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City recreation employee Melinda Pearson fights back over demotion

Woman involved in time-card incident aims to clear name

Monday, May 7, 2012 8:08 PM
Last updated Tuesday, May 8, 2012 12:25 AM
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Melinda Pearson, the Augusta recreation operations manager involved in a time card incident for which recreation Director Tom Beck was fired, isn’t taking her demotion to maintenance worker sitting down.

At the end of Monday’s Augusta Commission committee meetings, Pearson wheeled in a cart of thick packets, saying little as she handed one to each of the six commissioners present.

“I’m going to clear my name,” she said after distributing the packets.

Inside, a cover letter “to all parties concerned” said Pearson is appealing “all actions imposed upon me as a result of the malicious attack upon my character and integrity.”

“The investigation conducted about allegations of time card fraud has been conducted in an inept manner and has resulted in false information being publicized about me through the media,” it said.

On Monday, City Administrator Fred Russell approved Deputy Administrator Bill Shanahan’s recommendation that Pearson be demoted for her involvement in the incident to maintenance worker II, an hourly position with a salary of $30,671 – barely half the $60,017 she earned as operations manager.

“We took the action we thought was appropriate,” Russell said. “I think she’s actually gone outside of the process by appealing to members of the commission.”

Under the city’s personnel manual, the appeals process for a demotion goes for review through the administrator’s office.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said that although a midlevel demotion was beneath the department-head level at which the commission has authority, he would probably review Pearson’s packet.

Shanahan, who conducted the investigation, is out of the office most of the week. Documents associated with his investigation, obtained through an open-records request Thursday, included several reprimands and write-ups for absenteeism and breaking policy throughout Pearson’s career with the department, where she began working in 1983.

The documents include several allegations of a hostile work environment at the recreation department and a handwritten denial by former recreation Deputy Director Dennis Stroud that he ever approved “comp time for exempt employees.”

Beck said that Stroud, who became Pearson’s supervisor last year after the public services department merged with recreation, orally approved her taking off the days in question and that the practice of paying employees who were exempt from overtime requirements for days not worked but recorded as worked was commonplace in city government.

According to a statement from recreation secretary Lisa Hall, Beck fired Stroud Jan. 3, then approved Pearson’s time card Jan. 4, despite her informing him that the “card was showing that she was at work each day and that was not the case.”

Because of the absences of Mayor Deke Copenhaver, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles and Commissioners Matt Aitken, Alvin Mason and J.R. Hatney, commission members took little action during Monday’s committee meetings.

The absences of Bowles and Aitken caused cancellation of the public services committee meeting for lack of a quorum.

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wasted tax dollars
22
Points
wasted tax dollars 05/07/12 - 09:50 pm
5
0
Seems like the only one

Seems like the only one telling the truth is the recreation secretary, maybe she should get a raise for telling the truth while others are saying he said /she said.

southiegal
26
Points
southiegal 05/08/12 - 07:24 am
2
1
If she wasn't there, who

If she wasn't there, who punched her time card?

Little Lamb
46971
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/12 - 07:44 am
1
1
Cancelled

Didn't yesterday's Chronicle article posted in the afternoon say that the meetings were cancelled?

Little Lamb
46971
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/12 - 07:50 am
1
1
I thought so

Yes, it did. Here is the link:

Meetings Cancelled

Our government does not even know how to cancel a meeting correctly. Today reporter Susan McCord says they did "little action" in the meetings which she said were cancelled yesterday. Curious.

Little Lamb
46971
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/12 - 08:09 am
1
3
Permission

Susan McCord wrote:

At the end of Monday’s Augusta Commission committee meetings, Pearson wheeled in a cart of thick packets, saying little as she handed one to each of the six commissioners present.

I wonder if Ms. Pearson had her supervisor's permission to be away from her work station when she was presenting the thick packets to the commissioners? I also wonder whether she prepared the packets on work time or her own time? Maybe she prepared the packets after work so she could be building up some new comp time!

gmt
79
Points
gmt 05/08/12 - 08:11 am
1
0
No mention of regular meeting cancelled

The article yesterday says two committee meetings and a noon legal meeting were cancelled. It says nothing about them cancelling the regular commission meeting.

pointstoponder
303
Points
pointstoponder 05/08/12 - 08:24 am
0
3
I understand her reputation

I understand her reputation and name ARE intact. The disconnect is in her perception of her reputation as opposed to others.

