Slocum stands by Hovis, despite questions over qualifications

More than four Washington County government employees told A Miner Detail on background earlier this week that County Administrator Rob Slocum and Chief Operating Officer Jim Hovis are responsible for the delayed state of the county address, which is typically held at Fountain Head Country Club on the first Tuesday in February and is hosted by the Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

Several more Washington County government employees contacted A Miner Detail since Tuesday’s story with concerns about Mr. Slocum’s leadership and management style.

In addition, the same county employees expressed their concerns over Mr. Hovis’ academic credentials, based on A Miner Detail’s reporting, questioning whether Hovis is qualified for the job he currently holds in county government.

A Miner Detail previously reported a county employee’s gripes that Mr. Hovis lacks the academic credentials to properly execute his role as the county’s newly minted chief operating officer.

The employee said this of Hovis (on background),

“You mean there is no one out there qualified to take a high-level position such as this that can help protect the citizens? A high school diploma is okay if you have the experience to compensate, but when agencies look in, they see nothing at the top now. This is poor government. Commissioners blindly making bad decisions.”

On Wednesday, A Miner Detail received an anonymous email with an attached Word document, appearing to be Hovis’ resume.

On Thursday, A Miner Detail contacted the county’s Public Relations and Marketing Department, requesting a copy of Hovis’ resume as well as a written description for the chief operating officer position.

The county responded on Friday to A Miner Detail’s public information request, denying the release of Hovis’ resume, which is considered “personnel records.” A copy of the chief operating officer position was attached to the public information request, however.

Washington County’s chief operations officer position is a Grade 19 and requires a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a Masters in Business Administration preferred, according to the provided job description. Additionally, the position requires 10 years of “related progressive experience in the public and/or private sector.”

The COO job description further states that “training and experience commensurate with the above may be substituted for education and/or experience.”

Multiple county employees confirmed with A Miner Detail that Mr. Hovis does not have a degree beyond a high school diploma.

An emailed request to Mr. Slocum and Mr. Hovis to verify Hovis’ academic credentials has gone unanswered.

Despite objections over Hovis’ credentials from multiple county employees, Mr. Slocum issued a passionate defense of his top deputy.

A Miner Detail was provided a statement that was included in the denial of Hovis’ resume.

From the County Administrator:

While a Bachelor’s Degree and even an MBA may be beneficial, each candidate was considered for their total value and potential contribution, including academic and professional experience. 

Jim made application with 29 years of highly disciplined professional experience.  That experience includes 16 years with the State Police, where Jim was promoted to a Western Region Unit Supervisor.  In his first 13 years working for Washington County, Jim was promoted three times to more responsible positions.  Jim served those positions and the County with a customer service mindset and responsible leadership.  Financial controls and impeccable documentation were and remain a constant of Jim’s work. Prior to becoming the COO, Jim was a very successful Director in County government. 

Finally, and perhaps most important, among all the considerations for this demanding position is a person who understands customer service, efficiency, and operations.  Jim is undoubtedly the right person for this job.  That is an assessment based upon the above as well as two months of experience on the job.  Jim not only made an immediate contribution, he has worked each day, some late and some weekends to best serve me and the Commissioners and Washington County.   

Thank you,

Rob Slocum

Another Washington County employee contacted A Miner Detail on Friday – on background – with similar concerns over Hovis’ credentials.

“His experience is fine if you are serving fries at McDonald’s, but that is not the qualification for running County Government.  It’s a smoke screen. He [Hovis] still has no qualifications, no education, no experience in this type or caliber of operation, and no reason to throw away all those qualified that did apply. It’s sad.”

The same county employee warned A Miner Detail of Hovis,

“Be careful, Ryan. Jim is extremely vindictive. He’s a former State Police investigator, and don’t be surprised if he uses his police connections to harass you and your family, or he might try and harm you professionally. I don’t know. Just be careful. Hovis may really try and come after you. He’s Slocum’s top enforcer and his number-one lackey. He does whatever Slocum wants him to do. He’s got a lot of the staff on edge. It’s just a bad place to work.”

A Miner Detail’s repeated requests for an on-the-record interview with Rob Slocum have gone unanswered.

Washington County government provided the job description for the chief operating officer.

Washington County Chief Operations Officer job description by Ryan Miner on Scribd

*Photo credit: Herald-Mail Media*

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