Port Deposit's mayor, Robert Flayhart, has been fired from his $30,000-a-year Cecil County job because of time he missed at work while dealing with a town emergency caused by the potential collapse of a retaining wall on Main Street last week. County commissioners will meet March 2 to decide on his grievance over the dismissal.
Flayhart was notified Feb. 12 of his firing by his supervisor, Patrick Conway, the director of the county's Office of Permits and Inspection. Flayhart was an inspector of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems being placed in new homes.
"I was going through all kinds of stuff last week," Flayhart said yesterday, explaining why he didn't call the county on three days to say he was not coming in. He missed work Feb. 10, 11 and 12 without reporting.
Asked why he never called, Flayhart responded: "It was very hectic here. It's hard to say. It's real hard to say right now."
Flayhart, who was elected mayor eight months ago, said he was dealing with the threat of the collapse of a retaining wall on the steep rock face behind Town Hall. If the wall had collapsed, there was the possibility of damage to about 15 homes along Main and High streets.
"I was here taking care of this situation," Flayhart said during an interview at Town Hall. "The county said I didn't have proper authorization or a good reason to be away."
"If he's being fired for dealing with the town situation, that doesn't seem valid," said Donald Poist, a former mayor of Port Deposit and a town councilman. "The county knew what he was doing. They had all their people on site and their emergency operation center bus. It's embarrassing to terminate under these circumstances, if that's the only reason."
Flayhart said the wall, which climbs a hill behind homes on Main Street to High Street and then onto the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center property, seems to be stabilized. He said the engineering company involved in most of the work estimates that it will cost $1.3 million to repair the wall, make improvements to High Street and replace a one-lane bridge on High Street.
Nelson K. Bolender, president of the Cecil County Board of Commissioners, said state law prohibits him from commenting on personnel issues.
He said, however, that the commissioners are scheduled to meet March 2 to vote on a recommendation from the county regarding Flayhart's employment. The discussion of Flayhart's situation will be private, he said, but the vote will be public.
Conway said he will recommend that Flayhart be dismissed. He declined to comment further.
Bolender said there is a grievance procedure for people who believe they have been wronged and that Flayhart is following that procedure. "The grievance committee may come back to us and say, `Hire him back,' or they go along with the firing. We would have to act again on their recommendation," Bolender said.
Flayhart acknowledged that he has been away from work for a number of days over the past year, but he couldn't say how many. He said he used vacation days and personal leave days to cover those absences, some of which involved meetings related to town business.
"I was doing what I felt I needed to do," he said. "Now I will have to see what the outcome is."