Little Lamb
46971
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/12 - 08:38 am
0
0
Slo-o-ow-ly

Read Susan McCord's second paragraph above carefully, gmt.

double_standard
166
Points
double_standard 05/08/12 - 08:55 am
4
0
How many chances must one get

How many chances must one get her record was looked into and she was caught. This was not the first second third fourth or fifth time. I hope they look into all the departments its alot of dead weight working for the county.

augustalocal
10
Points
augustalocal 05/08/12 - 08:58 am
4
0
@ little lamb

- Comment -
"I wonder if Ms. Pearson had her supervisor's permission to be away from her work station when she was presenting the thick packets to the commissioners? I also wonder whether she prepared the packets on work time or her own time? Maybe she prepared the packets after work so she could be building up some new comp time!"

"I fully remember a statement made about week ago now saying she was placed on administrative leave "WITHOUT" pay for several days.. no doubt before beginning her new assignment, having worked in the HR arena i can tell you i am taking my hat off to this worker for fighting this demotion which is "Discrimination" since i guarantee you our city leaders and other city workers who are in salaried positions take comp time instead of receiving ridiculous amounts of overtime for being "over worked" at most special events to insure they go off without a hitch! If you really live in this city it doesn't take a genius to know how this messed up city works...come on people!!

Little Lamb
46971
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/12 - 09:02 am
1
3
Explain

Both Pearson and Beck have some ’splainin’ to do. From Susan McCord's story posted Thursday and updated Friday morning we have the following:

Documents indicated Pearson took four paid days off in December only three weeks after taking 10 weeks of paid leave donated to her by fellow employees. Beck signed off on her time card, which stated she worked the four days, but claimed it was common practice to pay employees for unrecorded “comp time” after they work extra long hours for recreation and other events.

The way I understand it, if you are going to accept the gift of time paid for voluntarily by your co-workers, you first have to have exhausted all your time off — i.e., your earned vacation time, your earned sick time, and your earned comp time. That didn't happen here. These four days—these lousy four days—of comp time were supposedly earned before she took the ten weeks off using time donated by fellow employees.

Both Pearson and Beck were in the wrong.

augustalocal
10
Points
augustalocal 05/08/12 - 09:06 am
4
0
@ double_standard

not to get personal but have you EVER worked for any city government job?? In regards to her record that was published i can tell you now from working in HR that there is definitely a problem with their investigation. small reprimands from the 90's and one legitimate writeup during the time her previous Director was being investigated for Harassment downtown really makes me worried for the city of augusta. most Personnel files are "Cleaned" after more then 5 to 8 years as is policy for most ALL HR depts. hmmmm it seems this file was overlooked or disregarded....i guess that is why the city wants to bring in an outside source like ADP to run everything!

Little Lamb
46971
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/12 - 09:07 am
4
1
At the Top

Let us not forget that Fred Russell is responsible for managing adminstrative policies and managing city employees and their behavior on city time. The buck should stop with him, and he should be fired for dereliction of duty and insubordination. No severance package.

augustalocal
10
Points
augustalocal 05/08/12 - 09:21 am
4
0
@ little lamb

"explaining" is right! Let look at the argument in its entirety...number one, lets say her comp time is "Valid"...ok she gets "hosptialized" according to records and is placed on "catastrophic leave"...ok she finally gets a chance to return to work and is informed by her superiors that she still has 4 days of the comp time she received from back in the first of the year...RIGHT THERE...it was a failure of leadership to inform her that this time was exhausted and could not be utilize after her leave and finally if this indeed is a "common place" practice throughout city government as Tom Beck stated they should have stopped the buck with him and reformed their HR policy's! but instead here we are looking at a disorganized government on a witch hunt about an employee who is probably a good employee...again where do we live people???? know your government before "possibly" condemning the innocent

gmt
79
Points
gmt 05/08/12 - 09:34 am
0
0
Ok

I did miss "committee" in that paragraph but there were five committee meeting scheduled and evidently only two were cancelled.

Little Lamb
46971
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/12 - 09:48 am
1
1
Inside

You may be correct about their being five committee meetings scheduled for Monday, but that would be unusual. I read about the administrative services committee, the public services committee, and the legal meeting which McCord said were "cancelled. I don't know what the other two would be.

