA was not allocated to that department.
Carroll thanked current interim EMA director and Monticello Police Chief John Carter and Hunt for helping out as interims for the last nine months.
“I would like to give great appreciation to Chief Carter and the job he did as interim, and Sheriff Hunt prior to Chief Carter, getting us up to speed, getting things done on time, meeting deadlines we were pressed against.”
Bross agreed, thanking Carter and Hunt for “really pouring it on” in getting accreditations renewed prior to him coming on board.
Carter said he was not aware of any state police or FBI investigations at this time. A grand jury was called but has not resulted in any indictments for alleged grant mismanagement.