Jefferson County's court-appointed receiver over hiring and firing practices says he needs a lot of money--$24 million--to correct the way the county hires and fires employees.
Federal Judge Lynwood Smith told county officials they are paying the wages of the sins of the past. In a consent decree, the county admitted to discriminating against African Americans and women for decades. A legal battle over the issue dates back to 1975.
In 2013, county receiver Ronald Sims was appointed by a federal judge to completely control hiring, firing, disciplinary and promotions practices of Jefferson County.
To fix the broken system, Sims says he will need $24 million over two years to develop procedures for employment and dismissals for the county.
Sims filed the report with the federal court late Wednesday, blasting Jefferson County's past governments.
"The County lacks any clear vision or accompanying operational strategy. The County's culture can best be described as inefficient and ineffective," the report states on the first page.
"These historical failures in leadership have compounded over time into low morale and a plethora of ongoing organizational problems and crippling crises," Sims sums up in the introduction.
Jefferson County Commissioners knew they would have to pay millions into a new system but they were caught off guard by Sims' $24 million price tag for the two-year process.
The county's attorneys complained they had little input into the report to voice their budget concerns. U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith told the county while they are cooperating with Sims, it is up to the receiver to do what he has to fix it. Jefferson County commissioners came out of the hearing saying they will have to find the money somehow.
"What I really want to say is this business here is more serious than the bankruptcy. It's a very critical, critical issue and the people of Jefferson County need to be more concerned about this issue," commissioner Sandra Little Brown said.
"So will it mean decreased services? I think our services are so cut right now that it's hard to get a road paved or cleaned up. We saw that the other day. So we have to revamp," commissioner Joe Knight said
Jefferson County Manager Tony Petelos said the county will continue to work with Sims to find money and a solution.
"We have worked with the receiver. We're going to continue to work with the receiver. From day one when he got here and we are going to continue to work. We have a good working relationship with Dr. Sims," Petelos said.
Judge Smith told both sides to keep the doors of communication open, but made it clear it is up to Dr. Sims to correct the problems the county failed to address for more than 30 years. The judge added that settling this major issue is going to be difficult and costly for the county.
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