Whitaker continues to refuse to release survey, audit results

After 4 Months, Whitaker says Attorney is Still Redacting Survey Results

WINNSBORO – Four months after Human Resources Director Brad Caulder received the results of a county employee satisfaction survey, County Administrator Malik Whitaker continues to refuse to release the results.

During county council’s meeting Monday night, Whitaker blamed the delay on what he claimed was employees’ failure to follow directions in answering the survey questions.

“Unfortunately, some of the respondents did not follow instructions and named staff members in the free response section of the survey,” Whitaker said. “That’s a no-no, and our county attorney is redacting the names so the information can be shared.”

While Whitaker said he was not named in the survey responses, he added, “I knew things were going to be said about me, of course. I knew that,” Whitaker added.

In a foreshadowing of how he feared the survey results would be handled by Whitaker, Councilman Clarence Gilbert wrote in a July 12, 2022, email to Whitaker, “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. 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.”

Gilbert had pressed for the survey since early summer to help combat low employee morale and to stem the increasing exit of employees from the county for employment elsewhere.

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.”

Whitaker defended his integrity in handling the survey results.

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

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

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 once again about the survey. He also 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 he should be a part of any closed door meeting in reference to the employee survey.

“That information should be disclosed to the entire board and public,” Gilbert wrote. “Please give the 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, with no response.

Gilbert, however, continued to call 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? Why is he going to such great lengths to keep the results quiet with the election almost upon us?” 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.”

On Monday night, Whitaker continued to withhold the survey results, alleging that any negative results of the survey were a reflection on previous administrations, not on his administration.

“I knew this [survey results] was a discussion about leadership, not since I’ve been here, but across the last several years,” Whitaker told council.

After four months, Whitaker said Monday night that County Attorney Charles Boykin is still reviewing and redacting the employee names in some of the survey responses.

During the time the employee survey was being conducted, Whitaker also launched an audit of the county’s Human Resources Department which he also will not release to the council or public. He gave no explanation as to why he will not release the audit.

On Nov. 7, The Voice submitted a Freedom of Information Request for the results of both the employee survey and the Human Resources audit.

Comments

  1. Whitaker has been on the job for less than a year. He was hired by the “former” council majority despite the concerns and objections from other council members at the time. His hiring by “the five” was out of desperation due to their incompetence. Prior to his hiring, Whitaker lasted only a year with his two previous employers. I think we can see why at this point. It’s time for the new County Council to fire him for the same reasons Bell and Trapp were sent packing. He’s not a good fit and is not serving the residents of Fairfield county as a “public” office holder.

  2. Mike Bell says

    This a stall tactic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The items are different, they just do not want the results to be public.
    Whitaker does not have the right to hold any thing from council and why do attorneys have to review employees answers from a survey? Another $50,000 bill to the county. The review should have been done by the Personnel committee than forwarded to full council.

    Whitaker must go just like Bell and Trapp!!

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