Jefferson Co. planner accepts dismissal agreement

March 23, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - The changing face of Jefferson County government continued to evolve Thursday when former longtime county planner Paul Raco accepted a dismissal agreement that says he will resign from his job April 6, Jefferson County commissioners said.

After a closed-door meeting that included the county commissioners, Raco, Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson and Raco's attorney, Commission President Frances Morgan announced the agreement had been reached between the commissioners and Raco.

Raco, whose current job is facilities planner for the county, will work until April 6, according to the agreement.

Commissioner Jim Surkamp thanked Raco for his work in leading the county "through all its tumultuous growth" over the years.

After the meeting, Surkamp and Commissioner Dale Manuel declined to comment on Raco's dismissal.

Manuel said he accepted the agreement "with regret."

The commissioners said little about Raco's dismissal after the closed-door meeting. Raco was in the room after the executive session and the room fell silent as papers were stamped and signed.


Raco said Thursday he is proud of his accomplishments over the years and said he and his family are now moving ahead.

Commissioners and Raco declined to comment on the terms of the agreement.

Raco's employment has led to some contentious debates since late last year when Commissioner Greg Corliss tried to dismiss Raco, who was executive director of the Department of Planning, Zoning and Engineering. His annual salary was $90,700.

Corliss said last year that 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 commissioners later backed off on dismissing Raco after 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 until last month when Corliss talked about making Raco the county's facilities planner, which involved dealing with the county's office space requirements.

The proposal, which was ultimately approved by Corliss, Surkamp and Commissioner Rusty Morgan, also meant the planning department would report to the Jefferson County Planning Commission, a board whose members are appointed by the commissioners.

The planning department and the planning commission oversee residential development in the county.

Manuel asked if it was legal to have the planning commission oversee the planning department, and Jefferson County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Grove told the commission Thursday she did not believe the planning department should be managed that way.

The commissioners, however, did not make any changes to their reorganization plan.

"I don't think there's anything unusual about what we're doing," Commissioner Rusty Morgan said.

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