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Dispatch inquiry: Gagnea resigns

CRYSTAL FALLS— Iron County Central Dispatch Director Steve Gagnea submitted his resignation in absentia at a special meeting of the Iron County Board of Commissioners on July 25.
    Gagnea’s resignation, which was unanimously approved by the board, comes after a months-long audit and investigation into the best practices and finances of Central Dispatch. The process came to greater public awareness during the regular meeting of the board in May, when Commissioner Tim Aho brought up difficulties he had experienced while attempting to acquire basic operating information from that part of county government.
    After discovering that it was $60,000 in the red, attempts to discover compliance practices had proved difficult. Aho had stated that he had to rely on Freedom of Information Act requests to force the revelation of that information.
    Other commissioners had also voiced dissatisfaction with either Gagnea’s tenure as lead dispatch, or with processes that involved Central Dispatch operations. Sharon Leonoff stated at the May meeting that Gagnea had been largely non-communicative with the board in the several years she had been a member of the board. Ray Coates stated that he had seen a number of “red flags” at Central Dispatch that had not been addressed due to “absolutely zero oversight” from anyone on the outside until that point. Mike Stafford complained that unclear or non-existent job description information made it difficult to even begin to evaluate what duties lead dispatch had to carry out.
    Two months later, at the regular July meeting, the situation further evolved with the discovery that a Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) violation had been levied against Central Dispatch two years ago, and that no steps had been taken to address the situation. LEIN contains information about a person’s criminal history, and is tied into FBI databases, thus providing records of life events from other states. Violations where such information is improperly accessed can lead to fines ranging from $500 to $2,000, and potential-
ly anywhere between three months to four years in jail.
    It was at that point that the board voted to place Gagnea on paid leave. It also acted to revoke his access to 911 facilities pending further review. Concerns from Board Chair Patti Peretto about the fairness of the process were addressed by Stafford and Civil Council Steve Tinti, who stated that isolating him from Central Dispatch would make documenting affairs there easier on the board.
    Days later, at the special meeting of the board, Gagnea’s resignation was the first order of business. According to comments from Aho to the Reporter after the meeting, Gagnea had drafted the resignation with legal aid. Gagnea had filed the resignation with the board two days earlier on July 23. The board’s first order of business was to vote on that resignation, which they choose to do.
    Immediately after the vote, discussion moved onto choosing Gagnea’s successor as 911 director. Tinti, who was present at the special meeting, noted that leaving the position vacant was not an allowable option. However, choosing a replacement for Gagnea took up a significant portion of the meeting’s time.

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