Monday, March 26, 2012

Bob Rhoades: "Watching the Commissioners' Office Implode"

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As we all sit here watching the County Administration implode before our very eyes, one has to wonder how it got to this point. Did the commissioners bring these attitudes and practices with them? Did they learn this type of behavior after getting into office? What about the people who have left office, where did this all start? Is it just a comedy of errors that festered till it popped? The reality of it all is they work for us, supposedly. As we go forward are more things going to surface? We haven’t even scratched the surface on unanswered questions. It’s become pretty evident that Ms. Delaplane talked to Melody Lucas to give her a heads up that the “good ole boy” way of doing business was alive and well. For a long time, Mr. Rhoades was silent on the whole thing. Mr. Stegall who really had nothing to do with any of it because he wasn’t elected yet has defended the situation, but really didn’t need to say anything. The incident that started it all was the former EMA director leaving office either by resigning or getting fired. We can’t tell because it’s been stated both ways. So it looks like without a Freedom of Information Act request for all the documents is the only way we’ll ever know what is really going on at 4th and Broadway.

Media Releases said that former EMA director June Mong resigned. Commissioner Mike Rhoades said she was fired. Was this just a mistake? It would be good to know what actually happened. The circumstances of her leaving are unclear. The investigation allegedly found five felony events on her watch. When Judge Hein was Prosecutor, he made it a point to prosecute anyone who messed up that bad, causing them to lose their pension to pay back ill-gotten gains, spend time on community sanctions or incarcerate them. If there were in fact five felony counts after the investigation, why was their no prosecution? Don’t the citizens deserve to have the money that was wasted returned? Do we have a double standard, or was it just supposed to go away. About the same time this was going down, the superintendent of the County Home was removed also, and the public never heard about what happened there. Anyone seeing a trend here? Also about the same time there was the matter of the 911 director being busted for selling drugs. He was convicted, got to keep his job, went to work from jail and lived happily ever after. The sheriff said he was a good employee. I’ve heard that he is but the fact remains: lots of good employees over the years have given up their rights to be good employees because they did something stupid.

Recent statements from all Commissioners have said the matter of the EMA Director was handled appropriately. Was county policy and Ohio Revised Code followed in investigating a report of potential theft? Was it the Commissioners that requested an official investigation, or was it the written complaint from Ms. Lucas that was also copied to the prosecutor’s office? Why didn’t we see the state auditor launch an investigation? Since the Emergency Management Agency was involved, there were state of Ohio monies and the potential for Federal dollars to be involved. Were they all notified? Perhaps they will show up and cost us more money. So we have previous employees who were prosecuted for lesser offenses, and we have one who got to keep his job, one who resigned or quit, apparently kept her pension monies intact and allegedly got unemployment. Sure is a roller coaster of how things were handled. Maybe one of the highway employees will steal a dump truck. Might as well, it doesn’t look like anything will happen to you. So there is actually a quadruple standard not double.

To make things worse, after Ms. Mong left office, the commissioners advertised for applications for the job. At least three people had most of the schooling required and all of the other requirements. Finishing any of the schooling requirements would have been no problem for any of the three but they were passed over for a more qualified candidate who allegedly spent most of the two years in office getting the requirements needed. So we were paying someone to work that was actually in Columbus in class most of the time. After the educational process that we paid for was over, the dude resigns. Go figure! His resignation stated he was returning to manufacturing which fits more to his background. It’s sort of looking like maybe $63,000 probably is only a starting figure for the screw-ups over the last couple of years.

Ms. Lucas stated in light of the current EMA Director’s resignation, she had offered to dismiss her claim and end financial negotiations to look at a possible full-time position within the EMA. According to her, that was quickly denied and the settlement figure increased. If, as Commissioner Rhoades stated, making the initial report was “admirable,” why was the Board so adamant on settling financially and determined to end Ms. Lucas’ employment with Darke County? Couldn’t the money paid to settle been put to better use as a salary that would benefit citizens of Darke County? Indeed! What’s up with that? Ms. Lucas was one of the people who had the right credentials for the job. As it turned out, credentials seem to not mean very much to the commissioners. The commissioners gave the excuse for not hiring the three who had the qualifications that they lacked a lot of supervisory experience. A request to Mr. Lee on the matter has gone unanswered. So it seems if you part your hair the right way, or maybe have the same politics or go to the right church, those are good credentials. The job that Ms. Lucas formerly held is posted right now for applications. You got to wonder what person in their right mind who actually had the qualifications would apply for it now. Next will be a request for applications for the EMA Directors job. I’m not applying this time. I looked at the picture of the commissioners and my hair is parted on the wrong side. Although I have the same politics, have never seen any of the three at any church I’ve been in. Sure, I could change the side my hair is parted on and that would give me two out of three. Last time I had 3 out of 5, and it didn’t work!

From the recent minutes that were published here on Darke Journal and other places, it has become pretty obvious that it’s not even close to being over. The Darke County Commissioners didn’t do a few things:
  1. They obviously didn’t follow their own manual
  2. They may have not followed the ORC
  3. The State Auditor’s office wasn’t called in
  4. They don’t have an understanding of the application and selection process that SHOULD go on when hiring an employee. That I can remember, during the interview process, I was never asked about supervisory experience because I could have provided references who would have backed me up.
When you have three people with lots and lots of credentials, why do you hire someone who has little experience or credentials? An EMA director is a provider. The ORC and Federal Regulations are pretty clear on what an Emergency Management Agency and now Homeland Security is supposed to do. Mr. Lee couldn't actually do it when he was in class in Columbus or wherever.

While maybe we cannot know 100% what is going on in an individual’s mind, conclusions have been made based on their actions. There is evidence to support the answers to most of these questions. If all that information was presented, a logical thought process would in fact show the truth about how mismanaged this situation actually was, and instead of coming back around to admit mistakes and look for improvements, our Commissioners prefer to stand on some platform of, “We handled the situation appropriately.” The evidence speaks much louder than three individuals continuing their self-serving actions. The particular whistle blower incident it would seem was handled correctly. What came after that leaves a bit to be desired. Was the state auditor called in to investigate? Why have charges not been filed? Why Ms. Lucas was so hastily “paid off” and sent on her merry way? It would seem from press accounts of the last couple of commissioner meetings that the pressure of being constantly being bombarded with questions from the general public and the press are wearing on some peoples nerves. Perhaps putting aside some petty allegiances to other people who may have done wrong and actually laying the cards on the table would work. Wouldn’t that be a novel approach? Real soon these questions will be answered so stay tuned. As Yogi Berra once said “It ain’t over till it’s over”. We’ll see!

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