A second “last opportunity” was given to suspended Dale County Emergency Management Agency Director Jonathan “Kurt” McDaniel at a Due Process Hearing held June 16.
After going into executive session for 28 minutes immediately after the Due Process meeting convened in the commission chambers at the Dale County Government Building in Ozark, the commission unanimously agreed to suspend McDaniel without pay for 10 days and to fine him $1,000.
After payment of the fine and after 10 days’ suspension, McDaniel will be allowed to return to work, said Dale County Attorney Henry Steagall.
Following the vote, the commission reconvened in executive session with McDaniel and his attorney John White. Commission Chairman Mark Blankenship announced to those attending the hearing that no further business was expected following the executive session.
The June 16 proceeding came on the heels of a June 9 unanimous vote of the Dale County Commission to issue a notice of termination to McDaniel who has served as Dale County EMA since 2015.
McDaniel was issued the notice of termination on the recommendation of Dale County Attorney Henry B. Steagall III and Dale County Administrator Cheryl Ganey.
As issue is McDaniel’s recent social media posts regarding national protests spurred by the death May 25 of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minn.
A post on McDaniel’s Facebook page read: “I hope all of the looters are stealing condoms so we don’t have another generation of idiots.” Another post was a photo of a crop-duster airplane with the words: “Riot control. Fill these with pepper spray.” A third post said: “Bet they don’t burn down any welfare offices.”
McDaniel was suspended from his county EMA duties June 4 by Steagall and Ganey, pending a commission decision. Under the Dale County Organizational Chart, McDaniel reports directly to the commission as a whole, instead of to the commission chairman.
“As you know, our EMA director Kurt McDaniel, has an extensive history of warnings and reprimands regarding his job performance in the last few years,” Steagall said, reading from the written recommendation to the commission at the June 9 meeting. “In February 2019, Mr. McDaniel was suspended from his position on the E911 Board for unethical conduct as a board member and the county was without representation on that board for several months.
“Due to his history of discipline as EMA director and the E911 Board suspension, McDaniel was called before the commission in March 2019 and given ‘one last opportunity’ to correct his deficiencies. He was given a list of corrective actions which were expected of him in order to continue as the EMA director and he acknowledged his mistakes, signed his name in agreement and assured the commission there would be no further violations of the personnel rules or improper conduct,” Steagall said.
“Since McDaniel made those assurances to the commission last year, it has come to the attention of the county administration that McDaniel has continued to violate county personnel rules,” Steagall said. “Based upon McDaniel’s discipline history and the breach of his agreement from March 2019, the county administrator recommends that the commission consider dismissal of the EMA Director and I concur.”
Steagall said that he and Ganey recommended that the commission provide McDaniel with notice of their intent to terminate him from county employment by the close of business June 9 and to set the Due Process Public Hearing before the commission for the next week.
“This public hearing, unless waived by McDaniel, will allow the commission to consider his job performance, review his personnel file and give him the opportunity to present his defenses before the commission,” Steagall said. “At the conclusion of the hearing, the commission will be able to consider the appropriate discipline and McDaniel will have his right to appeal.”
McDaniel has served as Dale County EMA Director since being selected by the commission to the position which was vacated upon the untimely death of longtime EMA Director Robert Marsh May 13, 2015.
The next meeting of the Dale County Commission is at the Dale County Government Building Tuesday, June 23. A work session begins at 10 a.m. and is followed immediately by a voting meeting. Both meetings are open to the public.