Pike County Times

advanced search engine by freefind
PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. You can donate through PayPal at the link on the bottom of the page. Becky Watts: Phone # 770-468-7583 editor(@)pikecountytimes.com
 
Online
Welcome to Pike County Times.com


Consider buying an advertisement for your business or sending a donation to Pike County Times to support the only free online newspaper in Pike County. Donations can be sent to: The Pike County Times, PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. Click here to donate through PayPal. Thanks for supporting Pike County's only free online newspaper!

 
 
BREAKING NEWS: Pike County Times Investigates Former County Manager Ron Alexander Part 2
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - Pike County Times has walked through the hiring of many county managers over the years. Some employments have gone smoothly, and some have not. Pike County has a reputation as a bit of a revolving door of late with the exception of John Hanson staying for six years. Lately, Bobby Bickley stayed just six months before resigning, and Ron Alexander resigned after only five months on the job. There was no exposé after Bobby Bickley left; it just wasn’t a good fit for him as county manager. But there were rumors of problems while Ron Alexander was here as county manager.

An extensive search of the internet had not brought up anything of consequence prior to the time of Ron Alexander’s hire so no open records requests were filed at that time. However, Pike County Times had heard about problems during his tenure and took a look back over his employment application after his resignation to discover something that was missed in the initial review of his application. The reason for leaving Henry County was “Let go.”

With that in mind, Pike County Times endeavored to learn a lesson (if there was one to be learned here) and made open records requests to the Henry County Board of Commissioners, which is where I heard there were problems, and Garden City, which was the employment that Ron Alexander left in order to come to Pike County and serve as our county manager. What has been learned is pretty astounding, and for as long as Pike County Times is continuing to be a watchdog in this county, this mistake won’t happen again. A review of redacted personnel files will be a must from here on out when it comes to the position of county manager.

Garden City provided 83 pages of documentation by email to two Open Records requests. The first read as follows: “Pursuant to the Open Records Act, I request a copy of the following with a response by email: 1) a copy of any and all letters and other information regarding the termination and/or resignation of Ron E. Alexander, 2) a copy of any litigation and/or settlement that involved Ron E. Alexander, and 3) a copy of any write ups or disciplinary actions that are contained in his personnel file.” The second read as follows: “Pursuant to the Open Records Act, I request an emailed copy of the following: 1) a copy of all reviews and performance evaluations for Ron Alexander, and 2) a copy of any and all complaints or allegations including any and all investigations and final conclusions on any complaints.”

This request had already been prepared for the Pike County Sheriff's Office (that will be in Part 3) so it did not cost Pike County Times any money.

It might be helpful to readers to learn about Ron Alexander’s history at Henry County before reading about Garden City because there is a pattern of behavior that continues through his employment here in Pike County. Click here to read “BREAKING NEWS: Pike County Times Investigates Former County Manager Ron Alexander Part 1.”

Bryan County

Pike County Times did not request information from Bryan County, but information was included in this packet that had been obtained by the Pike County Sheriff’s Office when they were asked to conduct a thorough background investigation of Ron Alexander by the Pike County Commission in January of 2020 which will be detailed in Part 3 of this series. This information is included because it bridges the employment gap between Henry County and Garden City.

Ron Alexander applied for employment under the Bryan County Board of Commissioners as the Code Official/Row Acquisitions Manager on March 31, 2012. He was employed there from June of 2012 through August 1, 2014.

A thank you was sent to Bryan County Engineer Kirk Croasmun from a Library Trustee for Ron’s expertise on HVAC and insulation on the Pembroke Library Project in 2012. And a formal reprimand was given to Ron Alexander on April 25, 2014 for not following protocol due to an April 23, 2014 discussion of repairs and inspection on a direct burial power line which did not fall under the purview of the Building Code Official. Engineer Kirk Croasmun issued the reprimand that Ron refused to sign and advised that any site related issues “must be” brought to his “immediate attention.” Ron submitted his notice of resignation on July 18, 2014 as the Building Official/Deputy Fire Marshal.

Garden City

Ron Alexander applied for employment at Garden City, Georgia as the Director of Building Safety on July 16, 2014. According to the application, his wife was employed by the city at that time. Ron listed the reason for leaving his employment with the Henry County Board of Commissioners as “Department restructuring.” However, according to documentation obtained by Open Records from Henry County, Ron’s employment was terminated on August 28, 2008 based on his refusal to take a required polygraph examination pertaining to an anonymous phone call alleging that possible un-permitted construction was taking place at the residence of a female co-worker under his supervision, and Ron repeatedly lied about making the phone call when he was asked about it. He later admitted that he had made the phone call and gave his reasons to the County Manager, but the decision to terminate was not rescinded.

Ron was employed at Garden City from August 11, 2014 through December 31, 2019 when he resigned in order to come to Pike County as the County Manager. He gave his official notice of resignation on December 18, 2019.

