Brian Topp's resignation as head of the Huntington County Emergency Management Agency has served to make an already complicated situation a little more tangled.
Topp is actually interim director of the EMA, taking on that responsibility at the end of 2011 after the Huntington County Commissioners - without explanation - decided not to renew the contract of his boss, Brandon Taylor.
The EMA's advisory council took exception to the commissioners' action and filed a lawsuit, currently pending in the Adams County Circuit Court, claiming that the hiring and firing of the EMA director is the province of the EMA advisory council, not the county commissioners.
The commissioners maintain that because they must approve the people the EMA wants to hire, they also have the right to terminate those people.
The commissioners have asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, but the court has taken no action.
In the meantime, the Huntington County Council - which must give its approval before any vacancies on the county payroll can be filled - has refused to allow the hiring of any new EMA employees, leaving Topp alone to operate what at one time was a three-person office.
All other EMA personnel are volunteers who are activated on an as-needed basis to re-spond to emergencies.
Topp, one of several people who applied to serve as Taylor's successor on a permanent basis, has decided to leave the EMA as of July 5. He's going to work for a Wisconsin company as a sales representative for fire and rescue equipment, he told the county coun-cil on Monday, June 25.
That leaves the EMA advisory council in a quandary.
"What can we do?" EMA advisory council member Jim Paul asked the county council. "Can we get money to pay somebody to just sit on the phones for a while?"
Tom Wall, president of the county commissioners, told the council that the EMA volun-teers may have to run the agency temporarily.
"We're hoping his volunteers - and they're very, very good volunteers - will step up to the plate," Wall said.
The EMA volunteers are well-trained and could step into their roles in an emergency, Topp said, but probably wouldn't be able to fulfill the day-to-day responsibilities of a di-rector.
Not only does the Emergency Management Agency plan for and coordinate responses to emergencies across the county, it's also responsible for coordinating grants to Huntington County from the state and federal departments of Homeland Security - and that worries Wall.
"We're very concerned about the grants out there," Wall said. If the conditions of the grants the county has received aren't fulfilled, the county might be forced to pay back the amount of those grants, he said.
County council members essentially told the EMA advisory council and the commission-ers that they needed to settle their differences - and soon - so the Emergency Man-agement Agency can again become a functioning organization.
"The commissioners and the advisory board need to figure out how to fill this position," county council member Todd Landrum said.
The EMA, council President John Hacker said, "is a very, very important organization. It shouldn't be tied up by this small controversy."
Hacker asked the EMA advisory council and the commissioners to come back to the county council in July.
"We're in a bind," Paul responded. "He'll be gone in two weeks."
Hacker wasn't swayed.
"Hopefully, by next meeting, you can have some plans down and we can get this thing rectified," he said. "Please do."
In other business:
• The county council agreed to pick up funding for a part-time employee in the Huntington County office of Purdue Extension. That employee will be paid $11 an hour for a 20-hour work week.
The employee had been being paid by Purdue, Extension Educator Ed Farris said, to fill in when Linda Aldridge, a long-time educator in the local office, was moved into a dis-trict position.
Aldridge's position was recently filled, and Purdue will no longer pay for what is now an additional part-time employee.