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Presiding Commissioner asks why he wasn't told about powder scare
Presiding Commissioner asks why he wasn't told about powder scare

Pulaski County Emergency Management Director Lawson Smith takes questions from county commissioners about Saturday's suspicious powder incident at the courthouse.
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (May 7, 2009) — Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall wasn’t happy when he learned about a hazardous materials incident at the courthouse via out-of-state calls, but not from his own emergency management personnel.

At Monday’s county commission meeting, Ransdall and the commissioners spoke with Sheriff J.B. King in closed session to find out what happened during the Saturday incident. On Thursday, Ransdall grilled Lawson Smith, the county’s emergency management director, to find out why he hadn’t been notified that the courthouse was on lockdown due to a suspicious powder that emergency responders feared was anthrax.

“I was getting calls even from out of state asking what was going on. You, the sheriff and the fire chief in particular need to have a conversation,” Ransdall said to Smith.

Smith said even though he’s the county’s emergency management director, the incident at the courthouse happened within the Waynesville city limits.

“I didn’t know what was going on; I was just blocking traffic,” Smith said. “I was thinking this was city, and city notification, so that is why I stayed away from it.”

Commissioner Bill Farnham noted that Pulaski County Ambulance Director Gary Carmack wasn’t getting information he needed despite being the Waynesville emergency management director.

“They asked for an ambulance and they wouldn’t tell him why,” Farnham said.

Ransdall said even though the courthouse is inside the city limits, county commissioners need to know what’s happening in a building they run since they’ll be peppered with media questions for major incidents.

“This is a county building, this one acre belongs to the county, and we need to know what’s going on,” Ransdall said. “I heard from the judicial system, I heard from people out of state. Finally, my grandson came in and one of his little friends texted him and that is how I found out what happened.”

Ransdall told Smith he didn’t want to take over his job.

“This is not a matter of this is mine, I want authority, I can delegate it to somebody and in the past I’ve delegated it to you. But I want to be kept informed,” Ransdall said.

Smith said he’d do things differently in the future.

“I didn’t call you; I should have called you,” Smith said. “I was busy with the traffic and the people, but I belong to you so I should have called you.”

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