Complaint to Human Resources

Less than six months into his tenure at Garden City, there were problems in Ron’s department. A female Code Enforcement Officer who had worked for Garden City since January 5, 2010 contacted the County Attorney to advise that she that she was being treated unfairly by her supervisor, Ron Alexander, in early January of 2015. An actual timeline of events was included in the packet of information requested through Open Records.

On January 12, 2015, this female Code Enforcement Officer filed a formal complaint with the Director of Human Resources (HR) saying that she felt intimidated by Ron, that he was condescending toward her in front of a male co-worker, that she had 27 years of experience in Code Enforcement but Ron told her that she did not know how to perform her job in front of this male co-worker, and then the male co-worker was placed in a supervisory position above her. She said that she felt race and sex were a factor and that she felt like she was being “set up to fail or be terminated.” She noted that she had her International Code Council (ICC) training that the male co-worker did not have as well as 27 years of experience. She also said that she was working in a hostile work environment where Ron would look over her when she asked questions or had suggestions, and he never responded to her emails. Her suggested remedy was that Ron stop “degrading” and “belittling” her and making her feel intimidated. She said that she wanted to be treated fair at all times, be part of the team, and not be singled out.

Ron gave his Supervisory Response by saying, “…it is unfortunate that you feel this way, and I am very sorry for any misunderstanding you may have concerning my communication efforts toward you.” He then stated that she had shown deficiencies in her performance and behavior according to city standards and that non-compliance must be corrected according to the Personnel Policy Section 54. He said that he had worked with her on multiple occasions to correct these issues and that she had been verbally advised of this. He also said that the unfair treatment section of her complaint was “not true and completely without merit. He ended by saying that he would help her to “no end” to resolve these issues, but “please understand that it was not in the best interest of the City for me to allow this kind of performance and behavior to continue.”

On January 16, HR met with both employees and gave its written recommendation. HR “strongly suggested” that the male co-worker be removed from oversight/supervisory function because the two co-workers had a history of being rivals and cannot work together. Ron was advised to see this female co-worker from the perspective of what she brought to Garden City Code Enforcement because she “didn’t feel/perceive she is respected as a person or as an employee.” He was also told to treat the male and female co-worker as equals. HR advised the female Code Enforcement Officer to focus on learning and following direction of her new department head, work on showing her department head that she respects his authority, and seek to understand new directives by asking questions to gain clarification. She was also advised to take care with her body language and the unspoken message that it sends.

Also, on January 16, Ron submitted a draft write up to HR recommending probation for the female employee. This would have been formal warning that placed her on probation from January 20 through June 20, 2015 for unsatisfactory performance and inappropriate behavior with specific policy sections noted on the write up and basically informed the employee that she must adhere to these guidelines and directives in an efficient and timely manner. The attachment advised that she had shown defiance and disrespect for direct requests after a number of on the job training sessions and office training sessions. He stated that she had shown physical and verbal defiance in staff meetings and noted inefficiency in her job performance, disrupting the flow of the department, and jumping the chain of command to complain to the City Attorney. He advised that this was the 3rd disciplinary measure. He was advised not to take any action because of the ongoing dispute.

The memo from the HR Director to the City Manager on January 20 gives a few more important details. She advised that Ron was not pleased with the Code Enforcement Officer’s performance and that he told her that it is his belief that she filed the complaint because her job performance was in questions and that her complaint was “completely without basis.” She said that the Code Enforcement Officer advised that “she had no problems” with the direction that she was given by HR when it came to learning to follow the direction of her new department head. “She said she respects him and hopes he doesn’t think otherwise.” However, she was frustrated because the male co-worker was given supervisory capacity over her and was offended when the male co-worker told her about this arrogantly instead of her supervisor. The HR Director recommended that Ron oversee her job performance and that a review of the situation should be conducted in a meeting in two weeks’ time.

On January 20, the female Code Enforcement Officer appealed her original dispute to the City Manager, and on January 22, she mentioned the dispute to a city councilman. On January 26, the City Manager advised the HR Director of actions that had taken place since January 15. First, Ron notified the female Code Enforcement Officer that she would report to him only and not to her male co-worker so she voluntarily withdrew her complaint. However, she expressed concern about her working relationship with Ron and was advised that co-workers were expected to be “professional and respectful” to each other as the basis of their working relationship. She was then counseled by the City Manager and the HR Director for revealing specific details involving a personnel matter outside of the City organization because this was not consistent with the Employee manual or personnel policies.

On February 17, the female Code Enforcement Officer filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Garden City. On February 18, the City Manager addressed the Administrative Assistant Complaint with Ron and the City Manager responded to that complaint on February 20. [Note from the Editor: This was not included in the documents provided but has been included here because it was listed on the timeline.] On March 2, the City received the EEOC complaint which was successfully mediated on April 14, 2015.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Complaint

The Code Enforcement Officer/Resource Coordinator advised that she had worked for Garden City since January of 2010. She alleged that discriminatory actions began against her in November of 2014 when her supervisor, Ron Alexander, designated a white, male co-worker to be her supervisor. She advised that she filed an internal complaint of race/gender discrimination and harassment against Alexander and her male co-worker. She said that she had been subject to retaliation following her complaint with Ron Alexander yelling/screaming at her and writing her up on February 12 for an alleged “history of not performing my duties.” After the submission of her written response, she said that Ron Alexander told her, “I’m going to fire you in two weeks.” She said that she was not allowed to attend annual training, that no explanation has been provided for the way she has been treated, and that she believed she had been retaliated against.

