WIUM Tristates Public Radio

LeeComm Director Speaks Out Against Criticism

Apr 20, 2016

Diana Fincher-Smith took over as the director of LeeComm in 2012. She said during the past four years, she has tried to create an atmosphere of fairness and equality for the people working at Lee County's centralized emergency dispatch center.

"I feel that the biggest thing that I tried to come in here and do is I sat and visited with all the dispatchers when I first started and I heard a lot of them talking about things had not been fair," said Fincher-Smith. "So I've always tried to be very fair and very consistent among employees so everyone is treated equally,"

"Anytime a (new) situation presents itself where we had a similar situation, I review the facts and treat it as I have in the past. I spend a lot of time doing that kind of things so everyone is treated equally. Beyond that, I always have an open door policy. They are able to come in here at any times and talk about any issues they might have."

It appears, though, that Fincher-Smith's leadership approach is not working for LeeComm's dispatchers.

A letter dated April 14, 2016 and signed by ten dispatchers was sent to members of LeeComm's oversight board. They wrote in the letter that Fincher-Smith and Administrative Dispatcher Marla Hemmie lacked leadership and decision-making ability and that they took a vote of no confidence in them.

The dispatchers want the oversight board to dissolve Hemmie's position and review Fincher-Smith's job performance, based on input from the dispatchers.

Fincher-Smith said during an interview with Tri States Public Radio this week that she thought the relationship she and Hemmie had with the dispatchers was going well.

"Marla and I are both dedicated to LeeComm," said Fincher-Smith. "I've been in public safety for 19 years. I was a dispatcher for 15 years in the Burlington Police Department. I didn't come here to not try to make a difference. It's important to me to strive to always be better."

"I didn't have supervisory experience when I came here, so I kind of hit the ground running and had to learn as I go. I'm not perfect, but I am willing to continue to do whatever I can to make myself a better supervisor and make the center better for the public."

Fincher-Smith said she was at a training session in Des Moines when she learned of the letter through an article in a local newspaper. She said, Tuesday morning, that she did not see the actual letter until viewing it on Tri States Public Radio's website after her interview.

Fincher-Smith said she's worried about how the letter might affect the effort to renew LeeComm beyond its current expiration date of June 30, 2016. She believes the idea of the letter might not have originated with the dispatchers, though she would not go into further detail.

"It's just unfortunate that there are a few people influenced or encouraged by people, I think, from outside LeeComm, who are trying hard to undermine our hard work and dedication here to our organization," said Fincher-Smith.

The head of the LeeComm oversight board said the claims will be investigated.