Talking out of school - Lebanon Daily Record : Columnist One

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Talking out of school

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Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 9:58 pm

It was a portrait of ineptitude Monday as City Council questioned their chief executive about the badly-handled firing of a key city employee Sept. 5.

The dismissal of Linda Pieper, deputy city clerk, certainly a confidential personnel matter, became public Sept. 6. A post on the Daily Record’s Public Forum said City Administrator Chris Heard was overheard at the golf course the previous evening, recounting the firing. Councilman Brian Anthony asked Heard why, once again, council learned about city business via the newspaper.

Heard first argued, ineffectively, about the timeline.

Then Heard explained that, at the country club, he was informing a city department head about the firing. He said he told other department heads earlier, presumably in the confines of city offices.

This disclosure was important, he said, because department heads often communicated with Pieper when a council meeting loomed. So he seized the moment, tee time or no tee time, to air confidential information. The next day Heard directed that council be informed by email. But the news already was on the Internet, anonymously.

Heard apologized to Council for intemperate remarks. He should also apologize to Mayor Pro Tem Esther Hurney for telling the Daily Record three days earlier that she was privy to the decision to fire Pieper, a statement Hurney refuted Monday.

As to the actual basis for the firing, no one knows what disciplinary action, if any, was warranted. Pieper’s account doesn’t indicate firing offenses. Heard won’t say why she was let go.

What we do know is this: Heard’s statement that he followed City policy “to the letter” is preposterous.

* City policy doesn’t include blabbing personnel matters at the golf course, on the tee or at the watering hole.

* Pieper did not get a hearing with Heard as required by City Code. Pieper said she was suspended with pay by letter Aug. 31 and told there would be a hearing Sept. 5. On that day, she met with City Clerk Laina Starnes and Human Resources Director Kathy Milliken and was given a termination letter signed by Heard, who did not attend. “The city administrator shall issue and cause to be delivered to the employee a notice of the charges against the employee, the nature of the evidence supporting the charges, the possible disciplinary action being contemplated, and the time and place of a meeting with the city administrator for the employee to present his/her side of the story.” [Section 2-630 (b) 5 (a)] (Emphasis supplied).

For the complete column, see today's print edition of The Daily Record, or view the e-Edition online.

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