Pike County Times

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PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295.
Editor Becky Watts: Phone # 770-468-7583 editor(@)pikecountytimes.com
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BREAKING NEWS: PCT Speaks in Public Comment Regarding CM Rogers,
Assistant CM Named, and Grievance Filed Against CM Rogers
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - Becky Watts, Editor of Pike County Times, spoke at the County Commission meeting last night during Public Comment at the end of the meeting. The topic was Brandon Rogers’ performance as County Manager.

Comments included issues with communication and leadership as well as questions about the recent introduction of Jeremy Gilbert as the Assistant County Manager for Pike County, which is not a job position listed in Pike County’s Code of Ordinances.

This article continues with items of note and links to articles since Rogers has been hired to be the county manager in Pike County.

Of particular note is that the county has recently been put on notice that a Grievance for hostile work environment has been filed against Rogers.

The following is what was said last night in Public Comment at the March 28, 2023 Pike County Board of Commissioners meeting.

Click here to read April 3, 2023 update in which Pike County Times obtained how much Gilbert is being paid.

My concerns have been ongoing for more than a year. I have tried to work behind the scenes to help smooth the process for the public and those working for Pike County, but nothing seems to change. So here I am tonight speaking on the record. I don’t know what else to do.

First, we seem to have a communication problem in this county. Many of you noted this issue when you participated in the first required annual evaluation for County Manager Brandon Rogers last May.

Suggestions included “Communicate better with the public, staff, and department heads,” “Make amends with Constitutional Officers and department heads,” “Provide direction for staff and be a great leader,” Keep Board more informed of issues and the day-to-day operations,” and “Be open to constructive criticism and ideas for the County.”

I ask you, gentlemen, is communication better, worse, or the same as it was at this time last year?

Second, there seems to be a problem with leadership in our county.

Are you being notified by email or text when Brandon is not going to be in the office and why? What about the staff in the Commission Office? Or the entire county when he is out of the office?

Are you getting regular weekly County Manager Reports?

Commissioners are elected by the citizens, and the County Manager is hired by you. Everyone has job responsibilities and should be held accountable for their actions.

Let’s move to county hiring practices and the lack of respect that I’m seeing for this Board.

Were you notified that Brandon was going to introduce Jeremy Gilbert, our current Planning and Development Director, as the Assistant County Manager in budget meetings? If Brandon did this without an express OK from this Board for a new county position or he did this without giving you an opportunity to make that introduction first, you should let him know that you don’t appreciate that kind of disrespect. If you don’t, this will happen again with something else.

According to open records from Spalding County, Jeremy signed an contract to work in Spalding County for $82,511/year on February 15, 2023. He gave written notice on February 13 that March 10 was his final day, and the county spent money to run an ad in the paper for his replacement. On March 7, the day before the commission meeting, he then wrote a letter to Spalding County advising that “Pike County has offered me something to stay that I cannot pass on the opportunity.”

I KNOW that he stayed for more than just a week of vacation given at the past Commission meeting, but according to two open records requests, he has no signed contract, no written rate of pay, no written job description, and his pay hadn’t changed from $63,719.98/year. There is nothing in writing that shows that he was reinstated to work in this county, and our ordinances do not include the position of Assistant County Manager.

Is this how you would conduct business at your personal business? I seriously doubt it. Why is this ok here?

Gentlemen, you are responsible for the actions of your County Manager.

You are responsible for the way that Brandon speaks to and treats members of the public, your employees and department heads, and elected officials. You are also responsible when he refuses to speak to people in our county.

Are you confident that when Brandon speaks on your behalf that a complaint won’t end up before a county committee, a Judge, or the EEOC?

Are you confident that Brandon will consult with this Board and the County Attorney on future expenditures and decisions made on your behalf? The $5,000 spending limit seems to be ensuring good communication on expenditures and should prevent future issues with state law. That is good at least.

Do Brandon’s overall actions as County Manager make you proud of your choice to hire and retain him as your County Manager?

Is Brandon treating YOU and fellow board members with respect? And are you sure that he is not going to treat you like he did Chairman Johnson at the past meeting?

If you cannot answer with a firm YES to every one of these questions, you should do something about it. Actions SHOULD have consequences.

You are elected by the people of this county to work with Brandon for the good of our county. If you are not happy with what you see, there is no one else who can fix the problem.

I ask once again for this Board to conduct the required annual evaluation for Brandon and compare it to last year. What has improved? What needs to be improved? And what had better not happen again?

In closing, it really shouldn’t be so hard to communicate with others, follow state and local laws, and treat others like you want to be treated, but problems continue to happen without consequences.

Gentlemen, when you make a decision to remain silent when concerns are voiced by two of your fellow commissioners, you are speaking loudly as to what you will allow because silence implies consent.

If you remain silent at the lack of communication and disrespect shown to the public, your employees, elected officials, and yourselves, YOU are responsible for the results.

