Around Town: Hankerson staying: But the question is, for how long?
by Lee B. Garrett, Joe Kirby and Otis Brumby III
May 17, 2013 11:50 PM | 5205 views | 9 9 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Earlier this month, Around Town learned that longtime Cobb County Manager David Hankerson was one of three finalist for the same position in Fulton County.

The other two finalist were Dwight Ferrell, former MARTA deputy GM, and Fulton County Deputy Finance Director Patrick O’Connor. By comparison, Hankerson would appear to be the no-brainer choice and Fulton County spokesperson Bobbie Battista confirmed to the MDJ that much saying, “he was the No. 1 pick.”

Many have scratched their heads and wondered why anyone would want to leave Cobb for the dysfunction of Fulton County. The headaches in Fulton may be worth it for a price. Hankerson currently receives a total annual compensation of $274,000. In taking the Fulton position, he would be eligible to begin his county pension, while receiving a comparable salary from Fulton. “Double-dipping,” as some would call it, but certainly a benefit Hankerson has earned.

Unexpectedly, the MDJ learned Tuesday that Hankerson had contacted the Fulton County Commission chairman to withdraw his name from consideration. Hankerson said he was “happy” and ultimately Cobb is where he wants to be. Battista added that Hankerson simply did not have the necessary four votes from the seven-member Fulton commission despite being the top candidate.

Is the Fulton County commission that dysfunctional they can’t gather enough votes to hire a proven and willing candidate recommended by their search firm? Or is there more to the story that caused Fulton commissioners to get cold feet on the hire?

Hankerson has been in consideration for several county manager jobs around the state, including Paulding County and Savannah. It is a testament to the job he has done for Cobb and no surprise others would come calling in an effort to mimic the success Cobb has experienced.

Hankerson’s employment contract expires in January and there has been little public discussion whether it will be extended. Over the last month since we learned Fulton County was interested in Hankerson, there has been no groundswell of support from the commissioners or community to try and retain him.

Like any 20-year career, there have been some bumps along the way, but by and large, Hankerson has worked successfully with a variety of personalities and styles including three county chairmen, dozens of commissioners and thousands of employees. However, several commission watchers point out that while Hankerson is well-liked, fresh blood can sometimes be a good thing for any organization.

Now that Fulton County is off the table, the question comes back to the commissioners on what to do with Hankerson’s contract when it expires. Hankerson’s contract (the only county employee with an employment contract) was last extended in January 2011 by a 3-2 vote. Commissioner Bob Ott and former Commissioner Woody Thompson were the dissenting votes citing opposition to the 3-year time frame and not Hankerson’s job performance. The contract specifies Hankerson receive 120 days of pay if the county fires him without 90 days notice. In addition, there is no automatic renewal clause at the end of the contract.

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high on houston: County Chairman Tim Lee, Hankerson and Faye DiMassimo, the county’s transportation director, were in Houston this week as part of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s annual Leadership Involvement Networking & Knowledge trip.

Lee said they left Wednesday and will be back today.

“The interesting thing about Houston is that they have a ‘can-do’ attitude that seems to be collective and across-the-board, which is why Texas is so successful is that people say, ‘why not?’ They say, ‘let’s do it.’ That seems to be a recurring theme in everybody’s discussion,” Lee told Around Town.

Attorney General Sam Olens recently told Republicans at a Cobb GOP breakfast that Georgia should copy more of the conservative practices that Texas has, a state he dubbed the most business-friendly.

Reminded of Olens’ comment, Lee said, “I would say the mayor of Houston is a gay woman who considers herself a Democrat, but more right wing than some conservatives in other states. It’s an interesting contrast.”

We’ll leave it to Olens to say whether that’s what he had in mind.

Lee said other locals on the trip, which included about 110 people from metro Atlanta, were Cobb Chamber CEO David Connell, lobbyist Michael Paris, developer Bob Voyles, ARC Chairman Tad Leithead and Town Center Area CID Chairman Mason Zimmerman.

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ARE COBB EDUCATORS “guilty until proven innocent,” as critics (including this newspaper) have complained in the wake of the high-profile investigations of several principals, teachers and others in recent years? Investigations that, as often as not, seem to have resulted in charges being dropped or juries refusing to convict?

Cobb School Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa sidestepped the chance to answer that question Thursday, when he was the featured speaker at the Marietta Kiwanis Club meeting.

Hinojosa made no mention of the controversy during his prepared remarks, but immediately was hit with a query on the topic by Cobb tax office retiree Scott Chadwick during the Q&A.

“The perception is that your investigative arm has a tendency to consider teachers guilty until they prove themselves innocent, and recent happenings bear that out,” Chadwick said. “Would you care to address that?”

