RINGGOLD, Ga. — Catoosa County's 911 and Emergency Management Agency director was fired for "gross insubordination" last week.
In a letter on March 11, County Manager Alicia Vaughn told Dennis Thayer that he failed to follow her orders from a November meeting. She told him four months ago to create written policies for the department, something he had not done as of last week.
She also told him to "drastically reduce" the number of training courses he was attending. In her letter, Vaughn said that Thayer had not followed this instruction. In particular, she pointed to a training session in Savannah that Thayer attended two weeks ago. She wrote that she specifically told him not to go.
"The issues within the 911 Department that were of concern in November are still of concern today and they remain uncorrected," Vaughn wrote. "The failure to address these issues indicates that the Department is without adequate supervision and is also without proper and adequate operating policies."
Thayer told the Times Free Press that Vaughn's letter does not tell the full story. He said he had cut back on the number of training sessions he attended and that he had cancelled some scheduled trips in March and April.
He said Vaughn initially rejected his request to go to Savannah because she wanted to schedule a retreat to plan the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. But, Thayer said, the county commissioners could not attend this retreat; they were going to Washington, D.C., for meetings with a national organization for local government officials. Thayer said Vaughn then gave him permission to go to Savannah. He said the conversation took place in the parking lot of the county administrative building, but he has no proof of her approval.
"I was not fired under correct, true or reasonable pretenses," he told the Times Free Press. "I shouldn't have been fired."
Thayer appealed his termination Wednesday. According to county policy, the commissioners have 15 work days to review his grievance. If they believe they need to investigate further, the commissioners have until April 2 to meet with Thayer. They could then take another 45 work days to review his claims.
Vaughn declined to comment, citing the appeal.
Thayer's time with the county was short-lived. He was hired in March 2018 after 26 years with the Cobb County Department of Public Safety, where he retired as an executive officer. He has also served as mayor of Euharlee, Georgia, and as the president of a private emergency management consulting company.
He conceded that he didn't finish writing department policies, as Vaughn told him to. But he said he was working on them, and he said the department had operated without policies before his arrival.
As for the trips out of town, he argued that the county put him in a tough position. According to the job requirements provided to him when he was hired, Thayer had two years to obtain certification from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. He had six months to become certified with the National Crime Information Center and three years to become an advanced certified emergency manager.
These requirements necessitated that he attend out-of-town classes, Thayer said.
"I've been doing a lot of training," he added. "But it was all training that was required of me."
Commission Chairman Steven Henry said Thayer seemed to be out of the office a lot, which made the lack of written policies an even more pronounced problem.
"You need policies in every department," Henry said. "Especially if you're not going to be in the office often. Your staff needs guidelines to go by. That's what protects our people."
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.