The Mediation Settlement Agreement promised that the Code Enforcement Officer would not institute a lawsuit in exchange for promises made by Garden City. First, Garden City agreed that there be no discrimination or retaliation of any kind based on any facet of this case. Second, the parties agreed that this agreement was a “final and complete statement” between the employee and Garden City. Third, the parties agreed that EEOC was authorized to investigate compliance with this agreement and that this agreement could be enforceable in court by the EEOC or used as evidence if there was a future allegation.

The settlement was as follows: 1) The warning from February 11, 2015 was removed from the Code Enforcement Officer’s permanent file and would not be used in any of her future personnel actions, 2) Garden City agreed to pay any and all fees for the Code Enforcement Officer’s membership and certification with the International Code Council (ICC), 3) Garden City agreed to allow the Code Enforcement Officer to complete any and all training required for her ICC certification for Housing Code and Property Maintenance before her certification expired, 4) Ron Alexander, her department head, agreed to consider her “input and opinions regarding job-related paperwork,” and the Code Enforcement Officer agreed to respect Mr. Alexander’s “final decision-making authority with regard to all departmental matters,” 5) Both parties agreed to be “aware of each other’s body language and the unspoken message it sends,” and 6) The Code Enforcement Officer agreed to understand directives given by her director by asking questions in order to gain clarity.

Garden City Personnel Evaluations

In 2015, Ron received a salary increase based on his work on city construction projects. It was noted that he struggled with subordinate employee issues but had worked to improve this over the past 60 days. It was said that he worked well with most department heads but needed to build a strong working relationship with all department heads, he needed to be more “accepting and agreeable” to directives from the City Manager with operational budget issues, and he needed to work on improving his interaction with other department heads to ensure teamwork.

In 2016, Ron received a salary increase and was praised for greatly improved interactions with subordinate employees though he was cautioned to remain vigilant on this matter. It was noted that he generally worked well with the public but needed to remain mindful of interactions with all constituencies, and it was noted that he worked well with most department heads and had built strong working relationships with most departments.

In 2017, Ron received a salary increase, and it was noted that he had saved money for the county by completing multiple general contractor projects in house. It was noted that he generally worked well with the public but needed to be mindful of interactions with all constituencies to ensure that his message was not misread and that he needed to work on timely completion of paperwork as well as consulting with the City Manager and/or City Attorney when there were questions.

In 2018, Ron received a salary increase with a note that he had made improvement on his paperwork but was given the same notification of being mindful of interactions with all constituencies to ensure that his message was not misread, advised to seek input on projects and tasks to ensure that he was adhering to the City Manager’s desires on these matters, and told that he must be mindful of interactions with external parties to avoid problems or unnecessary delays on projects.

In 2019, Ron received a salary increase, but problems were evident as several items that he had been given an A rating on in the past had slipped to a B. He was advised to manage field staff to ensure that they were implementing his standard of operation (SOP) to an acceptable standard, that he needed to improve problem resolution skills and seek help when necessary, and that he needed to ensure that his message was not misread. It was noted that Ron was a “knowledgeable, capable and proficient employee and department head especially when it comes to the technical aspects and duties of his job” and that his experience, background, and certifications made him well suited for his position at the city. However, he was urged to continue to remain open to suggestions from the City Manager on department operations, to be mindful of interactions to avoid misunderstandings and/or problematic interactions, and there were some problems with publishing an agenda that included all items in accordance to requirements.

Ron gave his two week notice for the end of December and was working in Pike County two weeks later.

Closing

This is a summation of 83 pages of documents that were sent from Garden City to Pike County Times’ open records request.

Ron Alexander gave his written notice of resignation to Garden City on December 18, 2019 and began work in Pike County as the County Manager on January 13, 2020. He tendered an oral resignation to the Pike County Board of Commissioners that was accepted on June 10, 2020. Brandon Rogers has been appointed as the Interim County Manager for Pike County at this time.

Part 3 of this series will walk through more than an inch of documentation on allegations and problems that were encountered during the five months that Ron was employed here in Pike County.


Thank you to First Bank of Pike for sponsoring Pike County Times’ Breaking News Alerts! First Bank of Pike has been serving customers in Pike County and the surrounding area since 1901 and offers Personal and Business banking with a personal touch. Services include checking, savings, money market, certificates of deposit, and IRA’s. Mobile Banking and Bill Payment services are also available! Click here for more. Please let First Bank of Pike know that you appreciate their sponsorship of Breaking News Alerts on Pike County's only FREE online newspaper!

If you want to find out about how you can get Breaking News Alerts, click here. Thanks for reading and supporting Pike County Times.com!

7.10.20
Top