County to sep­a­rate 911 and IT

Kelly to re­main head of St. Mary’s tech­nol­ogy depart­ment de­spite calls from ‘mob’ for his ouster

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JA­SON BABCOCK jbab­cock@somd­news.com

The St. Mary’s County Depart­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices and Tech­nol­ogy, which over­sees lo­cal 911 com­mu­ni­ca­tions, was split back into two sep­a­rate of­fices by a unan­i­mous com­mis­sioner de­ci­sion on Tues­day.

Bob Kelly, chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer of the com­bined depart­ment, will keep his job ti­tle but will head St. Mary’s County gov­ern­ment’s in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy of­fice. The St. Mary’s County Emer­gency Ser­vices Com­mit­tee and other vol­un­teer first re­spon­ders have crit­i­cized Kelly’s man­age­ment of the depart­ment and called for his sus­pen­sion fol­low­ing con­tin­ued com­mu­ni­ca­tions is­sues.

Steve Walker, the deputy di­rec­tor of the emer­gency ser­vices and tech­nol­ogy depart­ment, will

be the in­terim di­rec­tor of the emer­gency ser­vices of­fice. The com­mis­sion­ers now will have to bud­get for a per­ma­nent di­rec­tor for that sep­a­rate depart­ment.

The emer­gency ser­vices com­mit­tee also al­leged there was po­lit­i­cal pa­tron­age and pro­tec­tion over Kelly by two of the county com­mis­sion­ers — Todd Mor­gan (R) and Tom Jar­boe (R) — as they all had worked for the same de­fense con­trac­tor years ago.

Mor­gan, who was out of town last week with the South­ern Mary­land Navy Al­liance, said Tues­day there are “lots of sto­ries and ru­mors out there.”

Com­mis­sioner John O’Con­nor (R) also re­futed what he called false in­for­ma­tion spread on

the lo­cal ra­dio and on so­cial me­dia.

Mor­gan said that he was “be­ing thrown un­der the bus for pa­tron­age along with Com­mis­sioner Jar­boe,” which he de­nied.

Kelly was hired by St. Mary’s County gov­ern­ment in Oc­to­ber 2001. Mor­gan wasn’t elected as com­mis­sioner un­til 2010 and Jar­boe was elected in 2014.

“I don’t know where the pa­tron­age is,” Mor­gan said.

Mor­gan pointed to for­mer com­mis­sioner Larry Jar­boe who came up with the idea to merge the in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy depart­ment with emer­gency ser­vices, which hap­pened in fis­cal 2012.

Kelly agreed to head the com­bined depart­ment for a raise of $2,000, Mor­gan said. “Big whoop, but Kelly took it and he as­sumed both jobs along the way,” Mor­gan said.

But with the re­cent calls to sus­pend Kelly as di­rec­tor or to even re­move him from the job, Mor­gan said, St. Mary’s County is not Salem, Mass., in colo­nial times “when we burn some­one at the stake.”

The depart­ment heads have to have faith in the county com- mis­sion­ers, who hire them, Mor­gan said — faith that they won’t be fired when peo­ple get mad at the di­rec­tors. “That’s a hell of a lousy way to run a busi­ness,” Mor­gan said.

“I’m not throw­ing any­body un­der the bus de­spite what the mob may want to hear,” he said.

Mor­gan made the mo­tion to sep­a­rate the two de­part­ments and put Kelly back in charge of the IT depart­ment, which was sup­ported 5-0.

Com­mis­sioner Mike He­witt (R) asked, “Why is it nec­es­sary? We haven’t fin­ished the in­ves­ti­ga­tion yet. Why don’t we wait un­til we’re done?”

The de­part­ments should be sep­a­rated again, Mor­gan said, and the ac­tion would “end a lot of the ran­cor amongst the com­mu­nity.”

Tom Jar­boe said the com­bined depart­ment has been dis­cussed for the past three years. “It may seem like it’s a knee-jerk re­ac­tion but it cer­tainly isn’t,” he said.

Over­load­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties on the di­rec­tor is “stupid,” he said.

Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Randy Guy (R) said, “I think we’re on the right track. Things are go­ing to work out.”

Be­fore the mo­tion and vote was taken, O’Con­nor said there were three is­sues in emer­gency com­mu­ni­ca­tions in St. Mary’s County — the hu­man re­sources is­sue, an in­de­pen­dent anal­y­sis of the emer­gency ser­vices and tech­nol­ogy depart­ment and what ac­tu­ally hap­pened on Oct. 24.

That was the day there was a com­mu­ni­ca­tions is­sue af­fect­ing first-re­spon­der pagers. That morn­ing there was also a CPR call for an in­fant in Lex­ing­ton Park. The 10-day-old boy not did sur­vive even though first re­spon­ders were on the scene within seven min­utes.

“This board has no clue what hap­pened that day,” O’Con­nor said. He said there is still “hor­ri­ble ra­dio re­cep­tion” for first re­spon­ders in­side of build­ings.

“I’m tired of hear­ing the dif­fer­ent sto­ries. It’s ridicu­lous at this point. If you know what the prob­lem is, you fix it,” he said.

O’Con­nor wanted Kelly out as di­rec­tor. But with the fin­ger point­ing and mis­in­for­ma­tion on the ra­dio and in so­cial me­dia, “it’s just child­ish at this point,” the com­mis­sioner said.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The all-Repub­li­can board of county com­mis­sion­ers, Tom Jar­boe, top left, John O’Con­nor, Mike He­witt, Todd Mor­gan and Randy Guy, pres­i­dent.

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