Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Straight from the highly effective horse's mouth.

Last week, a reader commented to the effect that not unlike the City of St. Marys, the number of employees of Camden County had also exploded in the last couple of years in anticipation of rapid and extensive growth which has not come to fruition. I sent Mr. Steve Howard, our county administrator, an e-mail (published here) requesting that he set the record straight. Here is his response, received about 2 hours ago. Thank you, Steve. Well done - as usual. Keep up the good work! Jay Moreno: Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your inquiry. In January 2004, there were 322 employees working for Camden County Government. Currently, there are 394 employees, which is slightly over a 22% increase (Source: Department of Finance & Budget, BOCC), majority as a result of new employees in the area of Public Safety: Sheriff's office and EMS. In August 2007, which was when I began my tenure with Camden County as County Administrator, I evaluated the overall effectiveness of the organization. Recommendations were made based upon my observations and the variety of input received from the Board of Commissioners, Department Directors, and employees. At that time, twelve (12) departments reported directly to the County Administrator. My plan was to consolidate these departments and reduce them to only six (6) departments. This initiative, if approved at the time of my planning, would allow synergy among the departments, streamline processes, establish a unified command structure, and ensure consistency of policy application. Going ahead with the reorganization process would help me to remain true to my mission which is to deliver efficient and effective services to the citizens of Camden County. The following positions were requested and approved within the FY 2008 budget as a result of my reorganization plan (Phase 1): · Upon my hire, I discovered there was no current position that solely provided clerical assistance for the County Administrator's office. I reclassified an unfilled/vacant position of Records Retention Coordinator to Administrative Assistant to County Administrator. This position assists the County Administrator in disseminating directives, preparing required reports, assisting in budget preparation, obtaining, organizing and drafting administrative material for public information or office use. This position serves as a liaison between County employees, department managers, elected County officials, general public and the County Administrator in the day-to-day operation of County business. This position coordinates the County Administrator's calendar and appointments. · I reclassified a previously allocated position of Executive Assistant to County Clerk. This position is responsible for maintaining the official records of Camden County. This position collects, places, prepares, and schedules agenda items for official meetings and distributes accordingly. This position attends all regular, special and called meetings of the Board of Commissioners, ensures the setup of the facility, and records, transcribes, and distributes the minutes of these meetings accordingly. This position is also responsible for the operation of Records Retention Management and adherence to all applicable Georgia laws in accordance to records management. This position is also responsible for answering all Open Records Requests in accordance to Georgia's Open Records Act. · I created a new office and position of Director of Strategic Planning. This position is responsible for developing and facilitating the strategic planning process and coordinating key strategic projects. This position manages legislative issues, grant research, and acts as a liaison for community affairs. To date, with this position, we have been able to apply for $553,000 in grants. This is a proactive approach to government by linking funding requests to our strategic plan and ensuring that Camden County's priorities are made aware of in Atlanta and Washington. Since Camden County was not a Local Issuing Authority, the County missed out on $1.3 million dollars in land disturbance fees because $80 per disturbed acre went to the State. In order to comply with the State of Georgia Erosion and Sedimentation Act of 1975, Camden County was certified and approved as a Local Issuing Authority by the State of Georgia (EPD) and Board of Commissioners in October of 2007. Now the County receives $40 per acre for all projects over 1 disturbed acre. State law requires that all Local Issuing Authorities have at least 1 full time inspector for erosion & sedimentation control; therefore, the position of Erosion and Sedimentation Control Investigator was created. Since then, the County has brought in $47,286.80 in land disturbance fees which will subsidize the cost of this position and remain budget neutral. Now, all land disturbance plans and applications are submitted to Planning & Development. Before they went to the State and the County never know about it until the project began. This gives the County control of permitting and the knowledge of what is going on before it happens. Local citizens, contractors, and developers have one (1) point of contact, which is Camden County, before they would deal with State departments. This position has already dedicated over 1,000 hours to E&S Control, conducted over 408 site inspections, investigated over 105 