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Board at odds over EMA position

September 9, 2012
By TOM GIAMBRONI - Staff Writer , Morning Journal News

LISBON - Columbiana County commissioners clashed at this week's meeting over whether to proceed with filling the vacant county Emergency Management Agency position.

Commissioner John Payne put forth the name of Knox Township Trustee Greg Carver, who was among the three finalists recommended for the EMA job by the review committee, but his motion to hire Carver died for lack of a second.

Payne described Carver as "very capable and well qualified," based on his lengthy career as a volunteer firefighter, his experience writing grants for the fire department, and his employment with the Ohio Department of Transportation.

"I think we need to move forward," he said of the appointment.

Commissioners Jim Hoppel and Mike Halleck indicated they were in no hurry to find a replacement for former EMA Director Darren Dodson, who resigned in July to take a job in the private sector.

The issue was first raised at their Aug. 29 meeting, which was attended by commissioner candidate Joe Csonka, who is running against Hoppel. Csonka told commissioners he heard a rumor they were going to delay replacing Dodson until 2013 despite having a number of qualified county applicants.

Hoppel told Csonka they were dissatisfied with the three finalists - Carver, a police lieutenant from Mahoning County, and a former Red Cross official - presented for their consideration by the review committee.

"They indicated to me they weren't satisfied with the three," Hoppel told Payne this week.

The review committee consist of interim EMA Director Edie Dillard; a representative from FirstEnergy, which provides most of the EMA's funding; and the local representative from the Ohio EMA assigned to the county.

Payne said the FirstEnergy representative ranked Carver first among the three finalists and indicated to him they were satisfied with their recommendations.

"Well, they're telling me something different," Hoppel said.

Hoppel said that being capable of doing the job is the most important requirement, a close second is "the ability to work with a lot of different people."

Halleck agreed, saying the review committee's recommendations were based on the people who applied for the job, and there may be others out there who are more qualified.

Halleck said he knows of some qualified people who are close to retiring and never applied the first time but might be interested in the job. He said in the private sector it is common to recruit qualified candidates to find the right person for a job rather than take applications.

"This job could be the most important job in Columbiana County, if anything should go wrong, and I'm not prepared to go forward with anyone I'm not totally comfortable with," Halleck said, adding that until then, he is satisfied with Dillard as interim director.

Hoppel said the FirstEnergy representative told him there was no need to hurry the appointment since the EMA recently completed the biennial test of its nuclear plant response plan, which is the most complicated, time-consuming function the agency performs.

Halleck said it is unfortunate politics was interjected into the process with Csonka's visit and comments, which he believes were politically motivated. Halleck and Hoppel are Republicans, while Payne, who is also up for election this year, and Csonka are Democrats.

"I take offense at the suggestion this is political," Payne said, adding later, "I initiated this because I want to get it settled."

Halleck said the EMA position should be above politics, and he is troubled that in the past Carver has seriously considered running for commissioner. Carver is a registered Democrat, according to county election board records.

Halleck asked Payne if he had spoken with Carver about the EMA job, and Payne said he had called him. "What would you say if Greg Carver called me looking for a second vote?" Halleck told him.

When asked afterword if Carver had called him about the position, Halleck demurred, stating that is not what he said.



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