Gilley’s HR nightmare

The Escambia Board of County Commissioners found out during its agenda review that Public Safety and its fire department have not been following the county’s HR policies and collective bargaining agreements by maintaining separate personnel folders with reprimands, complaints and counseling notes that never make it to the employee’s official personnel file maintained by the HR department.

Commissioner Jeff Bergosh was told letters were placed in the personnel files of three battalion chiefs regarding electioneering occurring at Station #6. Campaigning on county property is a violation of county policy and state law.  However, the letters were not placed in the HR department’s files for the chiefs.  In other words, someone lied to the commissioner.

Bergosh told Inweekly this morning that he didn’t want to bring the issue but had no confidence that the matter would be corrected unless he made the entire board aware of the problem.

At the agenda review, HR director Jana Still said, “The official personnel file is housed at HR. Public Safety in particular has this thing called a letter to file. It’s a form of documentation that’s not considered disciplinary in nature. And so they don’t send that to HR because it’s not considered official discipline because it’s not part of our progressive discipline process. It’s not even part of any of our collective bargaining.”

County Administrator Janice Gilley hired Still in November 2019.  The HR director said she had been “trying to cull” the practice in Public Safety and had held training sessions on how to properly discipline employees.

Commissioner Bergosh said, “If the fire department has this different thing where they can keep things from going into a file with some method–that’s not in their CBA and not in our policy, that’s not fair to any of the other bargaining groups who are following the policy.”

“Madam Administrator, all of this is very concerning,” said Commissioner Steven Barry.  “I would presume that you’re concerned about this.”

Still interjected, “Yes, we’ve been talking through and working on it since I’ve been here. And I know since Ms.-”

Barry cut her off: “There’s a degree of working on processes. And there’s a degree of saying this is how it is and this is it. That’s not something you work on. These are the rules, whatever the rules are. That’s not a process. In my opinion, that is what’s supposed to happen. It’s not a negotiated thing. It’s not, well, this is what we recommend. This is what the rules are. And it’s not for discussion or, there shouldn’t be ambiguity in what’s expected.”

Gilley spoke up, “So this was a situation that some of us had assumed had been resolved. We were not aware that it had not gone into the file. So we just found out yesterday or the day before, that the letters had not gone into the room.”

“I presume you were alarmed, then,” said Barry. “I don’t like what’s been said, I presume it to be true. I don’t like what’s been said, so I’m alarmed. I would hope you were alarmed.

“Yes, I’m disappointed in the fact that it did not follow the whole process,” said Gilley and then dropped out the discussion, letting the staff explain and defend.

Still pointed out the process was handled by former Public Safety Jason Rogers, who resigned last December. However, the commissioners weren’t going to let Gilley and her staff blame someone for process that Still said  had been going on for years and has continued with HR and the administrator’s knowledge.

“Jason cannot be the only person that knew what happened or what went on,” said Barry. “So to go back to the policy of blaming ‘well so-and-so is not here, it was their fault’–they’re the 100% recipient of this blame– is insincere and generally inaccurate. He can’t be the only person that knew what happened in a situation or , in my opinion, it’s very hard to believe that one person would be the only person that knew what happens.”

Commissioner Lumon May said, “If someone violates a policy and it’s a common practice to violate the policy, then someone needs to be reprimanded. ”

Assistant Debbie Bowers said, “I’ll take responsibility for that. When Jason left, we did have a meeting with the battalion chiefs. We did agree that there would be a letter to the file. Unfortunately, I didn’t know there were different files.”

Bergosh said, “There should not be separate files.”

“I did not know that until yesterday I had a conversation with you and with Chief Williams,” Bowers replied to Bergosh. “He will rectify that. But I did not know when we sent letters to the file, it meant something different.”

The new public safety director , Eric Gilmore, pledged to change the process.

Commissioner May said, “Fundamentally EMS and public safety has been a mess. We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer dollars. We sent Janice Kilgore over there. We’d sent Jerry Maygarden over there. We created a compliance department where we were spending almost a million dollars just because we want to straighten that out. And we still have no positive results.”