complaints, issued over 100 Notice to Comply violations (verbal and written), and issued over 30 Stop Work orders (verbal and written). On site instruction and education in Erosion and Sedimentation Control, installation and maintenance are also given. Since October 2007, this position has hosted a Level 1-B certification class for Erosion & Sedimentation Control. This class consisted of 12 contractors, county and city workers. Currently the Erosion and Sedimentation Control Investigator also volunteers a collateral duty of Deputy EMA Director in the event of an emergency when our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is active. The Department of Public Safety was consolidated to include divisions of Fire Rescue, EMA, and Animal Control. The Department of Public Works was consolidated to include the divisions of Roads & Bridges and Mosquito Control. The Department of Support Services was created to consolidate divisions of Human Resources, Risk Management, Information Technology, and Facilities Management. The Human Resources Director position was reclassified to be the position of Support Services Director. The following positions were requested and approved within the FY 2009 budget as a result of my reorganization plan (Phase 2): · The pursuit of the goals of efficiency, effectiveness and enhanced accountability require and merit an investment of resources. The position of Management Analyst has recently been created and filled to identify areas where process redesign/improvement can significantly impact efficiency, quality, customer service and cost avoidance within the organization. This position provides analysis, conducts research and uncovers new approaches to new challenges and long standing problems. This position works with the Finance Department for implementation of budgeting for results and outcomes. This position also works closely with the Suggestions To Assist in Reduced Spending (STARS) program, which is a new employee suggestion program that will reward employees to who submit suggestions that enhance productivity, cut costs or improve the operations of County government. To date, the Management Analyst has achieved $150,000 in cost avoidance. · The County is comprised of over 600 square miles, thus presenting a challenge when trying to spray for mosquitoes. In order to increase the number of hours Camden County is being sprayed each month for mosquitoes, a part-time Vector Control Technician was hired. This position is responsible for operating vehicles and equipment to control mosquitoes in the County. The Mosquito Control Division will now be able to spray the County from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, which helps us to better serve the community and increases the quality of life and public health. · Certain functions and services are more compatible for consolidation in an effort to maximize impact, provide higher degree of focus, and enhance effectiveness. My plan was to create the position of a County Engineer that will serve as a technical advisor on public work projects included but not limited to roads, storm water management, construction management, and/or future water/waste water planning initiatives. Capital construction projects will be managed by this office. The division of Facilities Management will be transferred and supervised by the County Engineer. During my tenure as County Administrator, in all offices of the Board of County Commissioners and Constitutionals, there has been a net increase of three (3) new positions. The proposed reorganizations should not be considered a final product, but the phases of an ongoing evolution. I am committed to guiding Camden County Government in becoming a High-Performance Organization. We will continue to focus on an organization wide culture change through leadership, vision, values, and system improvements.To the taxpayer we must commit our best effort. Nothing less is acceptable. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Sincerely, Steve L. Howard, CPM, CPPO County Administrator From: Jay Moreno [] Sent: Thursday, August 21, 2008 12:28 PM To: Steve Howard Subject: Purported dramatic increase in the number of county employees Dear. Mr. Howard, As you may know, I maintain a blog called "Camden Commentary." After yesterday's opinion piece in the Tribune & Georgian, detailing a 53% increase in employees of the City of St. Marys since 2004 in anticipation of meteoric growth which never came, I posted a comment and a link to that article on my blog. Several readers have subsequently posted comments to the effect that the same thing has happened at the county level. I replied that I was not aware of any substantial increases in the number of county employees, but would make inquires. So that I might pass accurate information on to my readers, I would appreciate your telling me how many employees there were on, say, January 1, 2004, versus how many there are now. Moreover, if there is a net increase, how many of those represent the filling of previously unfilled positions, versus positions newly created since January 1, 2004. I'm sure readers would be most interested to know of any new positions or increase in numbers of old positions since you came on board. You brief explanation of what precipitated the need for any such new employees would also be appreciated. Don't worry about 3 days - just get it to me when you or Jodi find the time. Thank you in advance. Sincerely, Jay Moreno


