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Westmoreland public safety director quits after 2 months on the job

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Friday, June 6, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

For the third time in two years, Westmoreland County commissioners are looking to hire a new public safety director.

After just two months on the job, Brian Jones has resigned, leaving the department — it has a $51 million budget and oversees 911 dispatching and emergency management and response — without its top executive.

“We're in a bind. I'm still shocked that after two months on the job he would be leaving,” said Commissioner Ted Kopas. “This is about as close to a crisis as you can get.”

Commissioners said Thursday they had no inkling that Jones, who earned $76,000 a year, was about to leave the position. He was promoted to lead the department just days after it gained national praise for capably handling the response to the April 9 stabbings at Franklin Regional Senior High School.

The department was lauded for its quick response when a 16-year-old student armed with two kitchen knives allegedly stabbed and slashed his way down a school hallway, injuring 20 students and a security guard.

Jones had served as interim director after the abrupt resignation in November of Michael Brooker, who headed the department for less than two years.

In October 2012, six months after Brooker was appointed to the position, commissioners hired Jones to serve as his top deputy. Jones had worked for the county's public safety department in the 1990s and was paid $7,000 more than Brooker to serve as his deputy.

When commissioners hired Jones to the director's job in April, they did not increase his salary. Commissioners also declined to give Jones status as a senior executive, a job title several other department leaders hold that gives them unlimited vacation time.

Jones said Thursday he would remain on the job through June 13. He declined comment on his salary and job title.

“I have some family matters and personal reasons, things I need to take care of,” Jones said. “My intent is to make sure there is as smooth a transition as possible.”

When he was hired, Jones was seen as the top candidate among three finalists who interviewed for the job this spring.

Commissioner Charles Anderson said he expects a replacement for Jones to be chosen from the other finalists in that search as well as a pool of candidates who were rejected when Brooker was hired in early 2012.

“We have to execute this very quickly. Hopefully, we'll have somebody in the job by next Friday,” Anderson said.

But Commissioner Tyler Courtney said the board should be patient in their search for a replacement.

“We're assessing the situation,” Courtney said. “This is an organization that has been taken in several directions, and we need stability out there.”

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