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Cause for 911 scrutiny unclear
Files don't show signs of conflict
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Forsyth County News


Common workplace gripes aside, a review of personnel files sheds little light on why the Forsyth County 911 Center director was stripped last week of her voting power on the facility's advisory board.

In response to an open records request, the Forsyth County News reviewed the file of Pat Giordano, whose department appears to have drawn the scrutiny of county leaders.

While officials have stopped short of calling the matter an investigation, center employees have been invited to discuss with County Manager Doug Derrer any matters they feel should be brought to his attention.

According to one county commissioner, at least 27 current or former 911 Center employees have taken the offer, which Derrer has described as a "climate survey."

Giordano, who has served as the center's director since 2004, reports to Derrer. She could not be reached for comment Friday.

Giordano will stay on the 911 center advisory board as a non-voting member, after the county commission on Tuesday first considered removing her from the panel.

None of the documents in her personnel file cover the allegation, which surfaced during discussion of the advisory board, that the center lacks policies and procedures for employees.

At least one document, however, points to the 911 Center being a high-stress environment.

In a March 3 memo to Giordano, Derrer addressed an E-911 training seminar presented to employees in January.

"My understanding is that the basis for choosing this training was based upon health concerns of staff," Derrer wrote. "If stress is of concern and begins to affect the performance of any employees that are assigned to highly stressful jobs, there are numerous anti-stress assistance programs available from various county government services."

It appears Derrer took issue with the seminar, which was at no cost to the county, because the presenter promoted her products during the session.

He suggested that health concerns related to the stress of working at the center would be better handled by distributing information about the availability of county resources.

In a Feb. 18 memo to 911 Center employees, Derrer invited them to set up appointments to talk with him and wrote that any "allegations of wrongdoing and inappropriate workplace culture" would be taken seriously.

The interviews would be conducted in a professional setting outside of the center, according to the memo.

Derrer also noted that Giordano has been thoroughly briefed on the process and is "committed to cooperating fully."

It remains unclear what triggered the memo.

County spokeswoman Jodi Gardner said there had been no formal complaints filed with the personnel services department to prompt the letter.

Last week, Derrer said only that it had been brought to his attention that there may be some employees who want to discuss the department's operations.

Regardless, it appears the situation has nothing to do with an unusual 10-minute disruption in radio communication on Nov. 30.

The brief service interruption in November, which officials say wasn't the county's fault, meant authorities had to communicate by other means.

AT&T quickly rectified the issue, which involved a power failure, officials have said.

The 911 Center, which handles calls for the local fire department, sheriff's office and emergency medical services, is on the bottom level of the Forsyth County Public Safety Complex.

Pat Carson, human resources director, said the 911 Center has 45 positions and there are currently 36 full-time employees.

She said Giordano is protected by civil service, which allows employees to appeal any disciplinary action against them, as well as termination.

In a discussion following Tuesday's vote, Commissioner Todd Levent said the center has no policies or procedures in place and that some employees don't know their daily duties.

Although his wife works as a 911 dispatcher, Levent has said he did not feel it necessary to recuse himself Tuesday because she is not in a supervisory position nor has she filed a complaint.

Indeed, a review of Dana Levent's personnel file showed no direct conflict between her and Giordano.

Todd Levent has also said he was told at least 27 people have either set up appointments or participated in interviews.

Giordano has said there are policies in place for handling fire, law enforcement and emergency medical services calls.

A 2005 resolution creating the advisory board shows that it consists of Forsyth County's sheriff and fire chief, the Cumming police chief, county manager, 911 Center director and a representative of the emergency medical services company contracted with the county.

The resolution also gives the county manager "final authority and governance over the Forsyth County 911 Center Advisory Board and any of its recommendations, assistance and services."

In addition to removing Giordano's voting power Tuesday, the county commission added a commissioner and a citizen stakeholder, both of whom will be decided at a later date, to the advisory group.