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Harassment study on tap

After lawsuits, PTC authorizes probe into public safety ‘culture’

In the wake of several sexual harassment and job discrimination complaints against Peachtree City, a consultant has been selected to conduct a thorough “operational efficiency analysis” of both the police and fire departments.

The $65,000 study, to be conducted by Matrix Consulting Group, will include on-site visits, data collection and in-depth interviews to “examine the departments and their internal cultures.”

“We are trying to ascertain, are we on the right track,” City Manager Jim Pennington told the City Council Thursday night, noting that while the police and fire departments are highly regarded, “We all know we have had some issues we need to put to rest.”

Among those issues are a flurry of equal employment opportunity lawsuits filed against the city arising from issues with the fire and police departments. The city has already settled two of the lawsuits, involving the fire department, but two more are pending in federal court involving the police department and claims that Police Chief H.C. “Skip” Clark fostered an environment that was harmful to female employees.

The two lawsuits filed by female firefighters and the disclosure of an ugly incident involving former Fire Chief Ed Eiswerth resulted in Eiswerth submitting a hasty resignation in December. Eiswerth was accused of forcing his way into a female firefighter’s hotel room at a convention in Florida.

Though no specifics of those incidents were mentioned, Councilman George Dienhart asked if Matrix Consulting “had dealt with cities which had recent difficulties such as we have.”

“Yes, they have had more cities with much more difficulties than we have,” Pennington said.

Dienhart said he doesn’t care whether anyone likes the results and recommendations from the report, but he cares that “we solve our problems” with the report.

Councilman Eric Imker balked at the cost of the study, which was not included in the city’s budget last year.

“I think $65,000 for this is way too much money and the fact that the title is an organizational and operational analysis, I don’t like it,” Imker said. “I just think this kind of effort belongs in the HR (human resources) department.”

Pennington noted that the city’s HR department “does not have the ability or the time to do this type of in-depth analysis.”

Imker suggested scaling back the funding to about $5,000 or $10,000 and to eliminate a study of issues such as fire calls and police response times.

Pennington also noted that the city spends $12 million a year on the two departments put together so he feels the report would be “good for our future.” Pennington added that he has served as a consultant to cities in the past, and he wouldn’t undertake such a thorough study for $10,000.

The report may recommend expansion or contraction of the departments, Pennington noted.

Councilwoman Kim Learnard said she felt the consultant may identify cost savings beyond the $65,000 mark invested in the study. She noted the study would look at the organizational structure, culture, training and leadership.

Haddix said he agreed with Learnard and “sometimes you have to spend money to make money.”

Haddix said he felt it was important for the public to have the peace of mind the analysis would give the city, even if it points out failures and inefficiencies.

“If it says we’re doing bad or right, so be it,” Haddix said. “But I think this is what the public really needs to hear.”

Councilman Eric Imker cast the sole vote against the study, as it was approved by Council members Learnard, Dienhart and Haddix on a 3-1 vote with Councilwoman Vanessa Fleisch absent.

Haddix said he wanted to compliment staff, specifically noting that acting Fire Chief Joe O’Conor welcomed the leadership study.

“Saying ‘check me out and see if I’m doing something wrong,’ that is courage and leadership to me,” Haddix said. “... A willingness to be questioned.”

Under the request for proposals issued by the city, the study must provide an overview of the organization including policies, demographics, budget and fundings along with internal and external communications, a review of capital assets, staffing and personnel management and also a detailed “service delivery and performance overview.”



This is a good idea. Perhaps they should also study to see if the sexual harassment I pervasive in other depts as well.

Inkers comment about the lack of a budget line item is ridiculous in light of the insurance claims being paid out. This is why we carry contingencies or make budget adjustments

Doesn't the PD have on-site visits, data collection and in-depth interviews to “examine the department and their internal cultures when they go through their accreditation? Why are YOU spending MY tax dollars if the PD has a group of professionals that conducts internal audits and interviews employees and then has continuously given them rave reviews and re-accreditation?

Really? We are going to spend $65,000 of taxpayer's money to essentially tell the boys and girls at the police and fire departments to behave and keep their hands off other employees?

Do we really need to study why we hire and elect stupid people? Really?
We elected a mayor whose mouth got us entangled in a lawsuit.

We the taxpayers are at fault via who we elect to office, our city council and management is at fault for the knuckleheads they hire and fail to supervise. Instead of wasting even more of our tax dollars on this lets just resolve to hire adults next time. Preferably the kind of people who can at least walk and talk at the same time and have an IQ somewhere above 50. Lets leave the animals in the petting zoo. Is that too much to ask? Why do we have a city manager unless it is to supervise employees? Especially when it has become apparent that they need an extreme amount of "helicopter style" supervision.
Stop wasting taxpayer money. Is that too much to ask?

with this? There is a very small possibility that the only one left on council when the results come back next year on this will be Erica. The only one who spoke against it is the one who would be there get the results. Man, that would be a fun finale to this project.

And what if the powers that be at the finale just don't like what is recommended? Toss 65K in the shredder? Where is the consensus going to come from?

Or maybe, just maybe, everyone is just throwing their hands up in the air to the EEOC and are saying, OK, we surrender. Throw enough s^%$ on our wall and some will stick. We give up already. Olly olly oxen free.

tortugaocho's picture

Unbelievable ! "“We are trying to ascertain, are we on the right track,” City Manager Jim Pennington told the City Council Thursday night.

Peachtree City has about a dozen pending suits. The accountants, lawyers, consultants and engineers are making a fortune. Meanwhile, Erica moans about $5.00 here and then blows $500,000 on a plastic sheet for a swimming pool.

We don't need any studies. We don't need any of these professionals feeding at the trough.

