CHIPLEY — A Washington County resident questioned a county commissioner’s request for a job description during Thursday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting in Chipley.
Skyla Carter of Chipley told the commissioners she had concerns about county interviewing policies that were raised when she requested emails of county officials through the Florida Sunshine Law.
In the e-mails, Commissioner Lynn Gothard asked Heather Finch, former human resources director for the county, to send her a copy of the public safety director job description, but to send it to a different email account.
Currently the county does not have a public safety director, since the retirement of Roger Hagan in December.
“I was concerned about the email being sent to a different address,” Carter said. “I had made a request for all emails about the public safety director position, and I was wondering if there were any emails I didn’t receive.
Gothard said she knew what Carter was talking about.
“I sent Heather an email asking her to send a copy of the job description to me,”
Her husband, Washington County Fire Chief Al Gothard, has many professional contacts and he would be able to spread the word that the county was looking for a public safety director. “He knows several qualified professionals and he could pass on the information to them,” Gothard said.
The job description and advertisement of the job opening had already been published, Gothard said. “We were wanting to get as broad a selection of candidates as possible, there was nothing underhanded about the email.”
Gothard said at the meeting on Thursday that she “in no way got involved in the hiring process during the search for a public safety director.”
However, according to a March 22 letter written by Emergency Management employee Connie Welch to Lynne Abel, emergency management coordinator, Gothard had plans to create a public safety director position and she had a person in mind to hire for that job.
“Soon after the election, Washington County Fire Chief Gothard was in my office and advised me of his and his wife’s plan for a Public Safety Division Director and he and his wife had the perfect person for the position in mind,” Welch wrote.
According to a letter to the board from Grant Coordinator Stacy Webb, dated March 27, Gothard had approached Carol Park and Webb on March 12 wanting to see the applications for the Public Safety Position.
“She was very demanding and came across as being forceful,” Webb wrote. “Carol and I looked at each other for a couple of seconds and after a brief hesitation, we reluctantly acknowledged her request and Carol escorted her into her office where the applications were kept in a safe and I proceeded to my office.”
According to the county attorney, applications for county jobs are public records and, minus social security numbers and health-related information, they are open to public inspection.
Also at Thursday’s meeting, the commissioners voted to rescind an earlier vote and move the Emergency Medical Services department out from under the purview of the public safety director.
At the Jan. 24 board meeting, it was Commissioner Gothard who made the motion to move the Emergency Medical Services back under the public safety director’s control per the county’s Proposed Progressive Governmental Structure chart, approved in 2008. After discussion, the commissioners voted at the January meeting to make the move, with Commissioner Joel Pate voting against the change.
On the organizational chart, in 2008 the EMS is listed under the Public Safety director, but in 2009 the chart was revised and EMS was moved out to be a department on its own.
The public safety director’s job description for the director’s position was to revert back to the old description and the job was to be re-advertised, per the commissioners’ decision, the board decided on Thursday.