EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter was sent to the Banner shortly after this week’s edition was completed. In the interest of informing our readers promptly of Dorchester County Council Member Lenny Pfeffer’s concerns and suggestions, we are publishing it online. UPDATE - Acting County Manager Donna Lane has confirmed the vote was as follows: In favor of exit interviews were Council Members Ricky Travers (District 3) and Lenny Pfeffer (District 4); Opposed were William Nichols (District 2), Libby Nagel (District 5) and Jay Newcomb (District 1). We have also confirmed that Lt. Kathy Jo Marvel resigned today. The only supervisor now at Dorchester Emergency Medical Services is Acting Director Dozia Rahilly.
To the Editor:
During a recent county council meeting, two citizens stood up and expressed concern about our county employees, especially our Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers. I replied to them expressing my concern and told them we would be looking into this issue. I assured them that if they called 911 with a medical issue, an ambulance would arrive. After that meeting, I was contacted by many more citizens with the same concern. That led me to act further.
In an effort to find the root of why so many employees were resigning, I had the thought of doing exit interviews with any county employee who submits a resignation. I also thought of contacting any employee who has resigned since January 1, and ask if they would like to provide some insight as well.
Just so you know, a single councilperson cannot issue a directive to the county manager, a department head or any county employee. We can request generic information individually, but not tell them to take action on any policy or procedure. The county charter identifies that all department heads and employees take direction from the county manager. This only makes sense for any successful organization or business. Any employee should only have one supervisor to take direction from.
With that being said, I submitted a request to the acting county manager to request the council be polled to allow exit interviews be conducted with those employees who had resigned. She promptly contacted all council members by phone, which is an allowable method to gain an answer on items mostly of administrative information when a council meeting is not within a few days. The next day she contacted me stating the council voted not to conduct exit interviews by a 3 to 2 vote.
This was very disappointing. How can we correct a problem when we don’t have the facts? Our county staff is advising me that this is an issue they have seen in the past, that these issues run in cycles which often follow a newly elected council, or new appointments in department heads. I can understand that to a point. It still does not stop me from being concerned about the safety of our citizens and our employees.
It has come to my attention that our county EMS workers, especially our Advanced Life Support providers, are being forced to work mandatory 12-hour shifts, beyond their normal 24-hour shift. Sometimes they don’t get told until a few minutes before they are scheduled to get off work. Having been a career firefighter and emergency medical technician, I understand the occasional instance when your oncoming worker gets sick and no one can be found. But this situation is happening continuously and is getting worse each month.
So are the mandatory 36-hour shifts the reason we are losing people? Is it the pay? The benefits? I don’t know and that is why I wanted exit interviews. Taking all of this into consideration, I am asking that any county employee who has submitted a letter of resignation since I took office in December, 2018, feel free to voluntarily submit a letter of explanation to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I do not want and will not take into consideration anonymous letters, but will promise my discretion as to the facts that you present. I am looking for constructive criticism of your department and your position. Please help me bring to light ways we can recruit and retain quality employees. Please also give me a simple one or two sentence reason for your resignation that I can share with your permission, without my using your name.
Our county employees are our most valuable asset. They will burn out and break down just like our equipment if we don’t take care of them. Please help me to understand why this is happening, so we can make Dorchester County the place our employees retire from, not resign!
Dorchester County Council Member (District 4)