Three members of the Piatt County Emergency Telephone Systems Board – with a total of 52 years experience on the ETSB – have been dismissed by County Board Chairman Ray Spencer.

Twenty-year member Gary Shaffer was confused by the firing, which he received via email from the county board chair on Tuesday evening.

Shaffer said he had planned to retire from the board when his seventh, three-year term ended in January.

“I was going to take my 20-year plaque and go home. Now I’ve been robbed of it, and I don’t understand why,” said Shaffer, who has been serving as secretary on the board.

County State’s Attorney Dana Rhoades said she did not recommend whether Gary Shaffer, Ron Weishaar and Chairman Todd Jones should be removed from the ETSB, but told Spencer he had the right to do so.

She said there had been concern over “improper hiring practices in the search of a new (9-1-1) director,” including allegations that not all candidates were offered an interview, one applicant was asked their age, and that one candidate was told to supply recommendations while others were not.

As an agency formed by the county board in 1994, Rhoades said the ETSB is bound by the Equal Opportunity Opportunity Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the hiring rules set forth in Piatt County ordinances.

In a June 3 memo to county board and ETSB board members, she also warned that the job description for a new 9-1-1 director is under the purview of the county board, and not the outgoing 9-1-1 director.

Jones denied the allegations, and claims only the full county board can dismiss ETSB board members, citing the Illinois Emergency Telephone System Act, which also states they can be removed for “misconduct, official misconduct, or neglect of office.”

Rhoades’ opinion is that the hiring process needs to be re-done, despite the fact current 9-1-1 director James Cripe is retiring June 28.

Weishaar, a 25-year founding member of the Piatt County ETSB, said there were only two candidates who had the qualifications to be considered for the 9-1-1 director post, and that “our prime, excellent candidate will now not come close to Piatt County.”

Also a former fire chief, Weishaar said he would have little problem if the decision to dismiss him came from the entire county board.

“If the county board chose to let us go, it wouldn’t bother me as much. But to let us go at his whim, it’s nuts.”

He also wonders if the ETSB’s disagreement with Spencer over a possible combining of the 9-1-1 and Emergency Management Agency director positions led to his dismissal. Spencer said at an ETSB meeting last week that discussion of that option will on the Piatt County board’s June 12 agenda.

(This story will be updated)