Barry waits until June 17 to discuss Gilley’s job performance

By Jeremy Morrison

Escambia County Commissioner Steven Barry says “there’s not one specific reason” why he called for a discussion regarding County Administrator Janice Gilley’s contract last week. The commissioner, however, isn’t elaborating on his rationale until the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners digs into the matter during its June 17 meeting.

“I really prefer to keep my comment — at least before the board has any type of discussion,” Barry told Inweekly Monday. “I’d like to save those comments for the interaction with my colleagues.”

He added, “You know, my opinion by itself doesn’t do anything.”

Gilley is in the second year of a three-year contract as Escambia’s administrator. Last week, Commission Chair Robert Bender equated the coming discussion to the regular annual review of the administrator’s performance.

On Monday, Barry agreed with that observation. “I think it’s an appropriate time to use this two-year anniversary as a starting point for a discussion amongst ourselves.”

Noting that last year the commissioners held one-on-one meetings with Gilley instead of a public forum, he said, “This can serve as that second-year contract performance review.”

The June 17 discussion regarding the administrator’s contract comes at a time rife with rifts within county government. For one, Commissioner Barry has raised questions about the 401(a) annuity retirement plan that he believes was not explained fully to senior management level staff, including the commissioners.

And secondly, Gilley has locked horns with County Attorney Alison Rogers over a public records request — whereas the administrator believes the county should keep a secret the IP address of digital public record requests made anonymously and not release the information to the public. Rogers contacted the Attorney General’s office and was told the address was a public record. However, Gilley wants the board to ask the AG to reconsider the issue.

Barry dismissed any notion that the pension problem would come up in the discussion regarding Gilley’s assessment. The commissioner said that he has been working on that issue for more than a year and that the board is currently awaiting a legal opinion on the matter.

“I certainly wouldn’t anticipate anything related to the 401(a) issue. I think the board gave pretty clear direction last week to ask the county attorney to get a written opinion of the legality of us even taking up that discussion; so until something comes back there, I wouldn’t anticipate that being a part of this discussion,” Barry said. “Even though it hasn’t been discussed any publicly, that’s something that I’ve been dealing with for over a year and a half.”

As for the records-request issue, the commissioner said he doesn’t expect that to be a component of the assessment discussion either. That is, if Gilley — who was absent from the commission meeting last week — accepts the board’s directive that legal issues should run through the county attorney.

“I’m certainly going to assume that she saw the meeting and heard the board’s discussion about our intent to have, especially records related to the board, go through the county attorney,” Barry said Monday. “I think that the board gave some pretty clear direction that we would like the records being given, that are related to the district offices, you know, to go through the county attorney for redaction. I think that’s where the redaction’s appropriate, that’s the office handling that on our behalf.”

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2 thoughts on “Barry waits until June 17 to discuss Gilley’s job performance

  1. CJ,
    The contract says the review must be done annually within 30 days of July 1. The board determines whether it will be public and what procedures will be followed. Actually only commissioner doesn’t work well with the board and it’s doubtful would worked well with any panel. That being said, I would like to see an objective, deliberate and transparent review process.

    Let’s see what we get. – Rick

  2. Above, Commissioner Barry says, “This can serve as that second-year contract performance review.” Is that legal? Is what is anticipated to happen on June 17 the same as a performance review? Can Barry decide that on his own or is it a board decision and must County Administrator Gilley also give her consent to have her dirty laundry aired in public with the television camera’s rolling? Can she defend herself and rebut allegations by presenting evidence where she did what she was told or took action when the board could not make a decision? If Gilley is going to face specific allegations, shouldn’t she be told in advance so she can prepare her defense to include calling witnesses? Does the board’s contract with County Administrator Gilley describe the performance review process? Does County Attorney Rogers have a similar provision in her contract? Legally, is the board members individual meetings with Gilley in 2020 considered to be a “performance review” as that term is used in her contract? Are there records of what was said by each commissioner and her response? Does the 2021 plan to talk about Gilley in front of the television camera during a public meeting constitute a “performance review” as envisioned by her contract? For all other county employees, what are the requirements for a performance review? Must an annual performance review be in writing? Does Escambia County have Human Resources policy that addresses performance reviews to include different types of them? I would have assumed that an annual performance review of the county administrator would be a very formal process overseen by the board chairperson assessing Gilley’s record of meeting specific benchmarks of performance. If not, does they just “wing it” and get away with it? In this case, I would have thought it best to have a neutral third-party assist in the performance evaluation, someone who can speak with Gilley, each of the commissioners, Rogers and also county employees to include direct reports, department heads, etc. Lastly, will Gilley be told in advance what concerns will be raised during the June 17 meeting or will it be a five-on-one ambush? As part of any performance review, I would hope that the board would start at the beginning with the state law requirement for the job, “The county administrator shall be qualified by administrative and executive experience and ability to serve as the chief administrator of the county.” When the board hired Gilley in 2019, at Barry’s insistence because he is the one who wanted her name added to the finalists, she very openly did not meet the state law requirement. I based that on reading how she describes her own background on the county website and also on what I read about her reviewing the News Journal archives back to 1999. She now has two years experience. Making her job harder, she has to work for five commissioners who do not work well together as a board instead each focused on advancing their own interest. I think a neutral third-party would better put it all in context and provide a fairer, more objective performance review. How about asking Quint Studer to conduct the performance review for both Gilley and Rogers and making recommendations to improve the county government better known by his unofficial call sign – “Dysfunction Junction.” The blame if any is not the fault of Gilley alone.

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