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Jefferson Co. director of communications facing ethics woes

July 06, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Jefferson County's director of communications has acknowledged he violated a state ethics act by using a county-issued vehicle for personal travel and trying to use his position to obtain favorable treatment from a police officer, according to West Virginia Ethics Commission documents.

Jeff Polczynski, who oversees the county's 911 system, has been ordered to reimburse the Jefferson County Commission $1,000 for use of the vehicle and pay a $1,500 fine to the state ethics commission, according to the documents.

Jefferson County issued Polczynski a 2006 Dodge Durango for his job. The Durango is an emergency vehicle that can be used at the scene of emergencies, according to the documents. Polczynski assumed he could use the vehicle for personal reasons, since he might be required to respond to an emergency when he was on personal time and out of the area, according to a conciliation agreement between Polczynski and the ethics commission.

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Polczynski repeatedly used his county vehicle for personal reasons in 2007 and 2008, including trips out of state, according to the agreement.

On Feb. 10, 2007, Polczynski drove his county vehicle to the Skate Frederick hockey rink and shortly after leaving the rink, he was stopped by a Frederick, Md., police officer for erratic driving, the agreement states.

When the officer asked Polczynski for his telephone number, Polczynski instead offered his business card and said that he was the head of 911 for Jefferson County, documents state.

The officer told Polczynski to keep his business card and again asked Polczynski for his telephone number.

"Jeffrey Polczynski then asked, 'What about professional courtesy?' He repeated this question throughout the remainder of the encounter," the documents state.

Polczynski, who also drove his county vehicle to his court appearance in Frederick on April 17, 2007, now understands that he should no longer use the county vehicle for personal travel, according to the agreement.

In the agreement, Polczynski acknowledges that he should not have used his public office for personal gain and that he violated the state Ethics Act by using a county vehicle for personal travel and failing to reimburse the county.

Polczynski did not return two phone messages Monday.

Jefferson County Commission President Dale Manuel declined to comment on the case without first talking to a county attorney.

According to the conciliation agreement, the county never defined any policy or limitation regarding the use of Polczynski's county vehicle and does not have a policy explaining acceptable use of county vehicles.

Theresa Kirk, executive director of the state ethics commission, declined to say Monday how her organization found out about the case.

Last year, Polczynski was at the center of complaints over the 911 center.

Two local police chiefs said the 911 center was not checking for warrants from municipal departments, which Charles Town Police Chief Barry Subelsky said made county residents less safe. Several police chiefs also said they had concerns about the capabilities of a new multimillion-dollar 911 radio system and one chief said Polczynski does not attend meetings where issues are discussed.

Polczynski said the paper warrant lists dispatchers use for city police departments were cumbersome. He said he has been at meetings with officials to discuss 911 issues, but he likened the meetings to being at a "firing squad."

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