Police sergeant named 911's interim director


Howard County officials have reorganized the one-year-old 911 communications center and picked an interim director after firing the chief a week ago.

Sgt. Richard Witte, of the Howard County Police Department's budget and finance division, took charge of the center Monday and will remain interim director until the county finds a permanent replacement, said County Administrator Raquel Sanudo.

Paul N. Hajek, 44, who was fired Oct. 16 as director of the Bureau of Central Communications, has hired a lawyer.

"I am appealing, and I have no intention of just accepting this and walking away," he said. "I'm very disappointed things occurred the way they did."

Mr. Hajek took the job, which paid $50,387 a year, in September 1991 after 23 years on the county police force. He retired as a lieutenant in May 1991.

After Mr. Hajek was fired, County Executive Charles I. Ecker reassigned management of the center with its $2.1 million budget to the county administration. The center previously fell under the general services department, headed by Rebecca Horvath, but will now report to Ms. Sanudo. Ms. Horvath's department oversees county buildings and self-insurance funds.

Mr. Ecker said an administration oversight committee had recommended placing the center under the county administration to improve its operation. Neither Mr. Ecker, Ms. Sanudo nor Ms. Horvath would comment Mr. Hajek's firing.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Hajek said: "Basically, it's a performance issue. My boss alleges I couldn't do my job or I didn't do it to her satisfaction."

Ms. Horvath, he claims, criticized him for offering someone a job without authorization, finishing a project late, and implementing a 12-hour work schedule. All of the criticisms are unfounded, he said.

"The schedule was nothing new and unorthodox," Mr. Hajek said. "We had done it in April. Where were they in May, June and July?"

He said the schedule was implemented to get more people working at the same time to handle the volume of 911 calls.

When the new Bureau of Central Communications opened last year, it was a money-saving step, consolidating police and fire communications for the first time in one building with state-of-the-art technology.

Several 911 workers said they are confused by the events surrounding Mr. Hajek's departure. They described him as a good boss who looked out for his workers.

Ms. Sanudo said she realizes the workers need to be better trained and cross-trained. "That is a priority," she said.

Until his case is reviewed by a personnel board, perhaps early next year, Mr. Hajek said he's looking on the brighter side.

"I'm optimistic when I go before a personnel board the board will say, 'Naw, this guy didn't do anything worthy of termination.' "

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