NEW CUMBERLAND - The director of the Hancock County 911 Center defended her record to county commissioners this week after apparently coming under fire for unspecified complaints.
At this week's commissioners' meeting, longtime Director Tracy Lemley spoke up in her defense and marshaled the support of several first-responders from Hancock County.
"I have a great deal of support behind me," she told commissioners, referring to department heads who attended the meeting at her request.
Lemley would not offer specifics but said there was "an incident last month with 911" that brought complaints from some quarters about her or dispatchers' performance.
In an interview, Lemley said, "There was an incident that had happened ... where I was told that we needed to work on building better relations with the outside agencies."
As director, Lemley is the chief liaison between the 911 Center and first-responders in Hancock County. The center takes calls and dispatches for six volunteer fire departments, the Weirton Fire Department, three police departments and the Hancock County Sheriff's Department.
Lemley said a "handful" of people had gone to the Weirton Fire Department "making statements that they didn't feel I was doing this or that right."
Weirton Fire Chief Jerry Shumate attended the commissioners' meeting and read from a prepared statement in support of Lemley.
Shumate said there were some "glaring issues a while back" but that they had since been taken care of. "The working relationship with the 911 system and (first-responders) is greatly improved," he said.
Joe Polgar of the New Cumberland Ambulance Service also spoke in defense of Lemley. In addition, Lemley said she had the support of Weirton Police Chief Bruce Marshall and retired Hancock County sheriff's Sgt. Tim Wansack, the criminal justice instructor at the John D. Rockefeller IV Career Center.
"The goal ... was to let the commissioners know that their 911 director has the support that they have been asking her to get," Lemley said. "I was asked to get a good working relationship put together for the first-responders and to make myself available to them if they had issues."
Whatever Lemley's purpose, her presentation apparently did not go over well with commissioners, one of who confessed to being "befuddled" when it was over.
"This came as a complete surprise to myself and the commissioners," said Thomas Zielinsky, executive director of the county's Office of Technology and Communications.
Zielinsky, Lemley's immediate supervisor, said the commissioners' meeting "was not the proper venue or forum for her to come in and garner support. We try to deal with (personnel) issues as best we can and as privately as we can."
Lemley's remarks would have been better received had they not been made in a public meeting, he said.
Zielinsky also would not comment on the nature of the complaints, except to say that they were internal issues involving a dispatcher or dispatchers.
"The 911 Center can become a volatile place, so we try to maintain a strict environment in regards to professionalism," he said. "People's lives are at stake, as is the safety of first-responders. It's very important that we run a tight ship."
The 911 Center employs 11 full-time dispatchers, as well as some part-time dispatchers. Lemley is responsible for their training and the day-to-day operations of the center.
Lemley has a long history with the department, being hired as a part-time dispatcher in 1986 and becoming a full-time dispatcher in 1988. The commissioners hired her as director in 2004.
Zielinsky said Lemley's status as director is not under review.