County HR director apologizes, sorta

On the day the Union representing the county’s bus drivers announced its no-confidence vote regarding Escambia County Administrator Janice Gilley, Gilley’s human resources director, Jana Still, sent an apologetic email to ATU Local 1395 President Mike Lowery and Gwen McCormick.

The county in April fired McCormick, a 25-year veteran bus driver that contracted COVID-19 and has been struggling to come to work.  With her oxygen tank in tow, she had to beg the Board of County Commissioners for her health insurance at the board’s June 3 meeting after a pharmacy had told it had been canceled. Read more.

Lowery had reported that when Still and the county management met with McCormick on Monday, June 7,  the HR director was “nasty and spent most of her time defending herself and Ms. Gilley.”

In her June 15 email, Still wrote: “I would like to apologize for engaging in deviating from the topic at hand and hope that it did not detract from the purpose of the meeting. It is concerning if any comments I made came across as disrespectful to any individual or the Union. That was never my intent, but your perception matters; therefore, if it was perceived as such, I sincerely apologize.”

She also added a special note for McCormick, “We are keeping you in our thoughts and prayers and hope for a full recovery.”

The apology came a day after Inweekly requested the audio of the meeting. Inweekly reporter Jeremy Morrison has repeatedly tried to interview Still. The county’s PIO, Laura Coale, has offered to submit written questions to Still, but we’ve refused to play that game.

 

Hi Jeremy,
I’ll reach out to her and will let her know, but it could speed up the process if you placed your questions in writing. This is her first day back in the office after a week off, and I know she has meetings already scheduled. Additionally, often times personnel matters are confidential so it would be helpful to know if the questions can be answered. I can reach out to her staff while she’s in meetings to help find the information.

Thank you,
Laura

Laura Coale
Director for Communications and Public Information
Escambia County Board of County Commissioners

We will transcribe the audio and post it when it’s released. Sadly, because it appears to not be flattering of the HR director and the management style of the county administrator, we probably won’t receive it until after tomorrow’s commission meeting.


Still’s Apology

From: Jana E. Still <jestill@myescambia.com>
Date: Tue, Jun 15, 2021 at 10:19 AM
Subject: Meeting held on Monday, June 7th
To: Gwen McCormick <mccormickgw157@gmail.com>, Maureen Gibson <Maureengibson66@yahoo.com>, mloweryatu1395@gmail.com <mloweryatu1395@gmail.com>, Curtis Howard <choward@atu.org>, Tonya Ellis <tellis@myescambia.com>, Rodriques Kimbrough <rkimbrough@myescambia.com>, Wesley M. Hall <wmhall@myescambia.com>
CC: Laura A. Coale <lacoale@myescambia.com>

All,

I would like to personally thank you all for taking the time to come together to discuss a path forward for Ms. Gibson and Ms. McCormick.

It is great that the meeting was a success and that the parties were able to reach an agreement for both Ms. Gibson and Ms. McCormick.

While I would have preferred to attend a meeting such as this in person especially because attending virtually has some drawbacks (i.e., technical issues, delays, background noise, etc.), I had prescheduled leave to spend time with my family; so, I really appreciate you all being so accommodating in that respect.

After listening to the recording from the meeting, I noticed that I was coming across as speaking very loudly at times. I hope this was not ill perceived as it was a result of me compensating for wind and other background noise on my end. I also noticed that there were some delays on the Teams app that occasionally caused us to speak over one another. I would like to apologize for engaging in deviating from the topic at hand and hope that it did not detract from the purpose of the meeting. It is concerning if any comments I made came across as disrespectful to any individual or the Union. That was never my intent, but your perception matters; therefore, if it was perceived as such, I sincerely apologize.

I wanted to give some individual acknowledgements as well:

Curtis, you were polite and maintained a calm demeanor even when we were having a lively debate.
Rod, you did a great job explaining some of the more technical aspects of the terms.
Mr. Lowery, you well-articulated the options for a compromise on the probationary period.
Tonya, you were great at reining in and refocusing the conversation when we got off track.
Ms. Jerry, your passion and dedication to the employees is quite evident.
Wesley, your compassioned words of wisdom well captured the objective to maintain and build upon a cohesive relationship.
Ms. Gibson and Ms. McCormick, thank you for your patience and understanding throughout.

Ms. McCormick, we are keeping you in our thoughts and prayers and hope for a full recovery.

Ms. Gibson, congratulations on your soon to be grandbaby.

I think this was a great example of the County and Union working together to accomplish a common goal. I hope these successful agreements are indicative of moving forward in a positive direction and building the foundations of trust.

We will not always agree but as long as we strive to gain an understanding and remain open to the differing perspectives, we can continue to foster cooperation and collaboration in meeting the needs of the employees and the department.

Thank you all again.

GO TEAM!!! 😊

Jana Still, M.A., SHRM-SCP
Director of Human Resources
Escambia County Board of County Commissioners

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3 thoughts on “County HR director apologizes, sorta

  1. I found myself wondering what kind of human being would abuse a veteran employee struck down with covid and struggling to breathe. So I Googled Jana Still and based on her LinkedIn profile, she is about 33 years old, with a max of 10 years of junior level HR experience at best. Sometimes, people lead badly when they don’t have enough experience, and unsure of what to do, but with a lot of power, double down on bad choices. I don’t know how someone with this resume is the HR head of a county of 300,000+ people. I guess it’s all about who you know here.

  2. Here’s something that Jana Still wrote about herself in an advertisement for a four-hour course (sponsored by Gulf Power) she was going to give at Pensacola State in February 2020 titled “Human Resource Considerations When Staffing on a Shoestring” – “People are your number one resource; but, you only get out of people what you put into them, so if you don’t invest in your people, you should not expect much in return.” I went back and looked at the agenda and meeting minutes when the BOCC confirmed the hiring of Ms. Still on October 17, 2019 with an annual salary of $85k+ and a $400 monthly vehicle allowance (?). Commissioner Barry made the motion seconded by Commissioner Bender. The motion carried unanimously. There was no discussion about her appointment. The agenda action, combined with another personnel action, lasted a total of 17 seconds. Many years ago, I sent a very polite e-mail to the board suggesting that they take a more active interest in the appointment of department heads because when they mess up or create a public drama citizens can only hold them accountable. (County staff is not accountable to the public.) For my good suggestion, I was politely scolded from the podium for suggesting that the board waste its precious time caring about the daily operations of county government. The commissioner was at least nice enough not to mention me by name but they all (to include Grover Robinson) knew who he was talking about. If the board began to take an active interest in senior county staff appointments, it might spend less time having to apologize for what was done or not done in their name.

  3. I have never in my wildest dreams even imagined that someone as grossly inappropriate, sophomoric, and unprofessional as Jana Still could work in HR, much less head a department.

    It’s like Parks and Rec, without the humor. Actually, if you tried to write how this woman actually acts into The Office, it would seem too far fetched.

    Nice touch there at the end with the flushed smiley to offset the fact that she and Janice Gilley lied about the reason for the ECAT negotiations impasse. GEAUX TEAM!!!!

    And the sirens on the bus go bloop bloop bloop…

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