WIUM Tristates Public Radio

LeeComm Dispatchers: No Confidence in Director, Administrative Dispatcher

Apr 13, 2016

The future of Lee County's centralized emergency dispatch center is up in the air, in part because of the city of Keokuk's concerns about the day-to-day operations of the facility. It now appears those concerns are being echoed by the employees of LeeComm.

The LeeComm dispatchers, who are part of PPME Local 2003, state in a letter dated April 14, 2016 that they have no confidence in LeeComm Director Diana Fincher-Smith and Administrative Dispatcher Marla Hemmie due to the “poor working environment they have created, their lack of leadership and their inability to make smart, logical and reasonable decisions that affect this organization and ultimately the Lee County community.”

The dispatchers wrote in the letter, which was obtained by Tri States Public Radio, that they:

“...have other artifacts that support these allegations should the board request them. In due course, the dispatchers no longer have confidence in Director Fincher-Smith’s or Administrative Dispatcher Hemmie’s ability to lead from the position they were hired to perform.

"Prior to this letter, dispatchers have exhausted verbal complaints over the last three years to the chain of command. These reports have been taken and acknowledged yet remedies and unilateral practice have not come to execution. Many of the suggestions by the dispatchers have failed to halt bad decision making by the Director/Administrative Dispatcher.

“The dispatchers contend that the Director and Administrative Dispatcher are ineffectual, non-communicative and unsuccessful. We also contend that management exerts control by using intimidation as an official overseeing public safety in Lee County to thwart critical thinking within the center.

“Director Fincher-Smith has created an environment that has attacked the morale of the center and has been detrimental in the productivity and success of the organization. Many dispatchers have been afraid to file complaints about her for fear of retaliation. Director Fincher-Smith has created a hostile work environment at times by turning dispatchers against one another."

The LeeComm dispatchers want the organization’s oversight board to take action regarding the letter. It includes immediately removing Hemmie from the dispatch center and dissolving her position and interviewing each dispatcher as part of a formal review of Fincher-Smith.

The letter was signed by 10 dispatchers.

It appears to be in line with concerns raised by the city of Keokuk in regards to the day-to-day operations at the emergency dispatch center. Keokuk says it will not remain part of the organization unless more is done to address the quality of the service being provided.

LeeComm’s oversight board met on April 7, 2016, but it did not discuss the proposed agreement to extend the emergency dispatch center beyond June 30, 2016. Instead, it set its next meeting for May 19, just six weeks before the LeeComm agreement expires.

FOIA REQUESTS

The “no-confidence” letter from the dispatchers follows Keokuk sending out its own letter to 18 different local governments connected to LeeComm.

The city's letters were dated April 7, 2016 and signed by Mayor Tom Marion. The list of recipients includes the Lee County Board of Supervisors, the Fort Madison Police Department, and every incorporated city in the county other than Keokuk.

The city used the letters to ask each agency or individual for all correspondence regarding LeeComm, the dispatch center, and the agreement creating it dating back 12 months. Keokuk would like to have the information in hand by Friday, April 22.

City Administrator Aaron Burnett said the information is needed to help Keokuk decide whether to remain a member of LeeComm beyond June 30, 2016.

The letter also asks a series of questions for the recipients to answer.

  • What recourse does an entity have in the future if it would like to exit the agreement?
  • How could it do so and would it terminate the entire 28E agreement?
  • How is the 28E agreement itself terminated?
  • What action(s) do you think LeeComm will take if an entity does not sign the proposed agreement?
  1. How do you understand such an event would effect dispatch services to the entity that does not sign the agreement?
  2. Do you believe that the levy could still be raised, both in general and against that non-signing community?
  3. If raised, for what would the levy money be spent?