News of the Fayette County Water System Director’s demotion comes on the heels of a revelation that although employee complaints included that Tony Parrott hadn’t been in to visit each of the water treatment plants in the last six months (but had talked to someone at each of the plants “every other day”) in actuality, Parrott had put in appearances.
According to Human Resources Director Lewis Patterson, in a memo to county administrator Steve Rapson, clarifying the notes he had taken during employee interviews “Tony was visiting the plants during the six months prior to his interview with EPD on June 27, but not on a weekly basis as had been his practice up until about six months before his interview.
“He was in the two plants during that time, just not as frequently as had been his prior practice. I think to say that he was not in the plants at all for a six month period is an understandable misinterpretation of my notes, which I admit could have been more precise on this issue.”
Rapson noted that he personally knew that Parrott visited the water treatment plants numerous times over the past seven months, since Rapson had started with the county himself.
“He walked the plants with the chairman, consultants, EPD, etc; conducted site visits and provided tours of the facilities to our new commissioners and myself during our first 90 days.”
Rapson’s investigation into the series of mishaps wrapped around the county’s water system resulted in, aside from Parrott’s demotion- the disciplining of several employees with suspensions without pay and requirements for further action, the termination of one manager, but also a litany of complaints from employees who described working conditions and lack of maintenance issues.
Terminated plant manager Bill McKinley complained that operating crews were “woefully understaffed” and the budget “was not sufficient to adequately keep the plant in good operating condition. McKinley said he notified Parrott about a number of problems “that would seriously degrade the operating efficiency of the plant should they occur, but without any action on his part to move the project forward.”
And while other operators had a few similar concerns, they also put some of the problem on McKinley’s shoulders, with several pointing out that he wasn’t a Class I operator.
One lab analyst at the Crosstown plant pointed to a downswing of morale. Another plant operator reported concerns the plant’s operations and said there was a need for better tasking, and scheduling of assignments.
One employee being interviewed, worried about retaliation from management, videographed his interview with the EPD. A plant operator complained that “a lot of things need attention, more maintenance” but didn’t know what was available. “Lime room is an issue, basic maintenance is an issue.” Getting supplies was an issue from another employee and “needs a better turnaround on getting parts and need better stock of spare parts. The alum pump has been down for several years. If the working pump goes down, the plant will have to shut down.” Additionally, “stream flow monitoring devices/detectors have fallen off the radar. “
Parrott’s own interview showed that he didn’t know about the chlorine and chlorine dioxide being fed at the same time. He also admitted that a maintenance man was removing sludge from a clarifier to the pond, but the man was not licensed to do so and that it was a violation. Parrott also said that, during the taste/odor problem in the spring he had assumed Lake Peachtree turned over, based on his past experiences and that he guessed at it.
In one employee interview with a Class II water operator, Patterson and the EPD were told that “management needs to visit plants regularly to see if there are problems. There should be an anonymous evaluation of management. Workers don’t get clear cut answers since they are outside the box on 12-hour shifts.”