Independence Examiner, Saturday, 06/25/05

Politics behind firing?

Former county official says yes

By James Dornbrook
The Examiner

Deborah Tircuit has been fired from her position as director of the office that handles citizen complaints for the county.

In a letter to county legislators, she alleged political interference with the commission was behind her dismissal.

The Human Relations and Citizens Complaints Commission voted 5 to 1 to fire Tircuit Thursday, effective July 22, as diector of the Jackson County Office of Human Relations and Citizen Complaints.

The commission did not publicly reveal the secret vote, opting to wait the legally authorized 72 hours before making the announcement. It met in closed session, citing the personnel exemption of the Sunshine Law.

However, after the vote, Tircuit sent a letter to county legislators that discussed her firing. A letter to elected officials is a public document.

Tircuit's letter stated her belief that she was fired due to political influence being weighed against an organization that is supposed to be independent of the County Legislature and administration.

"A letter to Chairman (Roger) Davis dated March 30, 2005, demanding his resignation and (containing) the threat of withholding funding to the OHRCC is a prime example of undue political pressure and attempts to influence the operations of the OHRCC and staff," Tircuit wrote.

She stated that Legislator Dennis Waits pressured Davis during a meeting of the Legislature to get him to consider her firing. She also stated her belief that County Executive Katheryn Shields made sure the most recent appointments to the commission were in favor of removing her as director. Tircuit said the four newest appointments to the commission all voted to fire her, after attending only two meetings.

"The framers of the charter created a structure for the OHRCC they thought would provide the necessary independence. The intent was to establish a structure where the director/ombudsman is insulated from the political and administrative influences and powers from the parties it is empowered to investigate," Tircuit wrote. "Infringing on the independence of the HRCCC and the OHRCC is not in the best interest of the taxpayers of Jackson County."

To reach James Dornbrook e-mail or call (816) 350-6322.
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