ADP outsourcing expected to top commission's agenda

With several city jobs hanging in the balance, Augusta Deputy Administrator Bill Shanahan is expected to present a recommendation today on how Augusta can outsource most of its remaining human resources and payroll functions to Automatic Data Processing.

The proposal already has some commissioners including Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles on board, while others still have questions.

“I’ve seen enough evidence that shows to me not only is ADP the best option for the city to proceed with, but the most fiscally responsible option,” Bowles said Monday.

The ADP proposal is an outgrowth of the firm’s 2009 bid award for city employee benefits management and timekeeping. It is expected to cost $3 million in its first year and $2 million in its second year, plus fees for services that exceed budgeted amounts.

Shanahan presented the details to the commission in early March and returned with a negotiated final contract last week.

What was missing, however, were the city’s plans for in-house staff to deal with functions such as verifying times cards before ADP cuts paychecks. The number of employees retained will impact the city’s total cost.

Over the last year, the department has seen the departure of several employees including Director Rod Powell, who retired. Shanahan is serving as interim human resources director, with Human Resources Manager Robby Burns overseeing most day-to-day office operations.

Last week, City Administrator Fred Russell said the commission needed to make the policy decision soon or take other steps such as hiring a director to get the department functioning properly. The city’s administrative services committee sent Shanahan back to make a recommendation of what is needed in-house to supplement ADP.

A survey of area governments ran the gamut of in-house staff, with the city of Aiken retaining just one, to Columbia’s 12, who work with a staff similar in size to Augusta’s government, Shanahan said.

He wouldn’t elaborate on how many staffers he’ll recommend the commission retains if it hires ADP, but City Administrator Fred Russell said the number is likely fewer than 10. ADP Vice President Colette Hughes, who runs the ADP solutions center in Augusta, said she will likely hold an “internal job fair” for city employees whose jobs are eliminated.

Augusta is struggling with another outsourced job – management of the city bus service. Mobility Transit, which took over in August, was almost immediately late paying some of its bills to local vendors.

Bowles, whose own business uses ADP services, said within five years ADP will save the city $700,000.

Commissioner Joe Jackson said he was not yet convinced “that ADP is the saving grace,” but that Augusta’s human resources department is inadequate.

Since ADP took on benefits administration, several issues have come to light, including the allegation the city was trying to pay for an employee’s ex-spouse’s health benefits, which was illegal.

The issue was one of nearly 30 points compiled by Shanahan in an informal memo he released to the media in March, most of which were critical of ADP.

The issues have been addressed and the memo should be disregarded, Shanahan said.

“When that thing came out, all we were doing was asking questions, trying to figure out what was going on,” he said. “All those things were me asking questions.”

The commission is expected to vote on a contract award today, although one or more commissioners might be out sick.

Other items on today’s 5 p.m. commission meeting agenda include:

- Naming Augusta Arts Council as Public Arts Agency for the city

- Discussion of a request by Paine College to close Druid Park Avenue between Laney-Walker Boulevard and Central Avenue

Consultant to study Augusta's Human Resources Department
Augusta weighs human resources options
Leaked Augusta memo hints at trouble with ADP

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