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911 advisory board shuffled
Director of center can no longer vote
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Forsyth County News

 

The director of Forsyth County's 911 Center will no longer head the advisory board that oversees the facility and has been stripped of her voting power, though the reasons for the decision are not clear.

The county commission voted 5-0 during a work session Tuesday to approve the move, as well as add two additional members to the Forsyth County 911 Center Advisory Board.

Pat Giordano, who has served as the center's director since 2004 and reports to the county manager, will remain on the panel as a non-voting member.

The advisory board also includes Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton, Fire Chief Danny Bowman, County Manager Doug Derrer, Cumming Police Chief Scott Burgess and a representative of the emergency medical services company contracted with the county.

They will be joined on the board by a county commissioner and a "citizen stakeholder" who will be determined later.

The commission also added a requirement Tuesday that the board, which has gathered infrequently over the years, meet at least once per quarter.

The issue, which first centered on possibly removing Giordano from the advisory board, appeared to catch at least one commissioner off guard.

Commissioner Jim Boff said it didn't make sense that the person who would be implementing the group's decisions wouldn't have a say in them.

Commissioner Todd Levent countered that since the county took over 911 operations from the sheriff's office and reorganized the board in 2005, from "that point forward they don't have policies and procedures in place to date."

Levent, whose wife works at the 911 Center, contends the county human resources department recently discovered the situation. Moreover, he said, some employees don't know their daily duties.

Giordano, who did not attend the work session, declined to comment about Tuesday's developments.

She did dispute, however, that the center doesn't have procedures in place for handling calls for fire, law enforcement and emergency medical services.

"There are procedures on how you dispatch the various calls," she said.

The center is currently working with the sheriff's office on new procedures for handling the agency's calls.

While the advisory board has not yet met this year, statistics released during a March 2010 meeting showed that in 2009 the center dispatched 146,679 calls for service to various local public safety agencies. In 2008, the total was 145,036.

Levent noted during the work session that the advisory board seldom meets, perhaps gathering as infrequently as once in the past year.

However, the 2005 resolution creating the group does not require that it meet.

Boff said he hadn't heard that any of the other members of the board had been "jumping up and down" saying they needed to have meetings.

"The fact that I haven't heard that directly from anybody makes me wonder what's going to change just by changing the board," Boff said.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the local government was required by state law to create the committee when it took over 911 operations.

He said the advisory board's duties include reviewing and analyzing the progress of public safety agencies and assisting in making known the necessary rules, regulations and procedures.

Exactly what triggered the reorganization by the county commission is not clear.

Commissioners did not give a detailed explanation for why the changes were being made and Jarrard told the board the changes were not required.

According to county spokeswoman Jodi Gardner and Pat Carson, human resources director, neither Giordano nor the 911 Center are the subject of an investigation.

Giordano said she had no knowledge of any investigation.

While there may not be an official probe, the county did provide the Forsyth County News with a copy of a memo Derrer, the county manager, sent out last month.

In the message, dated Feb. 18 under the subject "911 Center personnel interviews," Derrer notes that "various workplace matters may be causing some of you concern" and hints that "in some cases changes require organizational and operational review."

He seeks to assure 911 employees that each of them will be "afforded the opportunity to meet with and candidly discuss any matters you would like to be brought to the attention of my office."

Derrer asks any employee who would like to be interviewed about the workplace conditions to come forward, promising them a "professional interview setting outside of the 911 Center."

Any "allegations of wrongdoing and inappropriate workplace culture" will be taken seriously, Derrer wrote. He notes that Giordano has been thoroughly briefed on the process and is "committed to cooperating fully."

It is not clear what triggered the letter.

Gardner, the spokeswoman, said there were no formal complaints filed with the personnel services department to prompt the memo.

In an e-mail Wednesday afternoon, Derrer referred to the undertaking as a "climate survey."

"Something of this nature is not uncommon," he wrote. "It is a means of talking with employees and gauging the pulse of a department or organization."

Derrer added that it has been brought to his attention that there may be some 911 employees who want to discuss the department's operations.

"As county manager, it is imperative that I am responsive to such information," he said. "Thus, a memo was sent to 911 Center employees inviting them to share with personnel services any matters of interest to them."