We need a manager and mayor that will go around and offer a bunch of these people two choices: (1) give me your resignation or (2) get a pink slip. This crap will stop in a hurry.

NUK_1's picture

Insane amount for a study like this and I know a few things about consulting contracts and government. Dr. Pennington said he wouldn't do it for 10,000, but we're talking 65K here, Dr. Pennington, not 10K. We're also discussing having to do this study on departments that report to YOU and all the misbehavior and lawsuits. Maybe get your head out of your backside about what is going on in the City you are supposed to be managing and we don't have to discuss paying 65K to identify problems you seem blissfully unaware of even still.

Have to agree with Imker on this one. 65K is way, way too much money for this and part of the cultural problem of Ed Eiswerth and Peki Prince are already gone. I don't think it takes 65K to identify that our present police chief has major problems internally and probably should have never been hired in the first place.

You have a decent man running the FD in O'Conor and I think you can trust him to change any lingering issues within. Or, you can hire some buddy that worked in another state for the city mgr to come in and get paid 100K for nothing.

Just get rid of Skippy already and save some money. Whatever you folks decide to offer him in severance will probably be a lot cheaper than the cost of future lawsuits.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

Yea that's right, Dr. Pennington - $120k. Sound fair? Just go and do it. You are qualified as anyone is to do a study like this. $120k seems fair to me. Oh yea, that's your salary as city manager. So manage the city already. Don't need another outside consultant unless you are just looking for legal cover against the next lawsuit.

Live free or die!

to see any of these people try to run their own company. Unbelievable! For example, pick the low bid for the roof on the library...not the best bid. Now a roof that should have lasted 20 years needs a complete overhaul after only 7 years. As I always say, you can save on the oil-changes but what is going to cost you when the engine blows up?

Does anybody really understand how bad it is at city hall? City employees wondering everyday if today will be their last...who gets axed next? The morale of the city employees are surely not used to be. What does that say about our leadership?

We need people to run the city that have some idea on how to create added value to our businesses, residents, and homeowners. The ship is sinking folks and all they are concerned about is who put the hole in the boat.

pandora's picture

Dar is right on about City employee morale, from what I've heard -- but the problem rests further down the chain than just Mayor & Council, which is certainly bad enough! Kim's "over 30 years of experience" manager only appears to have experience paying big bucks for outside consultants to "study" departments and outsource. Ask any employee how the IT system is working out, after a year and a half of "outside" -- read: "expensive" -- oversight. The good doctor is as much of a problem as the people we elected to hire him.

Dr. Pennington on this on their 4PM newscast. Braodcast live from the Weber station.

Sexual predator Eiswerth was on an old you tube segment..there's your 5 seconds of fame Eddie.. a real family album moment.

Hey, at least the fire trucks, the city signs, city hall plaza and the Weber station looked spiffy.

Link below to video:

Mike King's picture

Spending $65K for a study to determine if the leadership of two organizations really are the leaders we hired them to be is simply a waste of taxpayer money. Why not simply use the caveat of a manager's behavior toward one's teenaged son or daughter as a standard? Simply stated, had the former fire chief barged into my teen aged daughter's hotel room one can rest assured that what the city did would be the very least of his worries.
Acting Fire Chief O'Connor, now wasn't he in a leadership position during Eiswerth's tenure? If so, is the city placing trust and confidence in an individual who remained silent while his boss ran roughshod over female employees?
Peachtree City has a leadership void and continues to throw money at each and every problem that arises with the results as predictable as the rain.
Face reality folks, this will be a tumultuous summer with an election that very well may replace each of the five Council Members who thus far have given no inclination of consensus regardless of the issue at hand.

After following the newspaper articles this year, I'm left to conclude that the greater threat to the citizens of our towns and Fayette county are the predators found in the public safety agencies we rely on for protection. I've been a resident here for quite some time and just don't recall anything like I'm seeing among public officials right now. Was I just not paying attention earlier?? Or is all this actually worse right now than it ever seems to have been for our communities??

It seems like the study is a waste of money. I have yet to hear where one of these victims followed the proper channels (HR). It seems like they just called Lawyers and the EEOC and waited for their checks. If they contacted HR with their complaints and they did not follow up then I can see a point but it seems like they just let things escalate so they could have PTC "SHOW THEM THE MONEY"

I too noticed that no one was adult enough to address the problem when it was first initiated. Don't know if its a due to societies changing attitudes or people like to play victim. I got chided for saying this before.

There is also a lot of complicit coworkers who sat idly by and let this occur without doing the right thing. Perhaps if it was happening to their daughters they may have had different ideals?

How do we know there are complicit coworkers? Rumors can not be substantiated so unless they saw the events what are they to do? I doubt anyone saw anything directly (except the Pecki issue which was a one time alcohol fueled meltdown) and that still does not excuse the use of the EEOC to extract a payday. The EEOC should require proper policies be followed internally before the lawyers are brought in.

NUK_1's picture

Tammy Babb's suit claims the HR Dept wouldn't allow her to file a written complaint:

The Peki Prince groping incident was reported to the HR Dept and that is when an outside investigator was brought in.

I'm not clear with the Ed Eiswerth fiasco or Ficalore at PD of the order of when what was filed and when HR was made aware of what was happening.

Also, the Peki Prince bit wasn't a "one time" event either.

If that is true then HR needs to be rehauled. It is their job to know Harrassment inside and out that is a big part of what they are there for or else we can just have some payroll accountants.

You are right. If someone wants to file a claim they should have to prove they followed proper protocol before the EEOC should take the case.

Do you think no one else was aware of the misbehavior? None of the complaintants never said a word to a coworker?

That the frat house mentality everyone claims to know about is all innuendo?

It seems that people knew things and chose not to come forward. Is that how one should want his daughter treated?

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