Commissioners’ chief of staff is also county’s deputy COO
Jennifer Ffrench-Parker | 9/13/2013, 6 a.m.
DeKalb Board of Commissioners’ Chief of Staff Morris Williams III is now also the county’s deputy chief operating officer.
Interim CEO Lee May appointed Williams to the second position on Aug. 22 to replace Ted Rhinehart, who left in April.
In his new capacity, Williams has responsibilities for the board’s office and the county’s Roads and Drainage, Watershed Department and its $1.35 billion Capital Improvement Plan, Parks and Recreation, Libraries, and Facilities Management.
May also appointed the board’s policy research director Jay Vinicki to serve as interim assistant director in the Finance Department.
In an Aug. 22 memorandum to the board’s interim presiding officer, Sharon Barnes Sutton, May said his goal is to bring the legislative and administrative branches closer together in terms of county operations.
“This joint operation would allow us to share information and ideas, allowing for a new era of transparency in the policy and management process,” May wrote.
May also acknowledged that the county Law Department advised him the county’s organization act does not provide for this type of sharing arrangement because it restricts the CEO from exercising control over board’s employees and restricts the board from exercising control over CEO employees.
“However,” he wrote, “I believe this sharing arrangement can exist and thrive during the period I serve as interim CEO.”
When CrossRoadsNews asked why he is mixing the positions contrary to the organization act, May said that while the act does not speak to this type of job description specifically, it does not prohibit it either.
“In my interim capacity as CEO, it is paramount that the administration continues to work in concert with the Board of Commissioners,” May said. “Mr. Williams’ extensive knowledge of public works and his education and experience in public administration make him the prime candidate for this dual role.”
Williams, who has been with DeKalb County since 1997, said the dual positions put him back into the position he held during the administrations of former CEOs Liane Levetan and Vernon Jones and before the board established separate offices from the county administration.
“I did the same work for 10 years. I am returning to the stuff I used to do.”
He says there is no conflict.
“There can’t be a conflict,” he said Thursday. “We are all on the same team.”
By working both sides of county government at once, Williams said the county will work more efficiently.
“The BOC will be able to get information more easily,” he said. “It allows the BOC to have input and gets us closer to what a county manager county looks like.”
He said he won’t be involved in issuing requests for proposals and approving them.
Williams said he is not getting full salaries for both positions – 50 percent of his BOC salary and 50 percent of the COO salary.