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Jefferson County considers planning department changes

February 15, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Longtime Jefferson County planning chief Paul Raco, who was at the center of a heated debate two months ago when county officials considered dismissing him, would be transferred to another job under a new proposal.

On Dec. 14, Commissioner Greg Corliss tried to dismiss Raco, which upset workers in Raco's office and inspired more than 70 people to attend a meeting where the issue was discussed.

At the time, Corliss said one of the reasons he proposed dismissing Raco from his position is because the county is developing new land-use regulations and he believes now is the time for new management in the county's planning office.

The commission backed off on the attempt to dismiss Raco after those opposed to it said the attempt was a breach of public trust and that commissioners should give Raco a chance to make changes in the way he manages the county planning office.

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Now, Raco's job is being examined again.

An item on today's county commission agenda is "discuss/take action on suggested DPZE (Department of Planning, Zoning and Engineering) reorganization."

Corliss said Wednesday night that the proposal would involve transferring Raco from his job as executive director of the Department of Planning, Zoning and Engineering and putting him in charge of the county's building program.

That job would involve overseeing projects such as construction of a new courthouse facility, Corliss said.

Under the proposal, the county's planning department staff would report to the Jefferson County Planning Commission, a board whose members are appointed by the commissioners, Corliss said.

Corliss declined to comment when asked if the proposal was another way to remove Raco from his job.

Corliss said the proposal was suggested by county resident Joe Coakley, who follows county politics.

"Nobody is fired. No one is going to lose their job," Corliss said.

County Commissioner Dale Manuel, who opposed the attempt to dismiss Raco, said Wednesday that he is surprised over the latest proposal, especially since the commission paid $50,000 for a study to determine how county government should be organized.

Now, a proposal to transfer Raco "materializes out of nowhere. It's a little bit ridiculous," Manuel said.

Raco did not immediately return a phone message left at his home Wednesday night.

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