Dismissed members of the Piatt County Emergency Telephone System Board requested explanations for their firings at the June 12 county board meeting. That was followed by the state's attorney's defense of County Board Chairman Ray Spencer, who relieved three ETSB members of their duties last week.
Meanwhile, the hiring of a new county 9-1-1 director is back to square one, with the ETSB needing to re-advertise the position before proceeding further, according to State's Attorney Dana Rhoades. She said mistakes had been made in the initial search for a new director.
“There were two different job descriptions posted on various internet sites,” said Rhoades of the hiring effort, adding that one description asked for references while the other did not. She also said interview questions were provided to one of the three finalists, but not the other two.
Former ETSB members Gary Shaffer and Ron Weishaar said they were shocked when they were fired by email the evening of May 27 without explanation.
“I was never paid a nickel for any of my efforts, not did I expect it. Then, suddenly, without warning, my decades of true, faithful and dedicated service was brought to an ignominious end,” said Shaffer, who had been on the board since 1999. “Mr. Spencer had unilaterally made himself judge, jury and executioner by charging me, convicting me and punishing me for an undefined, spurious offense, allowing me no opportunity to defend himself.”
Rhoades said the dedication of volunteer board members was not the issue.
“The proper focus is not on your service commendations, but the appropriate focus is on respect for the process, fair hiring laws that must be followed and accountability to the taxpayers,” she said.
Weishaar defended the process that saw 17 apply for the 9-1-1 director position that will be vacated by the retirement of Jim Cripe on June 28.
“We cannot find any issues where we violated any hiring issues,” he said. “We were very careful to follow those (county hiring) standards.”
He admitted one applicant was asked their age, but said it was in the context of “inferring that he had accomplished a lot at that age. I immediately objected to that.”
Also dismissed was ETSB Chairman Todd Jones, who was not present at the county board meeting.
Crystal Alexander is one of the seven remaining members of the ETSB, and asked the county board what their next step should be.
“We've not had any emergency meetings called. We're just kind of in limbo, those of us who are remaining on the board,” she told the board.
The ETSB could operate short-handed as long as it could get a quorum to meetings, although it would need a new chairman and secretary, the latter office previously held by Shaffer. Roades said that, by Illinois Statute, the EMA director is required to be a member of the ETSB.
The two others will need to be named by Spencer with the advice and consent of the county board, which may need a special meeting called to complete the appointments.
Weishaar expressed surprise that Spencer was at the ETSB meetings, but “never objected to the things we were doing.”
Rhoades again came to his defense.
“Chairman Spencer has taken his oath as an elected official seriously, and I thank him for that. His eye is toward fair representation of Piatt County citizens. I know this has been extremely difficult for him – and others, I acknowledge that – and I want to extend my thanks to him,” said the state's attorney.
Spencer declined to comment on the issue.
The county board chair had indicated at the May 29 ETSB meeting that the possible combining of the 9-1-1 and Emergency Management Agency director positions would be on the June 12 agenda, but it was absent. Instead, it will first go to the county board personnel committee meeting for consideration.