UPDATE| Former Augusta EEO officer raises concerns about department

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News 12 NBC 26 First at Five and 6:00 / Wednesday, May 31, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Two weeks after he was fired Augusta's former EEO officer is speaking out. Long is the second EEO officer in two years to be fired amid some controversy. It all centers around problems he says are in his department and the city government itself.

On Tuesday, the city's Administrative Services committee voted against have Long about his concerns because of possible legal repercussions. Instead, he gave them a binder full of the issues.

He might have only worked in Augusta government for five months, but J.G. Long is experienced in his field.

"I've worked in this field for more than twenty years. I've represented people on the federal level, I've represented people in an administrative level," J.G. Long said.

His goal was to represent Augusta's employees, to hear their complaints, and investigate them. But he thinks that might have gotten him in trouble.

"There was a specific case that I was working on that I believe that was, inferred or bothered, because of the possible outcome," Long said.

Long says his investigation found an employee sexually harassed and retaliated against another employee. He says he gave those findings to his boss on Friday. That Monday he sent the letter, raising concerns to commissioners. On Tuesday he was fired.

"I have to let the public decide if the two are in any way connected," he said.

In his termination letter, there are six cases cited of employees raising concerns about Long's behavior. Long says he was investigating three of them.

"There were some obstruction of an investigation issues, there were some conflict of interest issues, there were some bias issues, and there were some poorly investigated based on bias issues," he said.

Long says he was never advised of the allegations against him, and he says the city will never be able to prove the allegations.

The former EEO officer also brings up concerns that he says have been longstanding in the department. It's a position that's raised concerns in the past. In 2015, EEO Officer Jaqueline Humphrey was fired amid a lot of questions.

"Well historically we've been in the same ballpark for twenty years. And if we don't have the backbone to make the change in terms of independence, impartiality and move forward we will never in this city a government that works for the people and works for the citizens," he said.

Long says that's what he was trying to do, in part by asking his office to be independent from any other city department, in order to keep out bias in his investigations.

"I felt like it was important to provide just cause for employees with an impartial process for problems employees might have," the former EEO officer said.

He says the way things have been run now with dealing with employee complaints has cost the city.

"We have more than a million dollars of settlements and claims two years after the claim," Long tells News 12 NBC 26.

A problem he says he wanted to help solve, and still does, as he asks the commission to reinstate him.

"That should not be how we run government. That should not be how we spend the citizens money in terms of how we settle claims," he said.

Long has hired an attorney to help in his case. He says even taking his own situation out of the picture, his goal has always been to protect the commission, Augusta employees, and the tax payers.


News 12 NBC 26 @ 11:00 / Tuesday, May 30, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Augusta commissioners hear from the city's former EEO officer, two weeks after he was fired. The day before he was terminated, J.G. Long sent a letter to the commission asking to speak with them about problems in the government.

"Over the five months that I was employed with the City of Augusta, there were some events that were concerning to me," J.G. Long told News 12 NBC 26.

A few of those issues include obstructing interviews, conflicts of interest , and bias just to name a few. Issues J.G. Long tried to shed light on again today.

"I sent you a letter on the 15th about problems and concerns I had as an employee of Augusta, Richmond County," Long said.

He couldn't present his case then, and not today either.

"Well I think we basically looked to our legal council and they told us we can't talk about much so there was hardly any discussion," Commissioner Sean Frantom said.

The city attorney is worried the discussion may bring up legal issues surrounding Long being fired.

"The information that Mr. Long has is information that will be beneficial to this government. If he walks away and leaves, are we going to go through the same broken record of information when the next EEO person comes in," Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said.

Long says his goal has always been to protect the city.

"The reason I asked for a private session was to protect the commissioners. Protect the citizens, protect the city, and protect the employees," he said.

And although he wasn't there today to present his case about his job, there are questions there too.

"If I was the EEO Officer looking at this case, the first question I would ask is, did you warn him? The second question I would ask is why wouldn't you just give him a letter of written reprimand," Long said.

Even though it was pushed away today, commissioners are certain these concerns will come to light.

"We have to discuss the letter. We'll let the legal stuff work itself out first but for someone to send a letter with that many detailed points is something we're going to have to discuss as a commission," Frantom said.

A discussion pushed back for now.

Long delivered a binder to each commissioner detailing some of the points he wanted to raise today. Augusta Government reporter Lindsay Tuman is digging deeper into this story, and into what Long has to say.


News 12 NBC 26 @ 6:00 / Monday, May 29, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A discussion about the controversial firing of Augusta's Equal Employment Opportunity Director is on the agenda for Augusta commissioners on Tuesday.

J.G. Long was fired a day after he delivered a letter to city leaders, listing issues he sees in his department.

It's a termination that's opened up a lot of questions for city leaders.

"In regard to the J.G. Long situation, I know there's been a lot of discussion in regard to what lead to him no longer being a part of our local government," Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. said.

