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Board kills Bridgett’s plan, amends to seek 3rd party for study

Leonardtown, MD- On Tuesday, Nov. 7, dozens of members of the St. Mary’s Volunteer Fire and EMS community gathered in silent protest at the Board of County Commissioner’s meeting. The issue on the table--a request to have an outside, third-party agency conduct an investigation into the inner workings of the county’s Emergency Services and Technology (ES&T) Department.

The new motion authorized her to seek a third party organization with expertise in Emergency Services to conduct the investigation, including a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. If Bridgett is unable to find an organization to conduct the investigation, she is then authorized to spend up to $25,000 on an outside consultant. That motion was passed.

St. Mary’s County Administrator Dr. Rebecca Bridget submitted a motion to budget no more than $25,000 for an outside consultant agency. The motion was killed after two commissioners voted in favor and two were opposed.

Dr. Bridget’s motion followed the Emergency Services Committee's demand to conduct an investigation into the alleged mismanagement of the ES&T Department.
Commissioner Mike Hewitt [R- District 2] said he could understand the benefit of having an outside consultant who would prioritize and expedite the process and offer an unbiased opinion. However, he staunchly opposed spending $25,000 of taxpayer money. Hewitt opposed the motion.

Commissioner Tom Jarboe [R - District 1] said he’s concerned after hearing complaints about a hostile work environment and blatantly said, “People don’t trust the government.” Jarboe believes any investigation carried out by anyone other than an outside agency wouldn’t offer the public a transparent investigation. He voted in favor of the motion.

Commissioner John O’Connor [R -District 3] previously told TheBayNet.com he also believed the investigation should be handled by an outside consultant. However, when it came time to vote in favor of that plan, he was opposed. O’Connor went on to say Fire and EMS chiefs have been raising concerns since 2012 and admits there is a disconnect between the volunteer community and the county government. “We have a responsibility to handle this,” O’Connor stated. He suggested looking for other ways of investigating the allegations without spending any taxpayer money.

O’Connor also called for a review of the possible restructuring and reorganization of the Emergency Services in the county.

Commissioner President Randy Guy [R] also voted in favor of the motion, stating, “We need to put this to rest with a third party investigation.”

Commissioner Todd Morgan [R - District 4] was not present for the meeting.

During the meeting, Commissioner Jarboe also raised his concerns over the merger of the departments of Emergency Services and Technology. After the meeting, Jarboe spoke with TheBayNet.com. “At this point in time, there’s no trust with anyone in this room with county government. Even if we did a personnel change or a policy change people would still say ‘there was a problem and you didn’t do an independent study so they’re trying to hide something.’ We’re going to be right back here doing the same motion in a few months.”

Shawn Davidson, chief of the Lexington Park Volunteer Rescue Squad, has been pushing for improvements within the ES&T Department and its relationship with the volunteer community. Davidson said he wasn’t surprised by the vote, even by Commissioner O’Connor. “My impression is he didn’t vote in favor of it because it didn’t do what we needed it to do, not because he’s not being supportive.”

Davidson went on to say he believes Commissioner O’Connor also realizes the county already has the information it needs and it isn’t necessary to pay an outside company to find it. “We already have it, we just haven’t done what we need to do with the information we have.”

Davidson also noted an open line of communication between the volunteer community and the County Commissioners could greatly improve the issues that need fixed. “I think the best way to fix the underlying problem is to communicate and trust that the commissioners are going to support the things we need because they respect the fact that we know what we’re talking about.”

Instead of passing the motion submitted by Bridgett, Commissioner Hewitt presented an alternative solution. He moved for a motion that falls back in the lap of Bridgett.

The new motion authorized her to seek a third party organization with expertise in Emergency Services to conduct the investigation, including a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. If Bridgett is unable to find an organization to conduct the investigation, she is then authorized to spend up to $25,000 on an outside consultant. That motion was passed.

Contact Joy Shrum at j.shrum@thebaynet.com

Click here to read the demands from the Emergency Services Committee

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