Atlanta Watershed Director Macrina Faces New Lawsuits, Complaints

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(APN) ATLANTA — When Mayor Kasim Reed nominated Jo Ann Macrina to be the new Commissioner of Watershed Management for the City of Atlanta, Atlanta Progressive News received tips from numerous former employees of Macrina at DeKalb County, where she faced numerous complaints and lawsuits.

In light of this information, which APN brought to the Council, the nomination was held up while attorney Ken Hodges investigated her background on behalf of the City, producing a secret report, but the Council eventually confirmed her nomination.

APN has learned that former City of Atlanta employees whom she fired or forced to resign are now making similar complaints about Macrina’s record since she has joined the City of Atlanta, particular as she undertook a massive restructuring of the Watershed Department.

Anthony Schmidt, former Atlanta Watershed Safety and Training Officer, currently has a federal lawsuit pending against the City of Atlanta in federal court as well as an EEOC complaint, which complains, among other things, that Macrina retaliated against Schmidt in firing him.

According to Schmidt, he first filed an EEOC complaint in May 2010, before Macrina was confirmed.  Then, he filed suit in August 2011, after she was already working there.  He was fired five days after filing the lawsuit in September 2011.

He later amended his EEOC complaint to include the retaliation claims.

In a copy of a May 2012 deposition obtained by APN, Macrina claims that she did not know that Schmidt had filed a complaint or a lawsuit until the day before the deposition.

Schmidt says he faxed a copy of the lawsuit to Macrina’s fax number, but she claims that she does not read every fax.  Schmidt says he told other employees as well as his supervisor about the lawsuit.

“Now, when you made the decision that Anthony Schmidt should be terminated, were you aware that five days previous he had filed in the United States District Court a complaint of discrimination?” Schmidt’s attorney asked.

“I had no idea.  None whatsoever,” Macrina said.

“When did you find out about Mr. Schmidt’s discrimination allegations?”

“I didn’t know it prior to yesterday,” she said.

“Do you think the Director of the Watershed Department should perhaps know a little bit more about what’s going on concerning employees and former employees of the Watershed Department?”

“That I should know about every lawsuit that went on?” she asked.

“Are there that many?”

Later, Macrina explained she fired Schmidt because “he was not fitting in to how I was going to restructure the department.”  Macrina also fired others, including a Priscilla Doggett and a Jacqueline Rogers-Trice, for the same reasons.

Schmidt also provided APN with a copy of evaluations showing that he had received high marks for effectiveness across a range of job requirements prior to being fired.

A second former employee, Angelo Veney, former Deputy Commissioner of Financial Administration for the Department of Watershed Management, wrote up a document summarizing his complaints, which he provided to APN as well as at least two Council Members.

“At the direction of Commissioner Jo Ann Macrina, the Department of Watershed Management operated under a structure that was not approved by City Council during Fiscal Year 2012.  She   moved forward with the implementation under the presumption that the proposed reorganization would be approved in conjunction with the Departments [sic] FY 2013 requested budget.  The unapproved structure which deviated from the City’s current Code of Ordinances, created a number of financial, management, and internal controls issues,” he wrote.

In addition, “The Department’s Master Ordinance explicitly states that Water and Sewer Service revenue should be used solely for Watershed Management;  however, the Department, at the direction of the current CFO, Jim Beard, and Commissioner Macrina approved… purchases which violate the Master Bond Ordinance and fund accounting,” he wrote.

“Commissioner Macrina utilized external consultants to do task that had been handled by DWM staff,” he wrote.

“A couple months ago I was informed by key COA [City of Atlanta] personnel that Commissioner Macrina planned to initiate actions and exercise her authority to force me to resign, commonly referred to as constructive discharge… I, like other staff… noted how deliberate she was in her actions toward me.  The information contained in this document, along with other documents I have retained, demonstrate that her actions were deliberate, mirror harassment, and created a hostile work environment for me,” he wrote.

Veney says he is considering filing a complaint with EEOC or lawsuit against the City of Atlanta, because he believes she forced him to resign because she disliked the fact that he was raising questions about her practices.

The complaints within the City of Atlanta mirror complaints made by former DeKalb employees of Macrina.

As previously reported by APN, Wes Rogers and Charles McKinney, two former employees of Macrina at DeKalb County, provided information to the City of Atlanta when the City was considering whether to hire her.

Rogers claims, in a letter to the DeKalb County Chairman Burrell Ellis, that he and McKinney were fired only two days after the Atlanta City Council grilled Macrina in part about information that they had provided to the City.

“Shortly after my taking the position, issues with Ms. Macrina arose concerning her management style and how she treated me and other employees.  I requested help from Human Resources, Ms. Benita Ransom specifically, concerning Ms. Macrina’s abusive nature and even requested to meet with Human Resources to discuss filing a grievance,” Rogers wrote.

“My department was under Jo Ann Macrina and all 8 inspectors filed a grievance against her for abuse, unfair treatment, and mismanagement,” Rogers told APN in an email.

“Another thing I mentioned to HR was the fact that Jo Ann was in her office for three days (after she had submitted her letter of resignation and had the press conference at the City of Atlanta) with the door closed and the shredder running non-stop.  When I mentioned it, Angela Lindsey told me the retention schedule for any document is 5 years… Ms. Macrina was there for 3 years.  Not sure what was going on,” Rogers wrote.

Another Macrina employee in DeKalb County, told APN in July 2011 that she and another employee were reprimanded when they forwarded a copy of Macrina’s resume provided to the City of Atlanta, to her colleagues, noting “all the lies she told.”  She said they were reprimanded for misuse of County computers.

In addition, according to two sources, a number of additional former employees of Macrina at DeKalb County successfully sued to get their jobs back.

“Macrina fired the DeKalb Floodplain Manager and the Coordinator a few years ago.  The employees promptly hired Mike Bowers, and as a result of doing this so they got their jobs back [sic].  It is believed that they were fired to make room for Friends of Macrina,” one source wrote.  

“They both eventually left DeKalb due to a hostile work environment.  The Coordinator, who was highly professional and respected by the DeKalb District, now works for East Point,” the source wrote.

One of the employees is Alex Mohajer, who previously worked as Stormwater Engineering Supervisor for DeKalb; he currently works as Public Works Director for East Point, according to the source.  APN was not immediately able to reach Mohajer for comment.

(END/2012)

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