It’s been no secret that the new county commission was interested in keeping an eye on County Manager Alan Ours’s job performance. If the rumors flying around are any indication, it looks like they won’t have to much longer.
While I’d heard some rumblings in recent weeks that there were changes coming to the county offices, no fewer than four sources have blown up my phone this afternoon insisting that the county manager is going to be turning in his resignation at tonight’s commission meeting. While the details vary—some have said they want to allow him to do it in executive session so no one will know he’s resigned until after March’s SPLOST vote—one aspect of the story is represented in every source’s account and is consistent with other rumblings I’d picked up in the recent past: that the final straw was the hiring of Carl Alexander as Special Advisor to the County Commission on the Glynn County Police Department.
The six-month, $62,500 position created by the board of commissioners last week seemed strange, and the meeting to confirm the position even stranger. Members of the former chief’s family had told acquaintances and had posted on social media that Alexander would be the new chief of the Glynn County Police Department. That was what many expected to happen when the county went into executive session last Thursday. The meeting that should have been a slam dunk took an hour and a half. I wondered why and reached out to some sources with knowledge of the situation. The response I got back was that they were debating the title of the job they were going to give Alexander. This said “chief” was no longer in the cards. It wasn’t tough to figure out why.
Rick Evans was named the interim chief in the aftermath of Jay Wiggins’s retirement and subsequent move to Alexander’s former job as chief of security at Sea Island. County Manager Alan Ours made the hire, as was his job responsibility under the new county organizational chart enacted several years ago. Ours was faced with the need to provide the department with leadership in the absence of a chief and he made his pick. The new commission is probably the most hands-on I’ve seen in many years—there are pros and cons to this—and the word is several of them had already set their minds on naming Alexander to this position.
And then the race issue came up.
You see, Rick Evans is the first Black chief of the Glynn County Police Department, a historic achievement that has been largely unreported in his being named to the position. Compound this with the urging from Commissioner Alan Booker for the county to hire the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives to assist in the search for a new chief, and you now have a situation where the first black chief in the history of Glynn County Police is moved out of the position for, of all things, the old white chief, and all during Black History Month.
Needless to say, the optics are abysmal. Thus the county had to find a workaround, and also why it was no surprise that Booker himself was the one who made the motion to hire the former chief. I predicted that as the debate was going on, actually, a way for the commission to say, “We’re not doing anything to harm Chief Evans. Would Booker make the motion if this was bad for Evans?”
If they weren’t planning on making Alexander the Chief—or even “Commissioner” as some started to speculate—why did they already have a swearing in ceremony scheduled for immediately after the meeting? Why was his family at the meeting? Why would you need to swear in a “Special Advisor?” And an unrelated question: why did several of the county commissioners not even know the ceremony had been scheduled?
For his part, Evans has been very supportive of the move, as voiced in the press release that accompanied the announcement. It is said by many that he and the former chief are close. Alexander may be beneficial in helping him grow in his new role. Though with many on the inside already having favored Evans for the permanent job for some time, it makes one wonder whether the guidance is all that necessary, given the ten-thousand-plus dollar a month price tag it comes with. Evans seems to be able to stand on his own already.
Which leads back to the Alan Ours issue. The county org chart clearly gives Ours the authority to hire and fire the Glynn County Police Chief. If the commission had had other thoughts on the matter perhaps they should have approached Ours with those thoughts, not just before he’d given Evans the position, but before Wiggins had hit the road. Word of Jay’s pending retirement was circulating on social media as far back as last October.
After the election was over, many of the newly-elected commissioners hit the ground running, even before they were sworn in. That was laudable, and their eagerness to serve should be recognized. But if it interferes with the operations of the county government and creates situations where we have to create brand new positions in order to not cause an uproar, perhaps they should let the staff in on their plans. The staff is there to do the work the commissioners ask them to. No one can fault commissioners for inspecting what they’re expecting. But they should definitely leave the jobs of the staff to the staff. If the staff doesn’t meet rigorous expectations they should be replaced. But give them a chance to fail.
If all comes to pass as we’ve heard today, then Ours will be on borrowed time and the search for a new County Manager will be underway. With the way the commission is going around the staffers instead of through them, we may not get many good applicants for this position or the several others that will undoubtedly be opening up soon. Let’s hope we don’t end up having to pay Ours $10,000 a month to be a “Special Advisor” to our next County Manager.