Evaluations of Warner Robins department heads lapse

chwright@macon.comOctober 9, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- Annual evaluations of Warner Robins department directors haven’t regularly been completed in at least a few years, according to city records.

The yearly reviews haven’t been done at all since Mayor Chuck Shaheen took office in 2010 and were spotty before then, records show.

Shaheen said he wasn’t aware city procedures called for him to complete the annual evaluations, but he wants to set up a special procedure for the department directors in the future.

“There were a lot of things that we could update, and this could be one of them,” Shaheen said, pointing out City Council has updated or created financial, harassment, whistle-blower and purchasing policies since he took office.

Reviews lapsed

Annual evaluations are a staple in most jobs. Employees nationwide are accustomed to a yearly review of their performances, usually used to decide if raises are merited.

In Warner Robins, supervisors within departments evaluate their respective charges. Department directors evaluate supervisors.

“It’s to inform the employee as to what’s expected,” said Bryan Fobbus, human resources director. “And then, at the end of the year, how good a job they did and -- if needed -- to modify their work (or) their behavior to get the result that was requested.”

The mayor, as the city manager, is supposed to evaluate department directors, Fobbus said.

Shaheen said he entered office during trying times in the city, coming in after the suicide of longtime Mayor Donald Walker, and no one notified him of the evaluations duties.

“I didn’t have any training. No one told me this is what” needed to be done, Shaheen said.

The Telegraph discovered the lapse in annual evaluations when it requested the reviews for department directors for 2010 through 2012. Records Manager Amy McKinzie responded there weren’t any.

When The Telegraph requested annual evaluations for department directors from 2006 to 2009, only four evaluations were found.

They were 2008 and 2009 evaluations of Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Gary Lee, a 2006 review for City Development Department Director Robert Sisa, and a 2006 review for Utilities Director Montie Walters.

The latter two were completed before Sisa and Walters were department directors. Lee isn’t technically a city employee. He works for the RDA, though the agency receives city funding, and Lee reports to Shaheen.

“If you go back further than that, there are more,” Fobbus said.

The Telegraph did not request evaluations for all employees, but Fobbus said an internal database is kept, and department directors are notified monthly of upcoming evaluations.

Merit raises to be based on reviews

The city of Warner Robins has years-old procedures regarding evaluations that dictate annual reviews for employees.

A 1979 ordinance says annual evaluations must be completed 20 working days prior to the anniversary date of employment every year.

“The merit increase will be based on an evaluation and recommendation by the employee’s immediate supervisor or department head,” states the ordinance. “All requests for merit increases must be accompanied by a written evaluation of each employee and approved by a department head, personnel director and mayor.”

No merit raises were given to any employee since 2009, Fobbus said. Salaries were adjusted this year based on a Carl Vinson Institute of Government study conducted by University of Georgia researchers, he said.

Almost all directors received equity adjustments as part of the study, and council later decided to add an additional 1.5 percent cost-of-living raise for all city employees in the fiscal 2013 budget.

Three department directors have been considered for additional raises this year, albeit in different ways and situations.

During budget discussions, Shaheen recommended $17,000 be spent on a raise and added benefits costs for Lee to take on additional economic development duties.

At the same time, Fire Chief Robert Singletary requested $10,765 in his budget for a raise, which Shaheen provided to council.

Neither raise was approved in the final fiscal 2013 budget.

In March, Recreation Director James Dodson requested a raise in an appeal to the Carl Vinson Institute of Government salary study. The study, which was implemented in April, did not originally suggest a raise for Dodson other than the equity adjustment many other city employees received.

Researchers did not recommend his appeal be approved. City Council is supposed to address his and 26 other appeals over the next month.

Councilwoman Carolyn Robbins said council members decided not to give raises to the department directors because the salary study did not suggest them. In addition, the proposal for Lee was muddy because he technically works for the RDA, she said.

Council members didn’t ask about annual evaluations in those discussions, Robbins said.

What’s next

Going forward, Robbins said, evaluations are only necessary if merit raises are considered in the fiscal budget.

“It would be good to do just to let the employee know his status,” Robbins said.

Robbins also said Shaheen could have no way to know he was responsible for department director evaluations if no one told him.

Shaheen said he has evaluated his two administrative assistants since he became mayor.

He agreed evaluations are good ways to inform employees of their performances. He said he recently contacted Thomasville City Manager Steve Sykes to discuss how Thomasville evaluates directors.

“I want to do something current and up-to-date,” Shaheen said.

He said a new form specific to department heads needs to be created.

“It ought to be a separate, more official form to be more objective of what they’ve accomplished,” Shaheen said, pointing to special certifications Public Works Director Joe Musselwhite achieved recently and Police Chief Brett Evans’ recent doctorate degree.

Still, Shaheen said department directors are in positions where their performance is regularly evaluated.

“They get evaluated every day in my opinion,” Shaheen said. “Our department heads perform every day for the citizens of Warner Robins.”

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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