New AFN director approved

For the first time in its history, the Ashland Fiber Network has its own leader.

An Ashland City Council majority confirmed the appointment of Joseph Franell as Information Technology Director on Tuesday night.

Franell will head AFN and manage the city&

s internal computer systems.

Since AFN&

s inception in the late 1990s, the city electric department director has pulled double-duty and headed both the electric department and AFN.

The city council first launched a search for an AFN leader in 2005 in hopes of finding an entrepreneurial leader who could improve the debt-laden enterprise&

s performance.

Franell works for Knology, Inc. in Florida, according to Ashland Finance Director Lee Tuneberg.

The company uses fiber optic lines to deliver telephone, cable television and Internet services to residential and business customers in five southeastern states, according to the company&

s Web site.

Knology &

which uses the slogan &

Phone. Internet. Cable. Community.&


has recently participated in fundraisers for a children&

s hospital, a foster care facility, the American Red Cross and Hurricane Katrina victims, according to the Web site.

Franell will begin work for AFN on Monday, but will not be physically present at his job until Monday, April 3, according to Tuneberg.

Councilor Jack Hardesty was the lone council member to vote against Franell&

s confirmation. Franell is Ashland City Attorney Mike Franell&

s brother.

Hardesty said Joseph Franell appears to be well qualified, but hiring a city employee&

s brother for a department head post looks like nepotism.


My objection is to the appearance,&

Hardesty said.

City department heads earn from $82,116 to $92,292 per year, plus benefits, according to Ashland Human Resources Manager Tina Gray.

Mayor John Morrison, who appoints department heads with council confirmation, said Mike Franell did not take part in the search for AFN&

s new leader.


Throughout the process, there was scrupulous separation. Mike Franell was not a part of it in any way,&

Morrison said, noting that be believes Joseph Franell was clearly the best candidate.

City Administrator Gino Grimaldi said the city is barred from discriminating against job candidates based on family relations.

Resident Charles Carreon said the city is hiring someone in an effort to turn AFN&

s financial situation around.


This gentleman&

s performance is going to be under a microscope,&

Carreon said.

He said Mike Franell would not be able to provide legal oversight over his brother because of the inherent conflict, and the city might be required to hire expensive outside legal counsel if Joseph Franell&

s performance comes under fire.

However, resident Leah Ireland said the nepotism charge is unfounded.


He seems to be first-rate. Let&

s give him a try,&

she said.

Other agenda items Tuesday night included a presentation by Paul Zucker, president of Zucker Systems, on his firm&

s study of Ashland Community Development Department operations. Zucker listed a number of recommendations for improving the department, which he said is understaffed and lacking in direction for Ashland&

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