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At the fiscal court meeting Tuesday, magistrates appointed a new paramedic/administrative major to Emergency Services -- a position that has been surrounded by controversy over the hiring process.
When the opening for the position was announced in May, two fiscal court magistrates, Cordy Armstrong and Allen Ruble, had allegedly stated at a public meeting that a particular employee be fired and another should be hired to provide funding for the deputy EMS director's position.
Armstrong and Ruble were scolded in open court by Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger at a subsequent fiscal court meeting for their remarks which he called "inappropriate."
Rothenburger told the Sentinel-News after the meeting in which he scolded the pair that he was appalled by their behavior because it may have compromised the hiring process for the position.
"You can't just bring someone's name into it because it creates a potential for legal liabilities against the county," he said. Armstrong and Ruble had urged that Jeff Ivers get the EMS deputy post.
At Tuesday's meeting, when Rothenburger nominated Todd Early to that position, Ruble abstained from the vote and Armstrong voted against the appointment. The final vote was 5-1. Magistrate Tony Carriss was absent. Previously magistrates had voted down 4-3 a motion by Armstrong to table Early's nomination.
Also at the meeting, magistrates made public a scathing letter from Armstrong and Ruble, addressed to fiscal court members, but aimed at Rothenburger and magistrate Betty Curstinger. The letter referred to the public chastisement, saying, "In the future, if the county judge-executive feels the need to use this fault-finding, abusive style of management with fiscal court members, the members should be informed privately of the issue before the matter comes to an open fiscal court meeting." The letter ended saying that they (Cordy and Armstrong) believe that the county judge-executive attempted to damage their connections with their voters as well as their dignity and their honor; and "Further, should this type of abusive and disrespectful behavior continue in fiscal court meetings, we must consider alternative actions."
When questioned by the newspaper about what was meant by that last statement, Ruble's only comment was, "If you'll check with some proper channels to go through and everything, you could probably discuss it with the county attorney and stuff like that."
Rothenburger said he has no idea what Ruble and Armstrong mean by "alternative actions."
Armstrong did not make a statement to the paper.
Curtsinger was also mentioned in the letter, as she was the one who had initially brought the matter to Rothenburger's attention in the first place, by showing him the minutes of the EMS meeting at which the two had made the remarks about hiring and firing county personnel.
Tuesday's letter stated that Curtsinger "lacked the courtesy of allowing us as members of the EMS Committee to review her notes for corrections before allowing them to be submitted to fiscal court in an open meeting as the official minutes of the EMS minutes."
Curtsinger said her actions were entirely correct and proper.
"Everything that was said, I wrote it down," she said. "A lot of times, people say things they wish they hadn't said, but once it's said, it's said. And they were upset because I did not give them a chance to review my notes for corrections? Well, you know, when you're taking minutes, you're taking minutes. You can't go back and take back what you said in a public meeting like that."
She added that everything that she and the judge did was done out in the open.
"The whole time, everything that was being said, I was writing it down, and they're sitting right there looking at me. And that very writing was what I took to the judge's office. I know I was doing legally what I should be doing and that's to have everything out in the open and following the administrative code."
She added that the magistrates' behavior caused the hiring procedure for the position to have to be altered for this particular position.
In an interview after the meeting, Rothenburger elaborated on the usual practice, saying that normally, a new hire would be selected by a group composed of the chairperson of the committee of his or her department, along with committee members and human resource personnel.
"But in this case, in order to reduce the liability and possible litigation of the fiscal court, I felt it was necessary to come up with a non biased, prejudicial group that knew of what was going on so we could keep our fair hiring practice in place," he said.
He added that he believes the decision to hire Early, who is a former Louisville Metro and Jefferson County EMS member, is a good one.
"He is the cream of the cream of the candidates," he said. "He's got the educational background and the experience to go along with it."
Rothenburger said that despite the discord among fiscal court members, the fiscal court has a job to do, and that's what they focused on.
"What we were able to achieve, even though there was some controversy surrounding it, I feel that we sent a message that no matter what happens, that we're going to have a fair and equitable hiring process."
PULL QUOTE:"What we were able to achieve, even though there was some controversy surrounding it, I feel that we sent a message that no matter what happens, that we're going to have a fair and equitable hiring process."
Shelby County Judge Executive Rob Rothenburger