Second Atlanta leader departs amid employee frustrationCity Hall on City Hall by Kelly Jordan
By Maggie Lee
Atlanta’s human resources chief is leaving City Hall — the second top leader lately to head out the door, leaving behind employee complaints.
City of Atlanta Human Resources Commissioner Marian Woods has been in the job just over one year, in a city with something around 9,500 full-time equivalent employees.
But in about the last two weeks, she’s been dogged by fairly public allegations of creating a toxic work environment. She was on paid administrative leave for some time last month, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, during an investigation into an alleged confrontation with her executive assistant.
Woods was cleared, the paper reported, but it also reported that a separate investigation is underway.
Earlier this month, Gwedolyn Gillespie, a labor relations consultant, came to Atlanta City Council to talk about Woods. Gillespie said her clients accused Woods of using racial insults, of being incompetent and insulting, of not paying people property. Gillespie blasted Council for not sending Woods out the door.
A statement from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms received Friday morning did not address questions about dates of Woods’ administrative leave or about employee allegations against Woods.
The statement did say Bottoms has accepted Woods’ resignation. It will be “effective upon the completion of key HR projects related to transitioning the department, including, but not limited to, police raises, firefighter compensation analysis, and citywide headcount reconciliation,” the statement reads.
Woods, who has a long resume as an HR professional, joined the city just after receiving an offer letter naming a salary of $210,000.
Bottoms’ statement thanked Woods for working to abolish more than 600 unfunded positions and processing a police pay raise.
Earlier this month, Atlanta Chief Resilience Officer Amol Naik also announced his departure.
Naik said at the time in a city press release that his family is coping with the impacts of his mother’s Alzheimer’s disease and it was time for him to spend more time with his family.
But he too had just been through an internal investigation prompted by employee complaints.
The report by the Department of Human Resources cleared Naik of “several” complaints concerning the CRO’s treatment of women, and alleged favorable treatment of men.
The report has Naik setting up a new chain of command that rankled some longtime employees. It also has him saying (not in direct quotes) that coming from the private sector, he was accustomed to and expected a different level of professionalism and accountability that he did not see in his direct reports at the city.
Before coming to Atlanta City Hall, Naik was director of legal and public affairs for MailChimp and had also held counsel and public affairs positions positions with Google Fiber and Google, Inc.
But Naik’s resume doesn’t show anything on sustainability. The report has some employees seeing him as aloof and inexpert. Naik was viewed with skepticism by the environmental community, the report said.
The person in the resilience post is responsible for moving the city toward goals of becoming more resilient to physical, social and economic challenges in the city. It can include work on public heath, aging infrastructure, access to food and sustainability.
For example, the city has adopted the goal of getting to 100% clean energy by 2035. But the city did not legally intervene with the state utility regulator by a key deadline this year to ask for the permission it would need to make a clean energy deal with Georgia Power. That absence set off some alarm bells with some supporters of the city’s plan.
Four city employees besides Naik were interviewed for the internal investigation. A look at LinkedIn suggests at least two of them are no longer with the city now. And the city is advertising for a new senior director of sustainability.
SR has requested the headcount and employee names in the resilience office for this year and last year; the city has not responded to that request.
Naik joined the city after receiving an offer letter naming a salary of $170,000.
The report, meanwhile, recommends that the Office of Resilience should go through change management training.
Bottoms has said it’s hard to attract people to top posts in the city, blaming in part public scrutiny. In remarks to the Atlanta Press Club earlier this month, she said some people have second-guessed their decisions to work at the city and called on reporters to do more positive stories.