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Directors’ conflict cited for CAO split

Among the issues on the table at Tuesday’s Lawrence Chamber of Commerce Candidates Forum was another explanation for why the Lawrence-Scioto County Solid Waste Management District broke from the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, the agency that had managed the district for the past 12 years.

According to Lawrence County Commissioner Les Boggs, who was asked publicly about the breakup, it was caused by a conflict between the solid waste district director Dan Palmer and the CAO’s director, D.R. Gossett.

However, that is an explanation that at least one party disputes.

“(The relationship between the two men) was too severed to work together, the director of solid waste and the director of the CAO,” Boggs said at the forum. “Sometimes two people can’t work together.”

However, in an interview Wednesday, Gossett disagreed with that contention.

“I don’t believe that is true,” he said. “ I do believe there was a miscommunication. But I think there was a lot of appreciation for the hard work that Dan had done. I had the hope that we could continue to try to make the thing work and provide the service. … We didn’t communicate enough. Most folks around me have heard me brag on Dan a lot.”

Last week the solid waste district board, made up of Lawrence and Scioto county commissioners, voted to end the district’s relationship with the CAO, which had begun in the late 1990s.

Scioto County Commissioner Tom Reiser, chairman of the district’s board, called the move a business decision and that more solid waste districts in the state were becoming independent agencies.

Attending that meeting were Reiser, Boggs, Lawrence County Commissioner Freddie Hayes and Scioto County Commissioner Skip Riffe.

The district had a $385,000 contract with the CAO from which salaries and program expenses were paid. The CAO was paid an administrative fee of approximately $18,000 to handle the payroll and accounting for the district that is made up of four employees, including its director.

With the CAO no longer managing the district, Scioto County becomes its fiscal agent with the district’s headquarters in Ironton. All four district employees are now Scioto County employees and receive county benefits and state retirement.

“I think Dan was very much set on getting the PERS (state retirement) for his staff,” Gossett said. “The perception that the district was a big asset might be one thing that is not understood. …That somehow there was a big benefit for the CAO from the program.”

Total overhead for the CAO to run all its programs is $1.7 million of a $23 million budget, Gossett said.

“So the program was not a huge component of our business,” he said. “Our thing was trying to be an asset to the community and elected officials.”

Also speaking about the issue at the forum was Hayes, who cited the savings for the county from the fees no longer to be paid to the CAO.

“We are all about saving taxpayers’ money,” Hayes said. “There was no way they would work together. There was too much turmoil.”

Palmer, also contacted Wednesday, said he had no comment.