The Board of Commissioners appointed Erica Fatima as the public affairs director in a 2-1 vote after discussion over her references and budget related objections.
The vote on Fatima’s appointment had been delayed from two weeks ago until Commissioners Oz Nesbitt and JaNice Van Ness had an opportunity to speak with her one on one.
At the Tuesday voting session, Van Ness objected to filing the position in light of anticipated budget difficulties. She pointed out the amount of Homestead Option Sales Tax collected for 2010 was less than the amount collected for 2009. The HOST tax exempts a portion of the property tax bill for homesteaded homeowners, and the HOST shortfall in 2009 meant many homeowners that claimed the Homestead exemption saw their property tax bill increase.
"When other counties are furloughing employees, making sacrifices. In Rockdale County, we’ve done nothing but leave unfunded positions… With the decline, I don’t know how we’re going to hire a PR person at $71,000."
"I am strongly opposed to adding of this position in general. Four people is too many for that department." She pointed out the Rockdale County Public School system operates its public affairs department with two people.
BOC Chairman Richard Oden disagreed. "I think we’re being fiscally responsible and we’re in good shape," he said, pointing out genearl fund expenditures were at 20 percent when they should be at 25 percent, according to a presentation that morning by Finance Director Roselyn Miller. "I strongly believe that this department is adequately staff and may be understaffed. I think this appointment is going to take Rockdale County to the next level and above," said Oden.
Nesbitt said he found Fatima to be a qualified candidate. "There is still ample time to make those shavings and savings inside the county government. I think when we take a look at each and every department, it’s not too late for us to take a look at each and every department and look for those non-essential non-productive employees that we can eliminate and try to save money for the overall government," he said.
Van Ness, who voted against Fatima’s appointment, also raised concerns over the reference checks for Fatima. Earlier, during the public comments portion of the meeting, resident Don Meyers said one of the numbers listed as a reference check reportedly led to Fatima’s own desk.
The position had been left vacant since July 2009 when Julie Mills resigned. Deputy Director Holly Lafontaine filled in as acting director and had been one of the three finalists for the director position.
The BOC also approved a description for the position of the MIS director position at the Tuesday meeting.
Rockdale County's MIS Director Dax Thompson, who headed up the county's IT duties, had resigned from his post two weeks ago.
"I am grateful for the opportunities that Rockdale County has provided over the last 11 years and will greatly miss my associates, coworkers and friends here in the county," wrote Thompson in his notice of resignation he submitted March 15. Originally, Thompson provided eight weeks of notice, but his last day with the county was April 9.
Thompson had been employed since 1999 and resigned with an annual salary of $67,600.
A question was raised of whether or not to include equivalent education and experience to the formal education and experience required, and whether that was the standard practice of neighboring counties. HR Director Jeff Pogue provided examples from counties such as Cobb, Henry and Newton where that was included in the job description for an MIS director position.