UPDATED: Three of Rockdale's elected Constitutional Officers - the Clerk of Courts, Sheriff and Tax Commissioner - sent a sign of growing frustration with the county's information technology services, asking commissoners for "a new direction in the MIS Department."
The letter, dated March 20, was signed by Clerk of Courts Ruth Wilson, Sheriff Eric Levett and Tax Commissioner RJ Hadley and reportedly addressed to Commission Chairman Richard Oden with copies sent to Commissioners Oz Nesbitt and Doreen Williams.
"We, the undersigned Constitutional Officers of Rockdale County, find it necesary to document our shared concerns about the effectiveness of the county MIS Department. At present and for the last four years the needs of our Offices have not been met satisfactorily. We would like to see a new direction in the MIS Department," read the letter.
It goes on to describe that the three officials had previously had individual conversations with Oden, MIS Director Jim Howell, and Chief of Staff Gerald Sanders as well as emails about their concerns.
"Currently, MIS errects consistent barriers to the progress of our Offices. No Department Head should be permitted to interfere with the exercise of our Consitutional Authority and mandates," the letter states.
It goes on to say, "We are finding it necessary to invent and invest tax payer dollars in work-around in order to avoid the pitfalls presented by MIS. At this point, the BOC is not fully meeting the needs of our Offices for technical support and a reliable network. The impacts on productivity and on the public are unacceptable: communication break downs, delays, interruptions in access to justice and services, paid overtime required, missed due dates, etc."
The three officials then urged the Board of Commissioners to establish a technology and network plan that "considers the needs of our Offices."
The Constitutional Officers are so named because their positions are required by the state Constitution and are separately elected from the Board of Commissioners. However, services such as computer/IT services and the finance department are shared with other county departments that fall under the Board of Commissioners.
The MIS department has 10 positions, two of which are currently vacant, according to a county spokesperson. They serve a workforce of 835 full time county employees and 110 part time employees.
Wilson and Levett had no comment on the letter. Hadley could not be reached.
Williams declined to comment, stating she didn't know much about the specifics of the situations described in the letter. Williams came into office for her first term in January.
Oden said in a statement on Tuesday, "It is of utmost important to me that our Constitutional Officers have what they need to provide the information and services that they must to the citizens and businesses of Rockdale County. Therefore, I work to ensure that our departments, leadership and staff do their best to provide good customer service, adequate resources and proper attention to their needs. In this instance, we have been in continued discussions with Clerk Wilson, Sheriff Levett and Tax Commissioner Hadley about what they're requesting from MIS, which is a department I've regularly pushed the BOC to get more budget for staffing and technology to meet the needs of our growing County, both with employees and citizens.
"But it must also be made clear that in the Sheriff and Clerk's Office, for instance, currently have positions dedicated to their IT needs, so they can direct them as they please. We, in no way, hinder that and I'm sure we'll come to a comfortable middle ground on this."
Nesbitt said on Tuesday, "I reserve further comment in an effort to give the Chairman an opportunity to respond to our respected local officials. This is a direct reflection of day to day operations, which the Chairman is chiefly responsible for...
"I also find it interesting that the Chairman said he didn't know anything about it because he was busy doing employee evaluations. I equate the Chairman doing employee evaluations to the Sheriff standing out and directing traffic. Surely, there are midlevel managers and department heads and department directors who can be assigned the task of doing employee evaluations while the Chairman is busy handling the people's business of Rockdale County in a more corporate fashion."