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County 911 director fired

Commissioners split the county’s Emergency Services Agency into separate agencies Thursday, then fired its executive director, Don Mootz.

Saturday, July 21, 2001

Commissioners split the county’s Emergency Services Agency into separate agencies Thursday, then fired its executive director, Don Mootz.

The board eliminated his position and assistant director Mike Boster’s position, then appointed Boster to head the Emergency Management Agency. The county will temporarily pay the Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Service to provide management services for the 911 Dispatching Center.

The action – which came after a short, closed executive session on personnel matters – drew strong opposition and criticism from commissioner George Patterson, who voted against each of the five motions.

"There is no reason for him to be dismissed," Patterson said during the meeting, referring to Mootz. "The Civil Service Commission will bear that out."

Patterson called it ridiculous that Mootz be called into an executive session and given five minutes to decide whether to resign or be fired.

"Mr. Mootz worked hard to bring 911 about, donated his own time and he has never been given an ultimatum; no reprimands were ever approved at this table," Patterson said. "It’s a totally wrong decision."

Commission president Paul Herrell and commissioner Jason Stephens commented after the meeting that the actions will save county dollars and promote better management of its emergency services.

"It just didn’t work out," Herrell said. "We had differences in our philosophies of management."

Changing the EMA/911 organization will save the county $23,000 annually, Stephens said.

Patterson countered by saying if the county had wanted to save money it would not have hired extra people to start with – referring to the commission’s May decision to create Boster’s now-former position and hire James Ward to fill the EMA deputy director’s position.

Thursday’s decision undid the commission’s merger of the the EMA and 911 agencies last year.

Stephens said that it’s important for the county "to make sure we’re running an effectively managed organization," alluding that the commission had disagreed with Mootz’s decisions several times in the last six months.

Mootz said eliminating his position over EMA/911 came as "a total surprise."

"I’ll make the best of it," he said, but would not comment further.

The issue began at Thursday’s meeting after a motion for an executive session.

Patterson asked what specific topic the meeting would cover, and Stephens said reorganization. Commissioners talked with both SEOEMS executive director Eric Kuhn and Mootz.

After reconvening, commission administrator Kathy Fraley read the five motions that changed personnel and brought in SEOEMS. Each was approved by a 2-1 vote.

Patterson took issue with the motions, saying they had been prepared ahead of time and SEOEMS had been contacted about the situation prior to the meeting.

"I was not made aware of this," he said, calling it a violation of the open meetings law because he feels Stephens and Herrell met or talked about the situation beforehand.

Stephens said he prepared the motion wording and contacted SEOEMS, but said discussion occurred between the commissioners and SEOEMS only in executive session.

SEOEMS did not initiate the management agreement, but only responded that they would be willing to help the county on a trial basis, Kuhn said.

The open meetings law, ORC 121.22, states that a meeting is "any prearranged discussion of the public business of the public body by a majority of its members."

Section G identifies allowed reasons for holding an executive session, including "to consider the appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion or compensation of a public employee or official, or the investigation of charges "