Let me ask you a question — what does it mean to "cancel" a meeting? That would be a notice that the meeting was cancelled before the scheduled time, wouldn't it? If some members actually gather at the place and time for the meeting, call the meeting to order, then discover that there is not a quorum to do business, then a motion to adjourn is made and the meeting is ended, not cancelled.

Were these meetings actually convened and then adjourned, as the above story would suggest; or were these meetings never convened because they were cancelled in advance, as was suggested by yesterday's story?

There would be a difference, because in one case, you would have minutes of the convening and the motion to adjourn.

And doesn't it seem strange that you would have six commissioners sitting in one spot on committee meeting day — sitting ducks for Ms. Pearson's ambush? Did she make her plan to "serve" the commissioners with her thick packets ahead of time?

And again, did her supervisor approve her leaving her work post in order to serve the commissioners and the "cancelled" meetings?

Very odd.

Little Lamb
46971
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/12 - 09:52 am
0
3
Retreat

Do we need another retreat, facilitated by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government? Are our commissioners getting lax in their duties and not responding properly to the citizens' business?

You had six commissioners down there yesterday, but apparently they were not the correct six members.

scgator
1042
Points
scgator 05/08/12 - 09:58 am
3
0
Several years ago, I

Several years ago, I interviewed with a company that utilized "comp time" on a regular basis. Before deciding whether to accept the job or not; I went to the Georgia Labor Relations Board to see what the legal policy was on comp time. I was told, it is legal, but if you are due comp time, it must be taken within the confines of the next consecutive pay period. Legally it cannot be allocated out over a time period. I understand the situation from a taxpayer standpoint; they believe they are being cheated. However, the city does not have any thing in writing that addresses the issue. This is something that those on the "inside" have always known is necessary to keep the machine running. What do you do when the "higher ups" tell you to supply people for a function or event, and there is no budget money to pay them. You give them comp time; and then, you as the supervisor work it out however you can. Why don't we just do away with the unwritten comp time policy completely and pay everyone overtime for hours worked when worked; along with this, we will continue with the same employee requirements for work load as needed. Your results would be overtime pay numbers through the roof !!! Sure this is something that needs to be addressed, but, the re-active actions of "Fred and the Foolish" is despicable. I will not doubt, that there is at least some merit in their actions........but there ultimate action has always been to make themselves look good. The city of Augusta needs leadership in the worst kind of way.........the first requirement for office should be that you have never been in city politics, or know anybody in city politics.

If the AC would do a straw poll on the streets of Augusta, they would find that the citizens really do know how to cure these problems, but those in power will never let it happen; that would require them to either do their job or leave their job.

gmt
79
Points
gmt 05/08/12 - 10:21 am
1
1
Little Lamb

If you count the legal meeting there were six scheduled for yesterday.

You can see the meetings and agendas on the Augusta web site http://www.augustaga.gov/index.aspx?nid=530

scgator
1042
Points
scgator 05/08/12 - 10:44 am
4
0
"most Personnel files are

"most Personnel files are "Cleaned" after more then 5 to 8 years as is policy for most ALL HR depts. hmmmm it seems this file was overlooked or disregarded..."

Herein lies a serious problem; in most corporate HR environments, it is policy that when an employee is written up....if they "keep their nose clean" and "fly right" @ 3 years from the write up date ALL records are deleted and cannot be brought up again legally. "Fred and the Foolish" will never miss a chance to have "ammo" when they need it in their corner.

scgator
1042
Points
scgator 05/08/12 - 10:52 am
3
0
"If she wasn't there, who

"If she wasn't there, who punched her time card?"

The supervisor; when I was a maintenance manager in a local plant, and budget issues required comp time, I routinely signed off on employee time cards so that they could get paid, even though they were not on site at the time. You HAVE to do this to keep things running. Would you think it would be more fair to work an employee overtime or on a regular day off and not pay them? I believe the REAL issue here is not comp time; THE REAL ISSUE HERE IS THAT AUGUSTA CITIZENS NO LONGER FEEL THAT THEY CAN TRUST AUGUSTA GOVERNMENT TO TELL THEM THE TRUTH ABOUT ANYTHING.

Little Lamb
46971
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/12 - 11:06 am
0
0
Meetings

Thanks for that link to the meeting schedule, gmt. Yep, there were five committee meetings scheduled plus the lunchtime legal meeting. Even though the legal meeting was cancelled, you can bet that the city bought Jerry Brigham's lunch for his trouble.

