BOH lets go of eight-year employee

Published 4:38 pm Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Board of Health decided to let go a former Decatur-Seminole Service Center employee that had worked under the board for eight years.

At a March 24 meeting, board members unanimously voted to terminate the employment of 79-year-old Herman Hatton, a mechanic who maintained the various equipment used at the Service Center for the past eight years.

At the meeting, Chairman Clarence Bush expressed his understanding that when Georgia Pines had taken over the Service Center from the Board of Health in July 2008, they had entered into an agreement with the company that would continue to employ the 11 Service Center employees.

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He said one of the contingencies in the agreement was that the employees were to continue working for the BOH, which would in turn receive compensation from Georgia Pines to pay the employees.

“This agreement was agreed upon so that individuals previously employed by the BOH could continue working at the service center in order to continue getting their benefits and retirement,” he said.

He explained that retirement and employee benefits were the intended goal of the agreement and they would need to be provocation for termination of employees.

Bush noted that all but four of the 11 employees chose to transition over to Georgia Pines from working under the BOH.

“The question is were these employees told from the start, if they were told from the start that they had to transition over to Georgia Pines,” said Bush. He said the BOH needed and had not yet received probable cause for termination of Hatton from Georgia Pines.

Bush explained that Hatton had been moved over to Georgia Pines into a position that he did not have or was provided with proper training.

The board went into executive session, at the encouragement of County Attorney Brown Moseley, to further discuss the personnel matter.

Outside of the meeting, Hatton told The Post-Searchlight that approximately six months ago he had been notified by Georgia Pines that his job at the Service Center was no longer needed, and he would be transferred into a position with Georgia Pines. He said his new job dealt with case work and required him to use a computer—with which he had no prior experience. Hatton said while attempting to take on the new role he had very little training using the computer and received inadequate guidance as to what his job pertained to.

Hatton said in mid-March he received a letter of dismissal from Georgia Pines stating that they no longer were in need of his services—in essence leaving him in limbo since he was still technically employed by the DOH.

Executive Director of Georgia Pines Bob Jones said the company had taken over the Service Center at the request of the BOH and had not entering into a contractual agreement legally obligating the company to keep the former Service Center employees.

“I have no doubts that we did the right thing, or we wouldn’t have done it,” Jones said.

He said since taking over the Service Center, the state budget for the center has been cut drastically and the Service Center has not been creating revenue. As a result, Georgia Pines has been forced to reduce their staff, letting two or three of the Service Center employees go, according to Jones.

He said Hatton had been very direct and honest about not being qualified for the position Georgia Pines had placed him in.

“We’ve been trying to train him and create a position for him since September,” said Jones.

In closed session, the board spoke with Jones and Hatton. Upon going back into regular session the board unanimously voted to terminate Hatton’s employment under the BOH, citing his lack of performance under Georgia Pines.