While taking two different tracks, Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office and the Mobile City Council together spent more than $16,000 looking into employee complaints about working conditions within the public works department.
After submitting multiple records requests, Lagniappe has discovered the city paid a total of $16,680 for two separate actions related to complaints of harassment by management within the trash collection department.
The amount breaks down to payments made to attorney Patrick Sims, whom the council hired as special counsel to investigate the claims, and payments made to Robert Adams, who was hired by Stimpson.
Per information released by City Clerk Lisa Carroll Lambert, Sims was paid for 47.4 hours of work at a rate of $200 per hour for a total of $9,480. According to information from city spokesman George Talbot, Adams was paid $5,250 for “legal investigation/solutions” and $1,950 for “employee relations.”
Ever since Sims’ report was released earlier this year, Stimpson has said he believes the investigation was a waste of time and money. That sentiment has not changed, Talbot wrote in a text message.
“The ‘investigation’ was a complete waste of time and money,” Talbot wrote.
As for the money the mayor’s office spent, Talbot wrote that it was helpful.
“Mr. Adams was able to make constructive recommendations that helped to improve morale in the department,” he wrote.
Since Adams completed his review, Stimpson said the city has implemented supervisory training and had Interim Public Works Director John Peavy work make employees feel more appreciated, according to a previous interview.
However, employees who spent more than a year complaining to councilors about the treatment began their trips to council meetings over the need for a pay increase. While the council instituted a 5 percent pay raise for employees within public works in the fiscal year 2019 budget, Stimpson instituted an incentive program instead.
Sims’ investigation found employees didn’t trust the incentive program and felt they would never benefit from it.
Sims, like Adams, also found supervisors in the department would benefit from training. Sims’ report found what were described as “miserable” working conditions within the trash department. He highlighted instances of mistreatment, including a verbal altercation between a supervisor and a truck driver in the department.
Council Vice President Levon Manzie said Sims’ investigation was beneficial and ultimately worth the money.
“I believe it was resources well spent,” Manzie said. “The report was thorough and found many deficiencies that the administration owned up to.”
Manzie added the council only acted after hearing complaints about management from employees in the trash department over the past two years.
“We’re allowed, through the Zoghby Act, to investigate any matter like this that comes before us,” he said. “It’s the first time we’ve ever done it.”
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