Pasco County commissioners have reorganized the leadership chart at county’s emergency call center — settling an ongoing dispute between Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and Pasco County Administrator Michele Baker.
Commissioners approved a plan on April 12 to create a new emergency services department with a communications division and emergency management division.
They promoted newly hired Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie to the new job of emergency services director. He will oversee both the 911 center’s operations and emergency management.
Lt. Dan Olds, of the sheriff’s office, will serve as assistant director of the communications division, a role he had before the reorganization.
The county will advertise for the new position of assistant director of emergency management.
Nocco favored the plan.
“Everyone seems to have hit the ground running. I look forward to seeing in the next 30 days what their evaluations are,” Nocco said. “I have full confidence in these two men.”
Nearly three weeks ago operations at the center came under renewed scrutiny due to a mishandled emergency call for a wrong-way driver and other dropped or unanswered calls.
It led to a testy commission meeting when Nocco recommended that Olds be appointed permanent director, and the county’s fire and rescue department name an assistant director.
Commissioners put off a decision for two weeks.
In the interim, Baker and Nocco sent letters to Pasco County Chairman Kathryn Starkey outlining their proposals to resolve the center’s leadership dilemma.
Baker also removed Jody Kenyon as acting director of the 911 center and placed Guthrie in that role. Guthrie previously served in Flagler County where he was in charge of both public safety communications and emergency management.
The county and sheriff’s office consolidated the center’s emergency operations in 2013.
Kenyon stepped in as acting director in 2014, when the director resigned. He remains as technical services manager.
Nocco has cited trust issues as reasons for not speaking with Baker, and leaving discussions to his staff members.
Baker has cited what she described as “half truths and inaccuracies” in Nocco’s statements.
Baker said Nocco still doesn’t speak to her.
But, there were no fireworks at the April 12 meeting.
Instead, there was a presentation and quick vote to approve the new leadership.
“I’m looking forward to seeing improvements,” said Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore.
Guthrie told commissioners in the past two weeks he already has seen faster response times on calls to the center. He plans to update commissioners on progress in 60 days.
“There’s nothing more important than having a quick response on a 911 call,” Starkey said.
The resolution was “a long time coming,” said Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano. But, he added, “I think we’re on the right path.”
Published April 20, 2016