Union to file grievance if county snubs local fire chief candidates

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BROOKSVILLE – Thirty-nine people have applied for Hernando County’s vacant public safety director position, including six with local ties.

And if one of the local candidates isn’t chosen, the firefighters’ union has threatened to file a grievance against the county.

The public safety director doubles as the county’s fire chief and also heads up the animal services department.

Bobby Rae, president of the Hernando County Professional Firefighters Union, said the county violated its policy by not posting the advertisement in-house first before going outside.

Rae said the advertisement was purposely dumbed down to remove a mandatory requirement for a college degree and instead settle for someone with a high school diploma and 19 years experience.

Rae questions how the number 19 was arrived at and why the county insisted former public safety director Mike Rampino pursue a college degree if he wanted to keep his job.

Rampino resigned earlier this month. The degree requirement was thrown out with the latest advertisement.

“That is just crazy,” Rae said.

County Commissioner Wayne Dukes told Hernando Today recently he was also surprised and found out it was former Human Resources Director Cheryl Marsden who recommended the new language.

Marsden has since resigned.

Hernando County applicants for the vacant position include Mike Nickerson, interim county fire chief; Kevin Carroll, assistant county fire chief; Frank DeFrancesco, a county fire station captain; Stanley Mettinger Jr., district chief for the city of Brooksville Fire Department; Timothy Mossgrove, a Brooksville fire chief; Robert Miller, a county district chief; and Patrick Taylor, a district chief with the county.

Those who live in the region and are applying are Alex Onishenko, fire chief for New Port Richey; Daniel Azzariti, former New Port Richey fire chief who currently is a consultant in Ocala; Scott Shear, fire brigade administrator for Duke Energy in Crystal River; Michael Tucker, fire chief with the Villages since 2001; and Francis Ennist, deputy chief in Sumter County.

Others who have applied are from various places throughout the nation, including Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia.

Dan Oliver, union steward, said he believes the county should pick someone with ties to Hernando County. It makes sense, he said, to promote from within and reward existing employees for their years of service.

Oliver said he knows all the local candidates who applied and any one would be more than qualified for what he calls the most important position in Hernando County.

“There’s no reason to have to go outside this county to fill that job,” Oliver said.

Oliver said he also believes the county violated its advertising policy and said it appears the advertisement was purposely crafted to encourage certain people to apply for the job.

“That’s one of the things that we (the union) fight against because it’s not fairness,” Oliver said.

The advertisement for the position expired March 25. There were two applications that came in that were rejected because they did not meet the job requirements.

County Administrator Len Sossamon said in an email that he will meet with Assistant County Administrators Brian Malmberg and Russ Wetherington and Interim Human Resources Director Jerry Haines and review all applications and decide who will conduct interviews and develop a short list.

If the group decides more interviews are needed, beyond those conducted in the first round, those will be done and a top applicant should emerge from the list, Sossamon said.

Following successful background and reference checks, the top person will get an employment offer. The selection does not have to be ratified by county commissioners.

The salary range for the position is $72,488 to $116,858 annually.


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