OPINION: Why Is Morse Code For Controversy?

KEVIN HALPERN, Courier Co-Editor

The Cannon County Commission has held two meetings within the space of six days.

At both meetings the main topic of discussion was Faye Morse.

Morse serves as both Cannon County Fire Chief and Cannon County EMA Director.

An item on the agenda for the Commission's Aug. 14 meeting stated:

"Commissioner (Clint) Higgins requests Faye Morse to bring her (EMA) budget before the Commission. Commissioner (Jim) Bush requests the rest of the equipment list from EMA."

No reason was stated as to why Commissioner Higgins had concerns about the EMA budget, or why Commissioner Bush believed the EMA equipment list was incomplete.

Morse addressed each of Commissioner Higgins' budget questions at the meeting, to his apparent satisfaction. Morse told Bush to her knowledge the equipment list was complete, but that if there was something he believed was missing, to let her know. He did not mention anything in specific.

The Commission's concern about the EMA budget and equipment list came out of left field. In the three years I have been covering Commission meetings the budget and equipment of the Emergency Management Agency has never been the topic of discussion outside regular budget meetings, and has not been the cause of any apparent concern.

During the Aug. 14 discussion the topic turned from the EMA to the position of County Fire Chief. Commissioner Bush whipped out a piece of paper and passed it around. The information on the paper, from a person with the State Fire Marshal's Office, stated that Morse was no longer certified to be the county's fire chief because she had not completed some required training.

A lack of certification meant that the county volunteer fire department was no longer recognized by the state, that the families of firefighters were not eligible for death benefits, the county fire department could not received government funding, and could not hold fundraisers.

This information was sent by a state official to a member of the Commission's Fire Board. I do not know when Bush received it. I do know that it appears this potential serious situation was not brought to the attention of the commission nor the public for almost three weeks after it was received. A person or persons sat on it until a commission meeting.

That's inexcusable. Why in the world would someone wait to address such a serious problem? The only reasonable conclusion is that they were more concerned about ambushing Morse than they were the coverage of the fire department.

The state has since admitted the information sent about Morse's and the conuty's certification were an error on its part.

No information has been brought forward by any commissioner to date giving any indication as to why Morse should not hold either position, yet she was asked to resign as fire chief during an "emergency meeting" Monday night.

There have been no allegations or evidence presented of misconduct by Morse. She was not been accused of abusing the public trust, misappropriating funds or county equipment, or of being negligent in her duties.

So why does it seem the Cannon County Commission is all of a sudden on a crusade against Morse?

No member of the commission has answered that question, at least not in a public forum.

As of now it may not be possible to determine who appointed Morse as county fire chief or when it happened. However, it is documented that the state has recognized her as the county fire chief for about a month shy of 14 years, and because of that the county volunteer fire department has been certified by the state all of that time. The certification is currently in effect through 2015.

Despite that, some members of the commission want to see her out of the position. The implication is that she is the cause of controversy, but the ones who have created the controversy are some members of the commission.

Several people approached me today wondering why the commission was on a "witch hunt" against Morse. My reply was that I had no idea, because no reason has been stated by any commissioner.

Clearly it's time for those commissioners who want to see her removed as county fire chief put up, or shut up.