Clare County Central Dispatch Director Keith Yats lost his job Wednesday afternoon.
County Administrator Tracy Byard and County Commission Chair Don David along with some other commissioners met with Sheriff John Wilson around 1:30 p.m. and asked him to have the Sheriff Department take over the Dispatch operation.
“They said Keith had been laid off,” Wilson said Thursday morning. “I agreed to handle dispatch and assigned Undersheriff Ed Williams to be in charge and handle the scheduling. Our on-duty sergeants will handle the day-today supervision of the department,” he said.
Wilson said he wasn’t told why Yats had been terminated but only that the commission is looking at different ways of running the 911 Dispatch. “I don’t know if this will be a permanent situation,” he added.
County Commissioner Lynn Grim said, “We were told it [the decision to terminate Yats] was strictly a budget decision. The Commission has been looking at ways to combine services with other counties, something on the Governor’s dashboard to qualify for additional revenue sharing. “We have formed a committee and are working on merging services to save money as well.”
Grim said the decision to “put Keith Yats on layoff” was a unanimous vote taken after a closed session to discuss union negotiations and just before the Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday.
Board Chair Don David said the decision to terminate Yats didn’t have anything to do with recent controversy over Yats’ management of Dispatch or with recent complaints from Lincoln Township. “It was a straight-up layoff.” He said, “We are in a position where we have to start making some cuts. This was one of the things we knew we could do by turning it [Dispatch] over to the Sheriff’s Department on a temporary basis.” He continued, “While that is going on we will be studying whether we can hook up with another dispatch center or reorganize out own Central Dispatch in some way and leave it under [the direction of] the Sheriff’s Department.”
Commissioner Jerry Burger said the decision to terminate Yats had a lot to do with the problems between him and the Lincoln Township Fire Department.
Lincoln Township Clerk Carol Majewski said the township had recently had their attorney send a letter to the Board of Commissioners expressing the concern brought to the board over the weather (tornado) siren policy. “Yats had verbally refused to tone-out our weather sirens,” she said. “He said it wasn’t Dispatch’s responsibility.”
In the County Fire Chief’s Special Meeting Minutes, Yats was quoted as saying, “The dispatchers’ can’t leave 911 calls to trip sirens. The responsibility shouldn’t be put onto Clare County 911 Central Dispatch.”
Majewski said. “Twice we have needed the siren toned out for a tornado alert in the county so our residents could have had an earlier warning about the danger.”
Burger continued, “Over the past several weeks, he (Yats) has gotten more and more hostile toward county department heads, employees and elected officials. We have been looking at the budget for a long time and will be looking at other ways of running the department, possibly in collaboration with another county, Gladwin or Roscommon.”
“In fact,” he continued, “Commission Chair Don David, Commissioner Jim Gelios, County Administrator Tracy Byard and County Treasurer Jenny Beemer-Fritzinger are meeting with Gladwin County officials today (Thursday morning).”
Burger said the decision to layoff the Dispatch Director did not have anything to do with the controversy last month with dispatchers.
Yats had come under fire in late September when a series of emails were unearthed which criticized his handling of the department. An anonymous email released the emails and charged nine dispatchers with “conspiring to cause havoc within the operations of the center and with trying to declare both Yats and the County Commission ‘unfit’.”
Several dispatchers had met in mid-July and expressed concerns over the management of the dispatch center including “a lack of training; a lack of trust; a lack of communication between the management and employees; a lack of response to employee questions; secret surveillance of employees; unresolved scheduling difficulties; poor and faulty equipment and a hostile work environment.”
After learning of the emails, Yats had said “an internal investigation has been started.”
Clare Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis reviewed the emails charging a conspiracy and said her office “had no plans to act on the anonymous email at this time.”
She said she didn’t see anything “criminal in nature in what was sent.”