Jay Moreno said...

It occurs to me that shortly after January 1, if the public safety herd is indeed too large, it will surely be culled to the optimal size.

Anonymous said...

That was a nice letter from Mr. Howard showing how much money we will make due to his hiring and changes made, but not once did he relate how much money we are paying for these new positions. I would love to know the salaries and benefits cost. I believe that the salaries of people in the General Government offices top the salaries of most counties the size of Camden and the revenues are less. When you compare Gen. Govt. salaries to wages in other departments, it is really staggering, the difference and how underpaid some employee's are

Anonymous said...

It would still be interesting to know why Danny Daniels still has a job with the county after being removed from EMS after lying and everything else he did. Can Mr. Howard answer that? Or is it because he knows too much on certain commissioners?

Jay Moreno said...

From Mr. Howard's letter:
"During my tenure as County Administrator, in all offices of the Board of County Commissioners and Constitutionals, there has been a net increase of three (3) new positions."

He's only been here a year this month. he can't be held responsible for the hires between January of 2004 and his hiring in August of 2007. Acting (by choice) county administrator Rainer and the other two members of the Terible Troika, Rhodes and Herrin, surely can.

Let's wait until Tommy Gregory thins the herd at the CCSO THEN take a look at overall county staffing. Mr. Howard can only make recommendations: the CCBOC must take the tough, poliitcally courageous decisions to reduce the county work force - if, in fact, that needs to be done.

Anonymous said...

I've been away, but great reporting Jay.

Very interesting point made about Danny Daniels. Heard that new position created by Mr. Howard that oversees HR really benefits him and his wife. How many of his/his wifes family have been hired by the County.

Pretty good for a guy that got shit canned for stealing from the County. If Commissioner Berry is such a maverick for justice, how did he allow this to slip pass him?

Jay Moreno said...

Anonymous 1: Surely, you must have some actual data to back up those assertions. Why don't you share the data with us?

Anonymous 2: Why should Mr. Howard be saddled with answering for an action taken by the late, not-so-great- Terrible Troika long before he was hired. Ask Rainer-Rhodes-Herrin.

My guess is that they will ttell you that because of their gratitude for how Daniels came from Jax EMS and stood-up the Camden County EMS to replace a volunteer ambulamnce service and the fact that he did not actually convert any of the funds to his personal use, that they went easy on him.

Of course, they did not go so easy om Mr. Akridge for firing him.

Anonymous said...

"fact that he did not actually convert any of the funds to his personal use, that they went easy on him."

I think Sandy Feller needs to come correct you on this he served during this time.

Jay Moreno said...

No, "friend," I think that you need to come to grips with the fact that was instrumental in whipping your boy Bill's sorry ass, get over your hatred for me, and go search the T&G archives for
Danny Daniels. To this day, he has not been charged by the feds, and will not be.

Here's one article on me:

County to pay back $151,753 to FEMA

Camden County will have to pay back $151,753 to the Federal Emergency Management Agency from a grant given to Camden County Fire Rescue in 2003.

The county received a letter from FEMA asking for the money because the county applied for two grants in one year, when the county was only eligible for one.

"Each department may only submit one application per application period," the letter stated. "Therefore, as a matter of law, we have no recourse but to deem both applications ineligible and cancel both awards."

The county will also have to pay $2,050 in interest on the funds to FEMA.

David L. Rainer, Camden County Board of Commissioners chairman, said he has not had a chance to analyze the situation thoroughly, and the issue would be put on the agenda at the April 19 meeting.

"That will give us two weeks to come up with some kind of resolution," said Rainer.

The county is currently looking into options on how it will pay back the money, according to County Manager Charles Akridge.

Akridge said the county might have to take the money out of the general fund to pay back FEMA. The county is currently using Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax money to renovate Dutch Mill Fire Station, and since some of the money went to the station, the county is looking into whether that money could be used to partially pay back FEMA.

"If we didn't have that grant money, then we would have used some of the SPLOST money. We are exploring our options. This is money that is not budgeted," said Akridge.

Commissioner Sandy Feller said since the board of commissioners has been overtaxing the citizens for some time, there should be money available.

"I don't think that [Rainer] would have any trouble finding the money," Feller said.

Commissioner Preston Rhodes said he has not had a chance to fully examine the consequences of paying back the money, but the county would have to go back and look at the implications this had on the county.

The grants were applied for by former Camden County Fire Chief Danny Daniels, who was demoted to paramedic/fireman for improper management of, and accounting for, public funds.

Through an audit, Daniels was cited for misrepresenting grant costs incurred, using grants for purposes they were not authorized for and preparing grants without authorization.

Since some of the grants were for federal money, they are also looking into Daniels's actions.

Akridge has not made any decision on what, if any, action would be taken against Daniels.

"I think it would be premature to make any decision until the federal authorities come out with their findings," said Akridge.

Feller said he did not think Daniels should be reinstated to his former post because of his managing of the county's affairs, but added, that if after the investigation was complete and no criminal charges were filed, he would have no objection to Daniels being reinstated in an administrative position other than chief.

That would be the same Sandy Feller who is going to straighten me out, right?

Anonymous said...

That would be the same Sandy Feller who is going to straighten me out, right?

Contrary to your thoughts I do NOT hate you. Neither did I vote for Bill Smith.

As far as Danny Daniels is concerned him not being indicted by the feds has nothing to do with him not being guilty of the crime. It has everything to do with a cover-up. I remember reading the entire situation on Sandy Fellers blog that's why I said you should ask him. Everyone out here in Laurel Island was talking about it because Danny is our neighbor and plays golf with my husband.