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Nye ousted as CRS director

October 25, 2002|by TARA REILLY AND ALURA ERNDE

tarar@herald-mail.com

laurae@herald-mail.com

Community Rescue Service Executive Director J. Michael Nye said Thursday night that he was let go after two years in the position and today is his last day on the job.

Nye, 59, said the CRS Board of Directors voted 6-2 at its Oct. 16 meeting to give him 24 hours to resign or be terminated with two weeks notice.

The board did not give him a reason for being ousted, he said.

Former CRS President Ron Horn and Hagerstown City Councilwoman Penny Nigh were the two board members who voted against Nye's force departure.

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Nye, who is also on the board, was voted out of the meeting so the remainder of the board could discuss his termination, he said.

After he had heard of the developments, Nye said he chose to submit a letter of resignation that asked for an additional 90 days, but the letter was rejected by the board. He had asked for the 90 days so CRS would have time to find and train a replacement, he said.

"I'm being treated like I belong to al-Qaida," said Nye, who also said the board was trying to "get me out of there as quickly as possible."

Nigh was hired for the $60,000-a-year position about two years ago to help with CRS fund-raising problems.

CRS has a budget of about $2.2 million, Nye said.

"The board felt it was time for a change," Board member and Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said.

"I think he got everyone's attention to the conditions at CRS. He did focus a good deal of attention on CRS and was successful," Breichner said.

Under Nye's lobbying, the city and county governments each gave the financially troubled ambulance company $50,000.

But Breichner said Nye never followed through with developing a three-year business plan for the ambulance company as the county had requested.

Nye said he did create plans and submitted them to the county.

Nye failed to work with the Washington County Hospital to solve billing issues, Breichner said. The board thinks CRS could have a higher collection rate with the hospital's help.

Board members could not understand Nye's accounting methods, Breichner said. The company got three months behind on its mortgage payments, yet not long after had enough money to buy a $200,000 rescue vehicle.

Nye's outspokenness and strong personality sometimes got him into trouble. Hagerstown city officials were annoyed that he constantly criticized them in his requests for money, Breichner said.

He ruffled some feathers when he sought to convince county officials to divide state grants to rescue companies based on the number of calls they receive instead of giving every group the same amount.

Recently, a majority of volunteers and paid ambulance drivers signed a petition asking the board to remove Nye.

"There was a groundswell. I just don't believe the regular people down there enjoyed working under his direction," Breichner said.

Breichner said Nye's unwillingness to work with the newly elected board president, Terry Gearhart, was the primary reason he voted to oust him.

Gearhart could not be reached for comment.

Nye said he was successful in what he had been hired to do, which was turning CRS' financial problems around.

"I've been pretty much the bad guy because I was brought in to try to get a handle on what was going on," Nye said. "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs."

Nye said the company had been on the financial upswing and seeing positive cash flows, news he delivered to the board moments before it voted to oust him.

"I was hired to do a job, and I did it," Nye said. "The facts speak for themselves."

Nigh, who voted against ousting Nye, said CRS was in good financial shape.

"The current financial situation now is about the soundest that it has been," Nigh said.

Nigh said she couldn't get into the details of the Nye's termination because the discussion was held in executive session, but she opposed it because she didn't think some situations were handled properly.

County Director of Emergency Services Joe Kroboth said after the county gave CRS $50,000 and after the company had laid off employees in January, CRS' financial shape began to turn around. He said CRS was able to finish the fiscal year with a $115,000 cash reserve that was to be used for equipment replacements.

Nye said he plans to go back to being a full-time business consultant, a job he held prior to working for CRS.

"Now I'm going to go back to the real world and get my act together," he said. "It's all going to work itself out."

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