During the January meeting of the Walker County Commission citizens and commissioners had questions for Whitfield regarding the Executive Administrative Assistant position and the hiring process.
Stanley Matthews of Chickamauaga was the first to present concerns. Matthews spoke of his son who his home schooled and learning about the constitution and government Matthews spoke about the Enabling Act which states that the Commission Chairman has sole discretion in spending up to $25,000. Matthews asked how Whitfield could create a new position, citing the Maintenance Supervisor position and more recently an Executive Administrative Assistant who was hired at a salary of $42,000, without input from the Commission, not publicly post the job, and hire someone for a new position paying over $25,000 without the agreement of the other commissioners.
Chairman Whitfield responded to Matthews’ questions saying the job had been posted since July of 2023 under the title Administrative Assistant. Due to the qualifications of the person hired, Whitfield decided to change the title to Executive Administrative Assistant. Whitfield said nothing else about the position had changed except the job title and the person he hired was the only one with those qualifications out of over 20 resumes and was the only one he interviewed. As to the Maintenance Supervisor position, Whitfield said the Maintenance Department existed long before he got to Walker.
For personnel, Whitfield said he could hire people to fill positions already in place and in the budget. Salaries are a recurring charge in the budget and not something that is approved every month.
Commissioner Mark Askew said it was very clear in the Enabling Act that the spending limit for the County Chairperson is $25,000. Askew said “we talked about this” and that what Whitfield had done was outside the box and caused confusion. Askew did agree with Whitfield that they had consulted Jarrard and Davis law firm out of Forsyth, GA, but said Whitfield’s claim that the firm said it fell under personnel and daily operations wasn’t exactly what Jarrard had said.
Askew said he wished there were more conversation on the front end of this personnel issue instead of the back end and felt that would have made it less confusing. Other commissioners agreed that there were some communication issues and that they would at least like to be made aware of personnel changes going on, basic background information and all before the person was hired.
A citizen who introduced herself as Angela, asked questions regarding the basic hiring practices for the county and the County Chair’s involvement.
Whitfield answered that he had certain people in positions he was responsible for hiring.
“A large part of the hiring in the county I don’t do, because we have good department leaders who have been managers for a long time and know what they are doing and they do their own hiring”, Whitfield explained using the Fire Chief and fire department and the landfill employees as examples.
Angie Teems, Walker County’s Human Resource (HR) Director said she would just like to caution Chairman Whitfield against interviewing and hiring only one candidate out of the 40 to 50 resumes sent in. Whitfield said the new Executive Administrative Assistant was the only one with an MBA. Teems said the job description did not require an MBA.
Teems was asked by the Commission if she was involved in any of the hiring processes for the county and she said no, not the way the hiring was currently set up. Teems was responsible for the orientation of new hires. Teems was then asked if HR not being involved was a normal practice and Teems replied it was not.
Walker Commissioners approved the appointment of Mark Askew as Vice Chair; the regular meeting calendar for 2024 to be every 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month beginning at 6:30 pm; qualifying fees for the 2024 elections; and a Memorandum of Understanding to provide indigent services for citizens in need with the Public Defender’s office.