He continued, “The perception is the reality of running a good old boy’s system. And that’s why we like inclusion and diversity. That’s why we don’t have very many African-Americans there because of this culture of entitlement, a culture that things are being done under the table. And so to me, we got to change that perception if we want to be an all inclusive county.”

Gilley made no comment.




6 thoughts on “Gilley’s HR nightmare

  1. Bingo, Michael McCormack. Debbie Bowers and Wesley Hall are the overpaid “Assistant Administrators” who provide the following vital functions for Janice Gilley: (1) enforcers/heavies down the chain; and (2) placeholders who act as a political and legal buffer to take the heat for Gilley, so she can claim she doesn’t know about anything that is happening in her own administration.

    Debbie’s job is to strong-arm one half of the County and Wesley Hall takes care of the other half. Which primarily consists of spending his days up at ECAT to help Tonya Ellis run crap on ECAT staff and the ATU.

    Then we have the Ethics and Compliance office Gilley set up, which is like her Secret Service, conducting/threatening fake investigations on ethical employees and covering up for Gilley’s GOBs and GOGs.

    Jana Still–who Janice Gilley represented to me as “a baller” before she came on board–excels primarily in churning out garbled documentation on the employees on Janice’s hit list and hiding paper. Her favorite paper to hide is verbal harassment complaints, on one side of the sword, and disciplinary action on the other side of the sword, for those under Gilley’s protection.

    Then you have Doug Underhill, who bloviates about process for quarter hour soliloquies, when he himself covered up for two paramedics who admitted they didn’t have their PALS certs in order, pretending that he had instituted a “clemency” period. I asked him where the paperwork is on that Thursday at the Public Forum. I also asked Ms. Still where the paperwork was on Chris Curb’s verbal complaint (that Debbie Bowers fired him for), and said I wasn’t sure whether they keep this stuff in a box, set it on fire, or what.

    In addition, everybody on that dais knows–or they should know–that Janice Gilley concocted the story evaluation of Eder and made John Dosh run with it, smearing Matt Coughlin’s name all over the place. And when I bring that up, nobody says a word. Just let him get smeared, after he stayed at the County for two more months at the request of all the commissioners.

    All of this is going to get even more fun now that Edler is suing the County. It will be interesting to see if Gilley and Alison Rogers try to thread the needle, continue to CYA for Edler and themselves, and mediate it out, or actually mount a defense of the BOCC–in which case, they will have to admit that I haven’t been lying about the coverup they have been orchestrating for her up to this point.

    And in the meantime, County staff will continue to suffer. I don’t think morale could get any lower, but if it’s possible Gilley will find a way.

  2. OK, a quick question if I may. Is Debbie Bowers an assistant to Jana Still the HR Director? If so, then the real question should be why was she not aware of the policy that has been in place for some time concerning documentation to one file, maintained at HR downtown? That should be alarming to the Commissioners and Madame Administrator as well. How can they expect the other Departmental heads and Supervisors to follow policy when the HR staff is ignorant of said policy. Am I way out in left field here? Sounds like Ms. Still needs to address policy within her own department first and foremost.

  3. I have been hard on Lumon for the last few years because I felt he wasn’t doing enough to improve the inclusion and diversity disparities in the County, HOWEVER, I must FULLY Commend him on his public stance on this subject matter, Thank You Lumon for taking a strong stand for inclusion and diversity in the County! Keep going with your leadership!

  4. Oh there is so much more…..Don’t forget there are so many other departments. This is just one incident. The Commissioners have just got a little nibble of what this Administration and HR are not doing properly. My first arbitration last Wednesday exposed other mishaps.

  5. Julia,
    All five commissioners spoke up and expressed their concerns. I will have more in the April 15 issue. – Rick

  6. I’m glad to see that three Commissioners took this seriously. Perhaps my Commissioner Bender also spoke up. If he did not I’m disappointed. Sloppy management can lead to continuing serious problems, including legal issues. Still not impressed with Janice Gilley as County Administrator.

Comments are closed.