His personnel file says those reasons are because Long could not get his work done alone and had poor communication, both written and in person.

"But based on the information that we have post termination, I think it was well within the rights of Ms. Irving to move in this direction," the mayor said.

In emails included in his personnel file, Long paints a story of a demanding work load he wasn't able to tackle with the current staff. He writes high priority claims were being pushed aside. A progress report shows twelve claims through May, only two were completed.

There are three claims in the fire department, two in utilities, two in central services, and five other departments have claims too. The open claims range from sexual harassment, to a hostile work environment, and issues of equal pay. Problems piling up for months.

"It's a direction I am going to fully support based on the data we have that was provided to us post termination, and it was certainly within her bounds to make this decision," the mayor said.

In his letter to the commission, Long says he knows delivering it opens himself up to possible backlash, but says his only intent is to properly serve Augusta employees and represent the citizens in reducing EEO liabilities. What's next for this position, and the problems raised is unclear.

Mayor Hardie Davis says he believes Long has gotten an attorney at this point. It is on the Administrative Services Agenda for tomorrow to discuss this.


News 12 First at Five/ Tuesday, May 23, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Last week, Augusta commissioners got a letter. It was a request from the city's Equal Employment Opportunity director, J.G. Long, asking to talk to the commission. The very next day he was fired.

J.G. Long was hired less than six months ago. The letter he sent to the commission listed six concerns, from conflicts of interest, to office confidentiality, and how the department was run.

Emails from Long shed some light on those issues. In February he emailed his boss saying complaints, including high priority ones like sexual harassment are set aside because of the lack of staff. He said limited resources are significantly impacting the mission of the E.E.O. Office.

This email was later cited as part of Long's termination, saying he was campaigning for more staff for months even though he knew there would be no more hires when he was hired back in December.

"I trust the director. I thought everything was going smooth and I really thought it was moving in the right direction, but evidently something happened," Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams said.

Another area he raised concerns having the EEO Department stand alone. In an email from January he writes it would be catastrophe failure in regaining the trust of Augusta Government employees to monitor the EEO Office. He also asks to hear from the mayor and commission on his concerns. It's a topic commissioners are likely to talk about now.

"Some departments are that important that you need to have the money to have the staff you need to support the operation," Commissioner Williams said.

In an email from February, Long writes he doesn't feel comfortable providing Irving with all of the information from complaint investigations before he's done with an investigation. He raises concerns about it breaking trust in his position.

What's clear, commissioners want to get the full story on what happened and what needs to change.

"I want to hear both sides. I don't want to hear one side and not the other one. I want to hear both sides on what happened," he said.

In his termination letter, the city cites three reasons for firing Long. One, he said he needed more staff to help get his job done. Two, he did not interact well with employees, and over stepped his authority. Three, is his grammatical errors both written and spoken.



News 12 NBC 26 / Thurs. May 18, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A Richmond County Commissioner is calling for a special called meeting and possible investigation into the firing of a city worker one day after the worker requested to address the commission.

On Monday the former Augusta - Richmond County Equal Employment Officer sent a letter to commissioners requesting a private session to discuss conflicts of interest and several other issues he claims were happening under the compliance department.

The very next day he was fired by Compliance Director Kelly Irving.

In a letter to commissioners the Augusta officer tasked with addressing employment discrimination in Richmond County, J.G. Long, wrote about his concerns.

"He was putting his name to this letter and his convictions and he was saying he felt as if things were not going correctly with the department, "said Frantom.

Long told commissioner he was concerned about "undo influence", "complaint confidentiality", and "conflicts of interest" in the compliance division.

Long told commissioners over the last four months he had followed chain of command raising his concerns in writing and in "one-on-one" staff meetings with the compliance director , but claims none of his concerns were brought to commission.

"As a commissioner when you get that kind of information you need to have a conversation, "said Frantom.

But they never got the chance.

"This letter comes and then I receive a call on Tuesday and then an email from Mr. Long stating that he was terminated on Tuesday afternoon after the letter had been sent on Monday, " said Frantom.

Frantom says since then no one has explained why he was fired.

"Nobody has commented from the Mayor to the Administrator to the Compliance Department to the attorney. Not one person has," said Frantom.

"As of this moment I am still not sure why I haven't seen his termination letter," said Frantom.

Now Mayor Hardie Davis is speaking up.

"It was a culmination of things that have been ongoing for months. It certainly was not something that was a response to the email by Mr. Long, By no stretch of the imagination.

Mayor Davis tells me he got the letter as well, but not from Mr. Long.

Davis also says he was not a part of the decision to fire Mr. Long.

We reached out to J.G.Long and he said "it wouldn't be ethical or appropriate to have a statement at this time."

Then we reached out to the person who fired him, Compliance Director Kelly Irving. Irving said this:

"our compliance department operates in facts, fairness and impartiality and that's how we operate [...] it's a loss losing a staff member, but these are the principles"

Read the original version of this article at www.wrdw.com.