ALLENTOWN, Pa. - What really happened on New Year's Eve at the Lehigh County Communications Center?

County leaders say workers drank on the job and put the public and first responders in danger, but a now-former worker says no one was ever at risk.

Ten employees lost their jobs after the incident.

One of those dispatchers spoke to WFMZ's Josh Rultenberg off camera and on the condition of anonymity.

That person said on New Year's Eve, there was a small celebration at the office. Employees brought in food and non-alcoholic drinks to celebrate the holiday.

Just before midnight, a supervisor broke out a container of eggnog spiked with rum. Three supervisors and seven dispatchers each took "half a shot" of the drink as a midnight toast, the worker said. All but two working that night participated.

The worker says it didn't affect their job performance or anyone else's.

"Our work always came first. We could've had a plate of food in front of us and a call comes in and we push it to the side. The job is number one," the worker said.

Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong says that's not the point.

"That is a black and white issue. It is not a gray. Our policy is not anything to do with the amount. It is none," Armstrong said.

Once county leaders learned about the alcohol, they told Human Resources to look into it. They wouldn't say when they got the complaint or how long the investigation took, but at the end of it, the three supervisors were fired.

The seven dispatchers were given the choice to resign or be fired. They all chose to resign.

"It felt like a business decision and not a liability issue because all 10 were allowed to work for weeks" after New Year's, the worker said. "If we were that much of a liability, we should have been suspended immediately without pay and then dismissed."

The worker added the county "made the wrong decision" and now everyone is in "grave danger" because of short staffing, and the years of experience lost by getting rid of the 10 workers.

The dispatcher says they are sorry to their former coworkers, who now have to work 16 hour days to cover for their absence.

"But as far as apologizing because I put their life at risk, I never did. Nobody did," the worker said.

Rick Molchany, Lehigh County's director of general services, says he's concerned about morale at the 911 center. He's also worried it's going to take months to fully get back up and running.

Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said the same thing and added if he learns the staffing shortage poses a danger to the public, his office will get involved.

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