One of the meetings scheduled was the committee about changing garbage pickup from twice a week to once a week. I wonder if that meeting was held or cancelled?

augustalocal
10
Points
augustalocal 05/08/12 - 11:17 am
3
0
@ scgator

Rock On! I am glad to know i am not the only one that seems to have the full picture in regards to this issue. What i find funny is Fred Russell's response to Pearson's move in giving all the commissioners the same evidence she gave him, LOOK at what he did to her and Tom Beck how could ANYONE expect a fair and bias treatment. ALSO...did anyone else read the article that first came out stating she was ACTUALLY put on a GROUNDS KEEPER position which after checking is the lowest paid job in the maintenance area, its aroun 20,000 a year....NOW as of MONDAY they changed it...hmmmmmm anybody else think their trying to cover themselves..."FRED and the FOOLISH"....Get out of our city!!

scgator
1042
Points
scgator 05/08/12 - 11:50 am
3
0
If I thought it could make a

If I thought it could make a difference, I would move back to Augusta and run for office. My late father-in-law, Former city Councilman James P. Tarver warned that consolidation was not good for Augusta; Nobody would listen, they ridiculed him for just being a "cabdriver" and not an accomplished professional. Yet, he knew more about what was going on in the city than the professionals. His strong suite was that he did not have anything to gain financially from consolidation, the others did, as they also owned businesses in the area.

Augusta desperately needs another Jim Tarver; they tried to buy his vote, they tried to bribe his vote, and finally they simply outvoted him into consolidation to get rid of him. His only fault they said was that he was naive enough to believe that "if we promise the people good government, then we are obligated to give it to them; we work for the people, not our own interests." Of course, he did help a few people get jobs with the city, etc. Everybody does those sort of things, but he NEVER profited monetarily from his service to the city; he simply loved serving the people of his ward.

Where will it all end?

wasted tax dollars
22
Points
wasted tax dollars 05/08/12 - 12:01 pm
1
1
Did she exhaust all of her

Did she exhaust all of her own vacation time, sick time, and comp time. I would say yes. Because if she did not use every bit of time that was due her, why would other people be asked to donate time to her? If I had been one of the people that donated to her time bank I would ask for a refund. Since, per Mr. Beck, she was still being paid out of her comp time bank.

pointstoponder
303
Points
pointstoponder 05/08/12 - 12:04 pm
0
2
Augusta local sure looks to

Augusta local sure looks to have a vested interest in this one. Ms. Pearson was by the current policy manual not eligible for comp time. Period. I don't suppose you would care to address her practice of claiming 4 hours time for simply answering a phone call.

Sweet son
10739
Points
Sweet son 05/08/12 - 01:21 pm
0
0
The Operative Paragraph

I said yesterday it was OK to cancel the meetings because nothing would be done anyway. Here it is:

"Because of the absences of Mayor Deke Copenhaver, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles and Commissioners Matt Aitken, Alvin Mason and J.R. Hatney, commission members took little action during Monday’s committee meetings."

scgator
1042
Points
scgator 05/08/12 - 01:21 pm
3
1
I don't suppose you would

I don't suppose you would care to address her practice of claiming 4 hours time for simply answering a phone call.

It is not uncommon practice in the real work world to pay someone a "minimum" set rate, if they are called in or work during an ordinarily scheduled off time. Many companies will routinely pay up to 4 hours for someone to go through all the trouble of changing their schedule to come into work on short notice for the benefit of the company. In other words, if I am off work, and spending time with my family...you will make it worth my while to change that and come in or don't look for me.

pointstoponder
303
Points
pointstoponder 05/08/12 - 01:50 pm
1
2
Being called in isn't even

Being called in isn't even close to answering a phone call.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 05/08/12 - 02:57 pm
0
0
There should just be a rule

There should just be a rule that if a commissioner is not present, interim commissioners can be seated on-the-fly to address the business. Something gets voted yea or nay, it's just a difference in who supports the results and who doesn't. If the constituents don't dig the way their interim voted, it falls back on the commish, who then will either remedy that situation or get voted out. It's a nice little check and balance to make sure everyone is motivated to the nth degree.

Sounds too right for it to be taken seriously though. That's my .02

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