Tuesday, Oct 21, 2014
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Mistakes force Hernando to re-post fire chief position

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Published:   |   Updated: April 1, 2014 at 06:57 PM

BROOKSVILLE - The search for a public safety director has been halted because the county failed to follow the proper advertising procedures.

County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said he asked the county administrator Tuesday to restart the process following what he called a somewhat embarrassing series of missteps in advertising the job.

Dukes said the county will now advertise for a public safety director in-house for three days, which was not done the first time and is spelled out in county policy.

Hernando Today also learned that a position requisition form, that lists the qualifications for the position before it is advertised, was not done. According to county policy, the department manager - not Human Resources - is responsible for completing that form.

Dukes said if the county had moved forward with the process, it was opening itself up to legal challenges. Bobby Rae, president of the Hernando County Professional Firefighters Union, had previously said he would file a grievance against the county if an applicant for the position was selected from outside Hernando.

"We need to stop everything and we need to fix it," Dukes said.

Dukes attributed the faulty advertising process to a "human error glitch" that was caught in time before it went any further.

Dukes also said the requirement that the applicants could have a high school diploma in lieu of a college degree will be taken out of the new advertisement. Dukes said that requirement was added by former Human Resources Director Cheryl Marsden.

However, Hernando Today obtained emails showing Marsden, who recently resigned, did not recommend that the educational requirements for the vacant public safety director position be downgraded.

Marsden was directed to do so by Assistant County Administrator Brian Malmberg, according to emails.

Marsden, contacted Monday, confirmed that Malmberg suggested the clause be inserted to include applicants who only possess a high school diploma and fire safety experience.

County Administrator Len Sossamon was copied on those emails, according to documents.

When asked about those records, Dukes said emails don't always reflect what may have transpired in actual conversations.

"An email is one thing and a conversation is another thing," he said.

The revised posting will require all applicants to possess a bachelor's degree in fire science, fire administration, public administration or other related field. In all, 39 people had applied for the position.

The new educational requirements effectively eliminate three of the local candidates for the job: Interim County Fire Chief Mike Nickerson, Assistant County Fire Chief Kevin Carroll and County District Chief Robert Miller. None of the three have four-year degrees.

Adkins said he talked to Sossamon and was assured that they can submit their application anyway because years of service in the related field could count in lieu of the degree. They may, however, be required to pursue that degree if they get the job.

"No harm, no foul," Dukes said of the re-posting.

mbates@hernandotoday.com

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