Employee survey criticizes county admin, council leadership

FAIRFIELD COUNTY – Poor pay, misplaced priorities, and treating employees like second-class citizens led the list of grievances by Fairfield County workers, according to results from a recently conducted survey.

Many were content with the nature of their job and living in Fairfield, but blamed the current council majority for low employee morale.

“County Departments seem to be lacking in many areas and Administration seems unbothered and [unfazed] by all of our concerns,” wrote one employee.

The survey reported that about half (54.8%) of 146 respondents expressed satisfaction in their job. One in five (21%) were unsatisfied and the rest were neutral.

In addition, overall satisfaction plunged nearly 46%, survey results show.

The survey findings provide the deepest glimpse yet into a government workforce fed up with politicking and inattention.

Delayed for months, the survey and its findings were released last week following a story in The Voice and pressure from Councilman Clarence Gilbert, who initially requested the survey.

Gilbert said he’s troubled, but not surprised by the survey find ings. He said they further illustrate the need to address sinking employee morale.

“A lot of employees were upset with the county administrator and county council not paying them any attention,” Gilbert said. “It also showed they’re concerned about pay and the work atmosphere.”

Common Themes

Low pay and disdain for county leadership were common themes in the report.

During the budget process this past spring, council members said the county couldn’t afford pay raises. They eventually voted in October to increase pay and give bonuses in the run-up to the November general election.

Council Chairman Moses Bell has said the pay raises were not strategically timed to sway voters, instead saying they were the result of a “disciplined” approach to budgeting.

“Should we have said that because it’s an election year, that we won’t give a raise? Nobody would say that,” Bell said in October. 

“Should we take the heat for doing [what is] right?” Bell continued. “You all should celebrate this, that we did the right thing when we found out that we could do it.”

Employees weren’t convinced. One worker praised their boss but lashed out at County Council leadership, accusing them of cronyism and taxpayer waste.

“I believe that my [redacted] has the County and its people in his best interest,” the employee wrote. “He is being hamstrung by County Counsel [sic] [who] is dead-set on making sure he DOES NOT succeed.”

Another employee said the current council majority’s prioritizing rec center construction over boosting employee pay “leaves a pretty sour taste in employees’ mouths.

“The fact that some council members see more fit to build unnecessary rec centers and not bat an eye that employees are living paycheck to paycheck is asinine,” the employee wrote.

“Detractors” and “Promoters”

The survey’s presentation also classifies employees with grievances as “detractors.” Respondents complimentary of the county are called “promoters,” while others are described as “passive.”

“Detractors” are defined in the survey as people who “provide negative feedback, reduce employee motivation and pride.

“Passive” workers are “passively satisfied with little enthusiasm or referrals, while “promoters” are “loyal, enthusiastic, and proud to recommend.”

Survey results show 94 of 146 (64.4%) of respondents were labeled a “detractor” when asked how likely they’d be to recommend Fairfield County as a “good place to work.”

Only 29 of 146 (19.8 %) were “promoters” who agreed with the question.

Gilbert said he found it curious that the “detractors,” “passives,” and “promoters” all made comments calling for better pay.

“Everybody was saying basically the same thing. Everyone was listing the same issues, such as administration and salaries,” Gilbert said.

Next Steps

Survey results have actually been in county hands since August, but they weren’t released until last week, just days after the November elections.

County Administrator Malik Whitaker has blamed the delay on a legal review to redact personal identifying information even though there were only a handful of redactions. He also blamed the respondents themselves, saying they didn’t properly follow directions in completing the surveys by naming other employees. Again, an insignificant number of employees were named.

Whitaker also blamed negative comments on the previous administration, not on himself.

Critics maintain the survey was strategically timed for release after Election Day to shield majority council members (who were running for re-election) from unfavorable comments.

In spite of the timing, both council members from the current voting majority lost re-election bids: Mikel Trapp and Moses Bell, the current chairman. In January, two off their opponents, Dan Ruff and Peggy Swearingen, will be sworn in to office.

While Gilbert remains optimistic about the future council makeup, he hopes the current council will immediately start the process of addressing employee morale.

“We have to make some real hard decisions when the new council is seated,” Gilbert said. “I think the survey has pinpointed some problems that we have to look at and try to correct.”

Comments

  1. Mike Bell says

    Whitaker is a notorious lair!

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