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Former parks director's job reviews were good until 2007

Hall County to set up conduct board

POSTED: April 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

A goalie stands in front of the net watching the action across the field at the Allen Creek Soccer Complex stadium Sunday afternoon during a youth soccer match. The park was one of the Hall County parks when Deborah Mockus was director of Hall County Parks and Leisure Services.

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Annual job performance reviews dating back to 2003 indicate that Deborah Mockus, former director of Hall County Parks and Leisure Services, generally performed well as a department head until 2007.

Mockus said she left her position with Hall County in March after Jim Shuler, county administrator, suggested she "look for a job" elsewhere. But Shuler said he recommended Mockus explore her job options in January due to her poor job performance.

Mockus said she feels Hall County Commissioner Steve Gailey had a personal conflict with her being a female in a leadership position, and Shuler recommended she leave her job as a result of Gailey’s prodding.

Gailey denied that he had conflict with Mockus based on her gender.

According to Mockus’ contract with Hall County government, the county administrator is empowered to hire and fire county employees at his discretion.

Tom Oliver, chairman of Hall County Commissioners, said Mockus performed well in her position.

"I was on her team," Oliver said. "I liked Debbie Mockus and thought she did a great job for Hall County."

Oliver said Hall County commissioners will assemble a code of conduct advisory board comprised of five individuals appointed by county commissioners to review situations similar to Mockus’.

He said the board will revise the current code of conduct for Hall County employees and elected officials in an effort to provide more oversight of county affairs. Oliver said the commission aims to have the code of conduct advisory board in place by April 21.

"Under the guidelines we have now, all department heads work under the county administrator’s discretion — and that may be something that we want the code of conduct advisory board to look at," Oliver said.

Mockus said that she does not plan to take legal action against the county, but she does want "the truth to be known."

"It was an unjustified departure," Mockus said. "I had planned on staying in Hall County until I retired. There are projects I wanted to see through, but it didn’t happen that way."

Mockus left her director position on March 14 with six months severance that equates to roughly $45,000, Shuler said. Mockus began working as city administrator for Arcade on March 17.

According to performance review forms The Times acquired from the county’s human resources department, Shuler reviewed Mockus’ job performance from 2002 to 2006, wherein he generally defined her skills as superior to exemplary.

Mockus cites the redevelopment of the Chicopee Agriculture Center, the building of a dog park and the construction of the East Hall community park and center as testaments to her productivity in her seven years as parks director.

But Shuler said he assigned Phil Sutton, Assistant Hall County Administrator, to supervise Mockus starting in May 2007 because he began receiving complaints about her from commissioners and members of the parks and leisure advisory board.

Shuler said he met with Mockus each week between May 2007 and December 2007 to discuss opportunities for her to improve county parks and their supervision. In December 2007, Sutton reviewed Mockus’ job performance and gave her a "less than fully satisfactory" grade.

Shuler maintains that Mockus "just kind of dropped the ball" beginning in May 2007, and he suggested she re-evaluate her position with Hall County in January due to her less than adequate job performance.

Shuler’s reviews of Mockus from 2003 to 2006 consistently note that Mockus needed to spend more time out in the field with department staff. Shuler and Sutton said she failed to devise a plan to eliminate the disconnect between department supervisors and park managers, which ultimately led to Shuler recommending that Mockus "move on."

Shuler also noted in his reviews of Mockus that she was organized, fair and passionate about her job.

"I didn’t have any indication until (last summer) that there were issues with park maintenance and staff supervision," Shuler said. "I think she just kind of dropped the ball, and it may have been it had been dropping, but I didn’t get complaints until then."

Sutton said he expects county department heads to earn an annual review grade of superior to exemplary to maintain a director position.



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