Whitaker refuses to release employee survey results

Gilbert: Is the Nov. Election Holding Up The Survey Release?

WINNSBORO – “It has been a little over a month since we asked for an employee engagement survey. Some of the employees say they have not seen or heard of a survey,” Councilman Clarence Gilbert wrote in a July 12, 2022, email to Fairfield County Administrator Malik Whitaker.

“I truly hope we are still committed to doing this survey through a third party and that the results will come directly to council and to you at the same time.”

On July 21, the county’s Human Resources Director Brad Caulder announced that the employee engagement survey would be going out on Monday, July 25, 2022, at 11 a.m., and that the deadline for returning the surveys to the county would be Aug. 5, 2022.

On July 22, Gilbert again emailed Whitaker saying, “I truly hope the results of this survey will be disclosed to council and the administration at the same time.”

“Why, Mr. Gilbert, are you making an implication about my character or capacity to be trusted with the survey results?” Whitaker responded.

“What is the status on the employee survey?” Gilbert asked in an email to Whitaker on Sept. 20 about a month after the survey results had been tabulated. “Has it been complete? It’s been a month since we received any report.”

Whitaker responded that same day in an email.

“It’s complete,” he wrote. “It’s under review with the county attorney’s office.”

At the Oct. 10, 2022 council meeting, Gilbert asked to meet with Whitaker about the Ridgeway Community Center project. Whitaker responded by inviting Gilbert to a meeting with him and the attorney with the “intent to inform you about where we are in the [legal review] process” of the employee survey, but not offering to show or give the survey results to Gilbert.

On Oct. 12, Gilbert declined in an email, saying that he didn’t “feel I should be a part of any close door meeting in reference to the employee survey. That information should be disclosed to the entire board and public. Please give results at the next meeting. It is long overdue.”

The Voice emailed Synithia Williams, the county’s deputy administrator, twice on Oct. 11 asking for copies of the results of the employee survey.

“The employee survey is with the Count Attorney under legal review. I will forward your request to them,” Williams responded.

Without hearing anything further, The Voice again asked about the survey results in an email on Oct. 17, but there has been no response since then from anyone in the administration concerning the release of the survey.

Gilbert, however, has been vocal at recent council meetings calling for the survey results to be made public.

“Why are we paying our high-priced attorney to “review” the results of our employee survey that was conducted by Talent Keepers, an outside, very reputable and professional survey company?” Gilbert asked. “I feel sure the administration would be proud and eager to release the results if they reflected well on the county’s administrative and council leadership. Is there a reason Mr. Whitaker doesn’t want anyone to know about the results? Is it because the results could affect election?” Gilbert asked.

Asked for a comment about the county’s refusal to share the survey results with council, the employees, the media and the public, media attorney Jay Bender had this to say in an email to The Voice:

“The first thought that comes to mind is legal review for what purpose?  Is the purpose to dilute the impact of employee responses?  Is the purpose to protect elected and appointed officials?  If the notion is that personal privacy is at issue, the South Carolina Court of Appeals has ruled there is no right of privacy in the performance of public employment,” Bender said. “My skeptical conclusion is that if there is in fact a legal review, it is for the purpose of delay and obfuscation.”

Comments

  1. Mike Bell says

    Whitaker is stupid! November 8th is near! Vote out Bell and Trapp!!!!

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