All but two counties get ‘exemplary’ score in Scott grading of emergency managersby Dara Kam | August 1st, 2012
Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has finalized the grading of county emergency managers even after the association representing the local officials asked Scott to terminate the project.
The good news is that 65 of the state’s 67 counties earned an “exemplary” score, according to Palm Beach County Emergency Manager Bill Johnson. Two counties – Walton and Bradford – received a “meets standards” grade.
The results are not yet available to the public, but Palm Beach County officials learned about the grades yesterday in a telephone call from a regional emergency management official.
That nearly every county in the state scored the same raised eyebrows among some local officials, who questioned the project from its inception earlier this year.
“If all 65 counties were ranked exemplary, I don’t know what the purpose was. That’s what we’re trying to find out,” Palm Beach County Assistant Administrator Vince Bonvento. “I just don’t know what the impact of that score.”
The state Division of Emergency Management launched the “county typing” project earlier this year over the objections of the county managers. Many of the local emergency manager officials were concerned about the timing of the exercise, coming in the midst of hurricane season, and slated to be released two weeks before the Aug. 14 primary election.
One disgruntled emergency manager, who received a perfect score, called the project “a completely flawed system” and “a waste of time.”
The association representing the emergency officials asked Scott’s administration to terminate the project, but DEMhttp://www.postonpolitics.com/wp-admin/media-upload.php?post_id=32607&type=image&TB_iframe=1 director Brian Koon refused to back down. Koon said in June he intended to either rank the counties or assign letter grades or “smiley or frowney” faces.
A 22-question surveywas sent to county officials on July 20. The questionnaire was a pared-down version of a 106-question sampler that drew the wrath of the emergency officials earlier this summer.
The measurement-centric Scott dropped a ranking of the state’s supervisors of elections earlier this year. That controversial survey included extra credit for supervisors who turned the forms in early. In July, The Tampa Bay Times reported that Scott’s administration had ranked the state’s 67 county health departments.
Koon said in June that he intended to give each of the 67 counties a grade on their performance and that the exercise was an effort to pinpoint weaknesses in emergency management and response and to highlight best practices in some counties that other agencies could adopt.
But the final survey did nothing of to help strengthen disaster response, said Seminole County Emergency Manager Alan Harris, who received a perfect score on the survey and an accompanying capability analysis, required by law to be performed every five years.
He called the grades a waste of time.
“The questions are fine for a basic program. But the understanding was that we were going to get something out of this that was going to be best practices that we could strengthen our programs,” Harris said. “There’s no question in here that even comes close to doing anything like that.”
Harris was one of seven regional representatives on the county typing project work group but walked away from the project last month. At least one other member also quit the group.
Harris said he also received his score yesterday but has not received a copy of the statewide rankings although he requested one. Seventy-five percent of the final grades will come from the capability assessments and responses to the questionnaire will make up the other 25 percent, according to an e-mail sent to county officials by the DEM Deputy Bureau Chief of Recovery Eric Rosenberg, who headed the grading project. In the e-mail, Rosenberg said the results were to be given to Scott today.
Since July 7, The Palm Beach Post has made repeated requests for a copy of the updated survey or the results. On Wednesday afternoon, DEM spokeswoman Jessica Sims directed questions about the project to Scott spokesman Brian Burgess. Burgess did not immediately respond to telephone calls or e-mails.
One of the questions included in the survey asks if the county has a dedicated website or webpage updated regularly.
“It’s nice that we have web sites and web pages. But half the questions shouldn’t even be asked and the other half are already covered in some kind of document,” Harris said. “It doesn’t prove much to me. It’s still I would say a completely flawed system and I don’t know that it did anything except waste a whole bunch of people’s time.”