Fayette’s controversial 911 center director resigned Monday amid new accusations of abusive behavior, eight months after employees complained about a toxic work environment in a series of county commission meetings.
County Administrator Steve Rapson said he accepted Bernard “Buster” Brown’s resignation, waiving Brown’s offer to work out a two-week notice.
“When we met this morning, he felt it was in his best interest for Fayette County” for him to resign, Rapson said. “He mentioned his family. That’s the reason I was provided.”
Commissioner Steve Brown, who is not related to the outgoing 911 director, said leaders discussed an interim replacement Monday, but made no decision. He called on the county to conduct an outside search for a replacement, saying that other leaders in the department also have temperament issues.
“The strong feeling is we need to get someone from the outside who can bring impartiality and integrity back to the management process,” the commissioner said.
Buster Brown’s three-year tenure with the county was marked with numerous complaints from former dispatchers — most of whom are women — about his behavior, including his use of profanity and directives that some thought imperious.
During a seven-hour County Commission meeting in February, former employees begged commissioners to conduct a thorough investigation of complaints they had lodged against Brown. He had received a written reprimand in 2017 after an abusive tantrum directed at a female supervisor, the county said, but commissioners decided against pursuing further investigation. That decision was based in part on Rapson’s assurances that Brown was performing the job as expected.
At least five new employees leveled allegations against Brown after the meeting in February, Commissioner Steve Brown said.
“It’s the same stuff, all over again,” he said. “You could have taken the old complaints and changed the names.”
One complaint came from Mical Heminger, the husband of a dispatcher. Heminger said his wife was told to come into work on her day off last Tuesday when he was out of town. With no one to watch their two children, Heminger said his wife told Buster Brown said she couldn’t come in.
A few days later, Brown issued a new directive increasing the number of monthly on-call days to eight. Combined with mandatory 12-hour shifts, Heminger said, the policy was unworkable, so he called the director to express his opinion.
“He immediately got defensive and said this is an operations issue,” Heminger said. “He said, ‘Let me tell you, your wife told me no and nobody tells me no.’”
Heminger said he took his concerns to Rapson. Rapson confirmed he spoke to Heminger about the policy.
Rapson would not elaborate on Brown’s decision to resign. He did say that he and Brown had a disagreement Friday over a new on-call directive for dispatchers.
“I did call up and spoke to Buster and said I didn’t think the process he used was appropriate, and I asked him to rescind that. He considered it an operational issue,” Rapson said. “That’s how we left it.”
Commissioner Brown said commissioners failed to grasp the seriousness of the complaints in February, allowing Buster Brown to persuade them to not take action.
Commissioners blamed the employees who had quit their jobs but filed complaints, he said.
Rapson said Buster Brown had not returned to the management style that earned him his past reprimand and his behavior had changed.
“If it hadn’t, I’m confident that we would have heard about it,” Rapson said.
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