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MERCER COUNTY Commissioners fire their chief clerk



Published: Fri, February 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The former chief clerk said some people think they are above the rules.

MERCER, Pa. -- Mercer County commissioners fired their chief clerk, Kenneth Ammann, by a split vote Thursday.

A crowd of about 45 crowded the commissioners' assembly room to speak in defense of the quiet, affable clerk and demanded to know the reasons for his termination.

Sheriff William Romine, Prothonotary Elizabeth Fair and Sharon City Council President Fred Hoffman were among those speaking on Ammann's behalf.

Commissioners Michele Brooks and Olivia Lazor voted to terminate Ammann, 57, who has been clerk almost three years. Commissioner Brian Beader voted no.

Going into a 10-minute closed-door session before taking the action, commissioners were tight-lipped about the reasons for it, citing their obligation to keep personnel matters private. But it appears Ammann's willingness to speak his mind cost him his job.

Reason for firing

Ammann said after the meeting the reason given him by commissioners was "they can't trust me because I cause them trouble speaking to people and answering questions."

He said he had been frank in expressing views on several issues including the recent election fiasco, the way paperwork is processed and commissioners' handling of a loan to Woodland Place. He added that he has pointed out there are rules to be followed even though "sometimes people think they are above the rules."

Speaking briefly during the meeting, he said he viewed his role as chief clerk as a service to taxpayers and felt that any questions he answered or advice he offered to commissioners was done in that spirit. He said his disagreement with commissioners on some issues "caused friction in the office."

He commented afterward that as a Democrat, he was hired by the previous board of commissioners, which included two Republicans and a Democrat. Despite this, he said an attitude of "mutual consideration" prevailed at that time, an attitude he said no longer exists in the commissioners' office.

Ammann said he received calls of support from all over Mercer County before the meeting. He said he has even been approached about running for public office, but said he has no plans to do so. He said he intends to look for another job.

High praise

Oddly, the two commissioners who fired Ammann lauded him even as they did so. "I personally think Mr. Ammann is a wonderful person," Brooks said. Lazor concurred, stating she was "disappointed it had to reach to this emotional level" but added the commissioners' office "has to move forward."

Beader acknowledged that he had signed a letter along with the other two commissioners asking Ammann to resign.

But when Ammann refused to do so, Beader said he told the other two commissioners he would not vote to terminate him.

Brooks, angered that Beader would not vote for the firing, said after the meeting, "All three commissioners asked for Mr. Ammann's resignation. What does that say?"

Commissioners would not be specific about plans to replace Amman. But Lazor indicated the position itself might be changed.

"The position will be filled, but in a different manner," she said.




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