Becky Watts

[Note from the Editor added 4.3.23 at 10 p.m.: Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Gilbert pointed out to Pike County Times this evening on social media that he signed an "offer" to work for Spalding County and not a "contract" as I stated when I spoke to commissioners above. Looking back at the signed letter dated 2.15.23, it does indeed use the word "offer" and is not a "contract" as is previously reported. Pike County Times regrets the error. Pike County Times has asked for a clarification from the county attorney as to whether paperwork for rehiring is necessary since Gilbert was working through the last of his notice when he sent a email to Spalding notifying that he was staying in Pike. The fact remains that his new pay had nothing in writing until March 27, 2023 (almost 3 weeks after he accepted an offer to stay in the county), and nothing has been provided per open records request on his new responsibilities, etc.]

Brandon Rogers has been County Manager in Pike County since August 12, 2020. His contract reads that he is supposed to be evaluated by the commissioners at least once per year. His base rate salary was $83,000 when he was hired. He received a 5% certification raise for completing his training as county manager.

In the April 21, 2022 Public Hearing on the Budget, Editor Becky Watts laid out some issues with the commissioners involving a lack of respect seen for the individual commissioners, pointed out that the county manager speaks on the behalf of Pike County Commissioners when he interacts with the public, employees and department heads, and elected officials, and asked if they were happy with his representation of them.

With that being said, here are items of note that were not said explicitly last night because there is not a way to say everything in five minutes.

Items of Note

Items of note include that Pike County Times regularly received County Manager Reports from past county managers and included those reports in meeting write ups.

Readers can click here to read Rogers’ evaluation from 2022 by the commissioners. [Note from the Editor: There is some marks in yellow that I must have put on there at some point.]

Commissioners James Jenkins and Briar Johnson voiced concerns over decisions made by CM Rogers without the knowledge of the County Commission or County Attorney Rob Morton last summer. The first was the purchase of a Christmas Tree for Click here to read the write up and documentation from the July 25, 2022.

In the November 29, 2022 Commission meeting, Commissioner Jenkins and Chairman Johnson again expressed concerns over the purchase of the Christmas Tree and the check for fireworks based on a social media post which contained a photo of the Christmas Tree and the amount paid for it which was prompting phone calls to county commissioners. (Note of clarification: Editor Becky Watts made that Facebook post.)

In that meeting, Commissioner James Jenkins proposed a $5,000 spending limit for CM Rogers for anything other than fixed expenses like cell phone bills, electrical, etc. Anything else comes back to the commissioners for a vote. The motion received a second and a vote that was approved 4-1 with Commissioner Tim Daniel opposed. He said that this is a "haphazard decision." Click here to read the write up and documentation from this meeting.

And in discussion of the Christmas Tree and fireworks donation continued into the December 14, 2022 meeting with Commissioner Jenkins saying in the meeting that the citizens look to the commissioners for money being spent in the county and that none of the commissioners knew about the purchase of the Christmas Tree before it was done. He also said that the check for fireworks was made without any discussion with the commissioners and that this boils down to communication.

In this meeting, Commissioner Jenkins made a motion to put something in writing and place it in CM Rogers file advising that the county commissioners did not know about the check for the fireworks ahead of time, they did not support it, and that the county did not support this violation of the Gratuities Clause in State Law in order to protect the county from possible future litigation or penalties.

Chairman Johnson is not allowed to make a second so it was up to Commissioners Jason Proctor, Tim Guy, or Tim Daniel to make a second. None of these three commissioners chose to do so, and the motion died for lack of a second. In this same meeting, Pike County’s Personnel Policy was amended to read the county manager has the authority to remove all department heads with the approval of the Board of Commissioners. Click here to read the write up and documentation from this meeting.

Also alluded to but not spoken about with specific instances in the short five minute public comment were problems that department heads and Constitutional officers (elected officials) who have had issues with CM Rogers.

The Superior Court Clerk complained that Rogers had withheld $16,000 from her budget and refused to put it back when she spoke at the September 28, 2021 Commission meeting. A motion was made and approved in a 5-0 vote to amend her budget to cover salaries for her employees. Click here www.pikecountytimes.com/secondary/BOC9.28.21.html to read the write up and documentation from this meeting.

Library Department Head Rosemary Bunn also received a reduction in the J. Joel Edwards Library budget in her 2022 budget that was not replaced in her budget until there were repeated meetings and phone calls and discussions in meetings commissioner and CM Rogers. Click here to read the write up and documentation from this meeting: www.pikecountytimes.com/secondary/BOCSCM4.21.22.html.

The story behind his attempt to force a constitutional officer to bend to his will during a retirement discussion can be found here: www.pikecountytimes.com/secondary/BOC9.28.21.html. The Tax Commissioner advised the County by email of the problems with the retirement plan regarding her office as well as issues with time cards she had encountered with CM Rogers.

