County planning director fired

Published 2:29 pm Monday, April 9, 2012

Interim County Administrator Gary Breedlove fired Decatur County Planning Director Paul Soudi on Monday, stating that Soudi’s qualifications and experience did not meet the county’s present needs.

“Paul Soudi was terminated because his experience, training and education as a planner does not meet our current needs and fit the direction we are moving toward. That was the primary factor,” Breedlove said. “His expertise and experience was related to planning, and that was the position that he was hired for. But at the current time, the bulk of our day-to-day department business is related to issuing permits and conducting inspections.”

Breedlove said Building Inspector Craig Smith is the current senior staff member at the Decatur County Planning Department.

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“As of right now, we effectively do not have a planning director,” Breedlove said. “We’re working to see where we want to go with that situation. We’re going to do some administrative things to help out in that department, in the short-term.”

Breedlove said he was not sure when, or if, Soudi’s position would be refilled.

“I’ll be working closely with Craig to see how things are working and what our immediate needs are,” he said.

Breedlove said it was “specifically my decision” to terminate Soudi’s employment. He said the county will continue to pay Soudi through the end of April.

“As you’re well aware, the county is currently trying to work out problems with its permitting processes and things of that nature,” Breedlove said. “That sort of thing was under [Soudi’s] purview, but it wasn’t his expertise. We’re going to focus on that need, getting permitting and our fees straightened out.”

Recently, a citizen questioned the county’s building permit fees, pointing out that they are considerably higher than surrounding counties’ fees. As a result, the Decatur County Planning Board has recently held several called meetings to discuss the problem and what changes should be implemented. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 10, at 1:30 p.m. at the county administration building. Breedlove said Smith would be present at that meeting to provide input and direction — Soudi had previously served that role at the earlier meetings.

Breedlove, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, was named the county’s interim administrator Tuesday, March 13. He replaced Tom Patton, who resigned Tuesday, Feb. 28. He said Monday that he realized changes needed to be made at the planning department.

“This was not something I realized immediately, but I came to the conclusion at the latter part of last week,” he said. “It was an area we needed to deal with, so that we can keep moving on the other processes that we’ve got down [at the planning department].”

Patton initially hired Soudi in March 2007.

Phone messages and email requests for comment, left with Soudi, were not immediately returned.