Washington County employees question County’s hiring practices

A handful of Washington County government employees expressed skepticism over the County’s hiring process, questioning whether upper management – County Administrator Rob Slocum and Chief Operating Officer Jim Hovis – and its Human Resources department have shown unfair deference to certain job applicants with whom they have personal connections outside of work hours.

Employees who asked to speak to A Miner Detail on the condition of anonymity question whether upper management has given preferential treatment to certain job applicants, based on criteria unlisted in the posted job descriptions.

Some County employees also question why Hovis has been present during employee interviews. The same employees say that Rob Slocum has been shirking his responsibilities as the county’s administrator.

Over the summer the County conducted interviews to fill an executive assistant position – a support position that directly serves Slocum in the county administrator’s office.

Slocum’s previous executive assistant, Krista Hart, was elevated earlier this year by the Commissioner board to fill the county clerk job, which was left vacant by retiring County Clerk Vicki Lumm.

Hart officially began her new role on July 1.

Applicants who interviewed for the vacant executive office position said they were puzzled by Jim Hovis’ presence while interviewing.

A top County official explained to A Miner Detail that Hovis’ involvement in the interview process for Slocum’s executive assistant was “extremely inappropriate.”

“Jim Hovis as the County’s chief operating officer has no direct authority over anyone, per his job description. He is inserting himself into the process to take authority away from the county administrator, further shielding Rob Slocum from doing his actual job.”

Another County employee told A Miner Detail that “Hovis severely lacks the experience and demeanor to handle personnel at such a high level.”

“Hovis has never managed support staff who support County officials at that level, and he is not experienced in the needed interview questions. He is not qualified to be making hiring decisions at that level.”

County management ultimately hired Hovis’ administrative assistant to fill the county administrator’s executive assistant position.

Now, some County staff are questioning whether Hovis’ role in the hiring process was a conflict of interest.

Hovis’ former administrative assistant, who now serves County Administrator Rob Slocum, is the spouse to a Maryland State Police trooper.

Hovis, 53, is retired from the Maryland State Police.

Some County staffers, however, are openly questioning if Hovis has a personal connection with his former administrative assistant’s spouse and whether Hovis unduly or unfairly influenced the hiring process for the county administrator’s executive assistant position.

“We know that Jim is personal friends with his former administrative assistant. He should not have been in the interview for Rob’s executive assistant. It reeks of cronyism.  And it’s just another way for Rob to get out of doing his job,” a County employee wrote to A Miner Detail.

A request for comment was emailed to Jim Hovis on Thursday. He has not responded.

According to employees inside County government, a series of employee grievances have been filed against Jim Hovis, one of which was discussed on Tuesday during a closed-session meeting with commissioners and staff.

A County employee confirmed with A Miner Detail that she has filed a grievance against Hovis but refused to comment further.

According to sources who were present during Tuesday’s closed-session meeting, the five-member Commissioner board rejected the County attorney’s recommendation to bring in outside counsel to investigate the employee grievance aimed at Hovis.

Sources who attended the meeting say that the grievance against Hovis will be investigated internally.

The new Commissioner board will be sworn in on December 4.

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