This led to the May 17, 2022 complaint on Pike County Times’ complaint on the Letters to the Editor page in which citizen Ben Maxedon made a complaint regarding both his and his wife’s experiences with Rogers. “An Open Letter to the Citizens of Pike County” in which he laid out his experience with Rogers and his wife’s issues with receiving retirement from Pike County after more than 30 years of service. Commissioners later abided by federal law with the number of hours required for definition of full-time employment and included this employee in the retirement plan.

Around July of 2022, CM Rogers bought an $875 lock and replaced a lock on a door that impacted Probate Court, Juvenile Court, Superior Court, the District Attorney's Office, the Sheriff's Office, and the Public Defender's Office as well as the security of the courthouse without communicating with anyone at the courthouse including the Probate Judge that the office belongs to. Click here www.pikecountytimes.com/secondary/BOC10.25.22.html to read the write up and documentation from this meeting.

Assistant County Manager

Also of note is that there were two open records placed with Pike County which asked for a copy of any and all documentation (including emails) that gives Gilbert’s rehire date, the description and acceptance of the job Gilbert was hired for, and a written contract that gives Gilbert’s new rate of pay, and the answer came back from Planning and Development Director Jeremy Gilbert, County Manager (CM) Brandon Rogers, and each of the individual county commissioners that there is no documentation pertaining to this request.

Spalding County provided a great deal of information to Pike County Times in response to an open records request that includes emails sent from Gilbert’s Pike County email address setting up for the hiring process, discussion of specifics for the job, a signed contract in February to work in Spalding County as the Community Development Director, and a March email turning down the job in Spalding County to stay in Pike County as the Planning and Development director.

Grievance for a Hostile Work Environment

A complaint has been placed against CM Rogers for his treatment of Library Department Head Rosemary Bunn in a February 16, 2023 meeting in which the complaint advises that he spoke to her in a condescending manner. In this meeting, he gave her a written warning for “Unsatisfactory Performance, Insubordination, Failure to Communicate” for holding an employee interview without giving him proper time to reschedule any conflicts.

The interview that he was invited to but did not attend had taken place several weeks prior on January 24, 2023. Librarian Bunn sent an email to CM Rogers at 7 p.m. on January 23, 2023 which was the night before the January 24 interview. The interview was scheduled for 11 a.m. on January 24.

The Verbal Warning noted that the employee refused to sign it. [Note from the Editor: There is a lot of emails back and forth about interviews after the January 24 interview including a February 16, 2023 email in which CM Rogers said that he was not ready to move forward with a hire for her department at that time and asked her to come by the office to speak with him that afternoon.]

Librarian Bunn and Library Board Chairman Anthony Vinson have met with several commissioners since that time to discuss “ongoing issues with county manager Brandon Rogers as it relates to hostile workplace environment and discrimination” which she alleges has been allowed to continue even after discussions with commissioners including Vinson speaking to commissioners, the county attorney, and the county manager in an Executive Session almost a year ago.

CM Rogers was also proposing changes to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on how the J. Joel Edwards Public Library and the County work together to provide services for patrons of the library. The Library Board rejected those changes when CM Rogers met with them on on March 9, 2023

On March 15, 2023, Bunn placed a written Grievance against CM Rogers for a hostile work environment with the county.

According to Section 36.24 of Pike County’s Personnel Policy, the next step is for the County to form an Appeals Committee consisting of three to five members which may include one or more members of the Board of Commissioners, a Pike County Department Head, or other persons chosen by the Board of Commissioners.

Pike County Times will have more on this situation tomorrow as it is still sifting through more than a month's worth of open records including emails, pay rates for the entire county, and proposed changes to the J. Joel Edwards Public Library made by CM Rogers.

[UPDATE 10:30 PM: Note from the Editor - I have had time to think back through this and did a revision of this section for clarity, but I am not going to add more details from the half inch of printed emails and other open records requests that I have on hand. Why? There is a possibility of putting information out that could poison the jury pool for the Appeals Committee.

I know that a regular newspaper wouldn't care about this, but Pike County Times is not a regular newspaper. I strive to write articles that can be trusted because everything that you see on here is on paper or someone has claimed what is being said. This is how I've rolled since November of 2006 when I went online.

I also care deeply about our community and how our county government affects our community. In this case, I am going to step back, watch, and report on this Grievance as the process takes place with the Appeals Committee.]


Pike County Times will continue to cover the issues of a new Assistant County Manager and the Grievance for a Hostile Work Environment as information as this process continues.

The budget process for the county is ramping up so there will be many public meetings in the future in which either or both of these issues can be discussed.

Thank you to First Bank of Pike for sponsoring Pike County Times’ Breaking News Alerts! First Bank of Pike has been serving customers in Pike County and the surrounding area since 1901 and offers Personal and Business banking with a personal touch. Services include checking, savings, money market, certificates of deposit, and IRA’s. Mobile Banking and Bill Payment services are also available! Click here for more. Please let First Bank of Pike know that you appreciate their sponsorship of Breaking News Alerts on Pike County's only FREE online newspaper!


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