2 who issued warnings lose county jobs Volunteer firefighters noted shortage of emergency services

Chief, deputy are targets

Dismissals called 'totally unrelated' to their actions

November 14, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Soon after they began warning Carroll County officials that fire and ambulance services couldn't keep pace with residential development in South Carroll, the chief and deputy chief of Sykesville's volunteer fire company were fired from their county jobs.

Each learned of his dismissal indirectly, one through the mail and the other by way of a notice in his pay envelope. Neither was given an exit interview. Both say they don't know why they were discharged.

Bobby Ray Chesney, deputy chief of Sykesville-Freedom District Fire Department, who had held a part-time $10.26-an-hour job as a 911 dispatcher for four years, was fired Sept. 3, two days after The Sun reported his finding that emergency services in South Carroll were inadequate.

Chief Glenn Edward Ruch, who was a $9.36-an-hour road equipment operator in the county bureau of roads, was fired Oct. five days after the Board of Zoning Appeals approved a South Carroll development that he and Chesney had singled out as lacking emergency services.

Ruch assigned Chesney to evaluate development proposals for the county Planning and Zoning Commission, which has the authority to deny projects if emergency services are deemed inadequate.

Chesney told the planning commission in late August that the South Carroll water supply was inadequate to provide fire safety for a $3.7 million, 30,000-square-foot medical complex that Carroll County General Hospital was planning in Eldersburg Business Center.

The Sun reported Chesney's findings Sept. 1, noting that concerns about the adequacy of emergency services in South Carroll might do what government had not done, slow growth there.

Two days after the article appeared, Chesney received a letter telling him, "Your services as a 911 operator are no longer required." He received no explanation, Chesney said.

County spokeswoman Cindy Parr said no explanation was necessary. As a contractual employee, Chesney could quit or be terminated without notice and without explanation, Parr said.

Ruch's situation was similar. He began work for the county July 25 and was still in his six-month probationary period when he was let go, Parr said.

"According to our personnel policy regarding probation, a director may discharge an employee on initial probation at any time with or without cause," she said.

Ruch is the third county employee in the past two years to be fired during the six-month probationary period, Parr said.

"It's very coincidental" that he and the chief were fired within two months of "more or less pulling the curtain down" on emergency-services problems in South Carroll, Chesney said.

Parr said the dismissals were "totally unrelated" to charges made by the two about inadequate fire and rescue services. County policy prohibits the department officials who fired the pair from commenting, Parr said, because the dismissals are a "personnel matter."

Chesney, a paid firefighter in Baltimore County, said that Carroll County does not review or evaluate contractual employees but that before he became one he received "great evaluations" as a 911 dispatcher. No one faulted him for his 911 work or told him to improve, he said.

"The county paid for my training and spent a lot of money on my continuing education as a 911 dispatcher," he said. "To rTC terminate me and let all that money go down the drain is surprising.

"There was no opportunity for an exit interview, just a letter in the mail saying, Don't come back. I more or less didn't have a leg to stand on."

No one in county government criticized him for finding that emergency services were inadequate to support development in South Carroll, Chesney said, but developers did.

One "verbally chastised" him, he said. "He called me a thorn in his flesh, a stone in his shoe and told me, 'You don't know how much money you're dealing with,' " Chesney said.

Since August, Chesney has told the county planning commission -- with Ruch's approval -- that emergency services were inadequate for three development proposals, a Jiffy Lube on Route 32, a 14-unit retirement community near Liberty Reservoir and the Eldersburg medical complex.

Like Chesney, no one indicated to him that his work as a Carroll employee was not satisfactory, Ruch said. When he asked why he was being fired, the bureau chief told him, "You just didn't work out," he said. "I'm still waiting on the [County] Commissioners to let me know why," Ruch said.

Ruch said he will not speak further about his situation until he hears from the commissioners.

Pub Date: 11/14/96

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