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Fire and rescue investigation halted

April 19, 2001

Fire and rescue investigation halted



By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Washington County Fire and Rescue Communications Chief Ron Karn hired a private investigator last fall to check out allegations of sick leave abuse by his staff.

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County Human Resources Director Alan J. Davis said Thursday that when he learned about the investigation he halted it.

Several times in the fall of 2000, the entire 3-person shift of 911 dispatchers called in sick about 30 minutes before the start of their shift, according to Davis. He said Karn believed that stopping the problem was a matter of public safety.

At the time, employees were unhappy about a new work schedule, Davis said.

When he learned of the probe, it was stopped and the County Commissioners were later briefed, he said.

"As a rule, we don't condone surveillance of our own employees," said Davis, who said there were more appropriate ways to deal with the situation.

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He said that to his knowledge, this was the first time in 20 years that anyone in county government had hired a private investigator to probe county employees.

"It was an unfortunate situation. We hope it will never reoccur," County Administrator Rodney Shoop said.

Karn hired Cops Inc. of Hagerstown after being told by superiors to do something about the problem of employees calling in sick, Davis said.

The cost of the investigation of the three or four employees was $1,889.23, Davis said.

Those employees were told to stop abusing sick leave but no disciplinary action was taken, Davis said. Their names were not made public.

Two of the employees later resigned over the sick leave and other issues, Davis said.

Karn was told to never again hire an investigator but was not disciplined, Davis said.

Karn said Thursday he had no comment.

Davis noted the sick leave situation has not been repeated.

Invoices from Cops Inc., provided by the county, listed investigation work done on Oct. 12, Oct. 17, Oct. 20 and Nov. 7 of 2000 and billed to Karn.

Cops Inc. personnel could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the commissioners were unaware that an investigation had been undertaken.

"That is unfortunate that it happened," he said.

"I do not do business that way and I don't treat employees that way," Snook said.

Commissioner William J. Wivell said he did not approve of hiring a private investigator.

"I just thought it was inappropriate for the county to hire an investigator to investigate its own employees," Wivell said.

"It's detrimental to the morale," he said.

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