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Restructuring moves Raco from job

March 02, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - The county planning job that Paul Raco held for more than 20 years was taken from him Thursday afternoon in a tense Jefferson County Commission meeting where three commissioners prevailed in a proposal to restructure county government.

Commissioner Dale Manuel, who was supported by Commission President Frances Morgan, tried unsuccessfully to delay action on the reorganization, and the discussion grew heated at times.

"For the life of me, I can't understand where we're going," Manuel said.

Raco's employment has led to some contentious debates since late last year when Commissioner Greg Corliss tried to dismiss Raco, who has been executive director of the Department of Planning, Zoning and Engineering.

The department oversees home building in the county, among other duties.

When he first proposed dismissing Raco, 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.

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The commissioners later backed off on dismissing Raco after an overflowing crowd of about 70 people showed up at a commission meeting in late December.

Speakers at the meeting said Raco is an expert in the county's land-use regulations and fairly applies the laws.

Attempts to make changes in Raco's office cooled off until last month when Corliss said there was a proposal to transfer Raco from his job and put him in charge of the county's building program.

That job would involve overseeing projects like construction of a new courthouse, 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.

Corliss brought up the proposal again Thursday, and there was discussion during the meeting that someone needs to be in charge of the county's building program because of the growth challenges the county is facing.

Two restructuring plans were passed by Commissioners Corliss, Rusty Morgan and Jim Surkamp.

Manuel and Frances Morgan voted against them.

Manuel said he could not believe the commission would consider such a restructuring when the county just spent $50,000 in taxpayer money for a study to determine how to best manage county government operations.

Manuel said that study needs to be reviewed first.

Manuel pleaded with his fellow commissioners to slow down and made at least three unsuccessful attempts to table the restructuring proposals.

The other restructuring plan that was passed transferred construction manager Kirk Davis from Raco's office and put Davis under the direction of Mark Schiavone, head of the county's impact fee department.

Manuel also made an unsuccessful attempt to hold a public hearing on the restructuring efforts and asked the commission to include Raco on Thursday's discussion.

The commission agreed, and Raco later walked into the meeting.

"You cannot do things in a vacuum," Manuel said.

Surkamp said there was no reason to involve Raco in the discussion.

"We can make that decision ourselves," Surkamp said.

The restructuring plans allow for a 30-day transition period, which includes coming up with job descriptions for workers including Raco.

"What are my jobs tomorrow?" Raco asked at the end of the meeting.

"Continue to march," Corliss said.

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