Politics & Government

Macon-Bibb loses fifth department head in final weeks of buyout offer

Macon-Bibb County government is navigating the loss of five department heads while going through an extensive buyout process that could top 200 employees.

On Monday, Macon-Bibb learned it was losing its fifth department head in recent months -- E-911 Center Director Keith Moffett, the sole finalist for the job of county administrator in Butts County. Moffett was confirmed by Butts County officials Monday night.

With each vacant department head position, the county has moved quickly to place someone in the jobs to temporarily oversee the department, Macon-Bibb County spokesman Chris Floore said.

Macon-Bibb employees have fewer than three weeks remaining to accept voluntary retirement packages as the county looks to cut at least 93 positions outside of public safety to fit its budget.

It will take awhile after the July 31 deadline to crunch figures and determine which jobs need to be replaced, Floore said. More than 400 employees are eligible to retire.

“We’ll look at what positions are vacant and have to review that with remaining department heads, the mayor and senior leadership with how we’ll move forward,” he said.

The highest-ranking employee to accept a retirement package came in May when Assistant County Manager Steve Layson announced he was leaving.

Other department heads who have accepted buyouts include Information Technology Director Stephen Masteller and longtime Facilities Maintenance Director Gene Simonds.

In June, Recreation Director Dale “Doc” Dougherty announced he was stepping down after five years to take the same role in Hillsborough County, Florida.

Meanwhile, Moffett’s eight-year tenure with Macon-Bibb government is scheduled to end Friday.

Floore said the departing department leaders have been valuable to the county. The buyouts do, however, provide a chance for the government to be more efficient.

“What this is is an opportunity to review how we operate just like when we consolidated,” he said. “We would like to find more effective ways of better delivering services.”

Last week, Human Resources Director Ben Hubbard said 165 employees, including public safety employees who would be replaced, have submitted early retirement paperwork or said they intend to accept buyouts.

Employees have seven days to change their minds about the buyouts before county officials vote to approve them.

“We estimated early (in the budget process) 200 positions, but when we built the budget we had an estimated 93 positions that were not public safety,” Floore said.

The buyouts have raised concerns from some city employees worried they may be pressured into accepting them, Commissioner Larry Schlesinger said at a July 7 meeting.

Mayor Robert Reichert replied that employees are not being influenced to take the packages.

“We’re certainly not strong-arming people at all,” Reichert said. “We’re not trying to inflate numbers.”

To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623.