Replied Hinojosa: “Typically I would take on any question, but one thing I’ve learned is to not comment on personnel matters. And you’re not going to believe what we say, you’re only going to believe what we do. And I don’t disagree with some of that perception, but I think that if you look back in a couple months, a couple years, I think you’ll see a different result. So that’s about as far as I’m going to go on something that delicate.”

Added the super, “If we have to remove an individual, I’m not afraid to make tough decisions, but I let people keep their dignity and I defer from getting into those.”

The system’s chief investigator, Mary Finlayson, was terminated last week in the wake of the recent allegations and wasted no time firing off a letter to the MDJ saying she was being set up as “the fall guy” by the system.

Hinojosa’s remarks were not without a dash of humor.

“I’ve been in Cobb for two years, and my greatest accomplishment is that I’m still in Cobb County,” he quipped.



Two veteran Marietta Board of Education members, Jill Mutimer and Randy Weiner, tell Around Town they will seek a third term in the fall election.

Mutimer, 46, a self-employed financial consultant, has two children, one at West Side Elementary and one at Marietta Middle School. With the support of her husband, Jim Mutimer, she was first elected to the board in 2005.

“While I feel like we’ve accomplished a great deal in the last eight years, we still have goals that we are working toward and hope to achieve,” she said.

Weiner, 45, a small business owner, was also first elected in 2005 with the support of his wife, Kelley Weiner.

Weiner’s two children attend West Side and Marietta Middle.

“My passion for student achievement and success in Marietta City Schools is as strong now as it was eight years ago,” Weiner said.

Comments
(9)
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Joseph Pond
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May 19, 2013
Chairman Lee and the other Commissioners should note that Houston has no Zoning Ordinances- imagine that!
anonymous
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May 24, 2013
I imagine Houston may be where you belong then. BTW: Hankerson would not be the first person in Cobb government to double dip.
Just Sayin'.....
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May 19, 2013
I will bet the contract does not get renewed. Tim sounded non-committal and Hankerson has played the "other people want me" game too often. He is at the top of his pay range and while there have been no major errors on his part, there have been very few success stories either.
notsurprized
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May 19, 2013
Ole Willie Jones did this with Paulding County the last time his employment contract was up. He got a big fat bonus out of it. Why not try it again. Maybe its time to load up his mules and dump trucks and take a hike.
Can't Wait
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May 18, 2013
Thank you MDJ for not letting this one go. Fulton must know something Cobb doesn’t know or is ignoring. Whatever it is, I think we the citizens should know also. If Fulton is being dysfunctional we need to know that also. In an earlier article when asked about his going to Fulton Hankerson said, “I don't know. You know the thing is certainly it would take a contract, but I don't know how far we're apart...” Seems to me he should have bowed out then if he were not interested. Something tells me he thought he had the vote and was negotiating with Cobb indirectly for a new contract or he was leaving Cobb. would have gone had he gotten the votes. As for his being well liked, when he leaves Cobb, people will begin to tell how they really feel. Can't wait.
Watcher...
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May 18, 2013
I guess Tim Lee, Hankerson and Faye DiMassimo are getting current briefings on the U.N.'s Project 21.
Surely
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May 18, 2013
Surely Mr. Hinojosa aspires to a higher political

climes? Such a convoluted non answer must have

befuddled Mr. Chadwick. It certainly confounded

this reader. The Super will have to be coated with

teflon to escape unscathed by the missteps of his HR Dept. Granted, it was defective for 8 years before he came here, but he should have scrutinized

it and done some house cleaning soon after he came

on board. Since he gets the big bucks we should

expect that he is paying attention. He wasn't and

deserves to be one of the fall guys in this mess.
anonymous
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May 18, 2013
RE: “...he was the No. 1 pick" vs. "...simply did not have the necessary four votes from the seven-member Fulton commission despite being the top candidate"--

I guess this must be government(or Cobb County) logic, cuz in the private sector, if you can not get everyone that needs to sign-off, to actually sign-off...you ain't the No. 1 pick.

PREDICTION: We will next be hearing the Cobb county power structure tell us all that "we need to give Hankerson a raise, or we are gonna looooooooosssse him...and forever, too".

Where else but in Government can you flaunt that you are not happy enough with your current job to at least keep your job seeking efforts on the down low? In the private sector, you might play that game one time to get a raise at your current job...but don't count on doing it a second time. No one wants someone around that is not happy being there...or that likes playing jerk games of threatening to leave.

Papermill gal
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May 18, 2013
Hinojosa's way is to make light. That's how he muddles through and passes the bucks.

In reality, on his watch, people did NOT retain their dignity and in fact had their reputations completely ruined and smeared, and the super did NOTHING to mitigate that. Nice that he can laugh all the way to the bank, when others are hurting and unable to recapture their careers.
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