Washington County officials mum on chief operating officer’s employment status

Several Washington County government employees say they have not seen the county’s chief operating officer at work for nearly a month despite repeated confirmations from county spokeswoman Danielle Weaver that Jim Hovis is still a county employee.

A Miner Detail reported earlier this month that Hovis, a nearly 15-year veteran of county government, would soon be departing his job as the county’s chief operating officer; the county, however, will neither confirm or deny if Hovis is resigning or retiring – or whether he was given an option to leave quietly.

A county employee who asked to remain anonymous told A Miner Detail they witnessed Hovis returning county property – his county vehicle, access key cards and county computer – on Feb. 14.

Hovis’ white SUV had not been moved from the county’s 100 W. Washington Street location for over a week – until recently.

The vehicle was reportedly moved within the last few days to the county’s highway compound after the county received a few inquiries about why the sport utility vehicle driven by Hovis remained in the same sport for several days.

Two sources close to County Administrator Rob Slocum told A Miner Detail on background that “Hovis’ last day with the county will likely be the end of February or at the beginning of March,” and he will be provided with a severance package, funded by taxpayers.

Hovis over the last year was facing multiple employee complaints, according to county employees who spoke to A Miner Detail on the condition of anonymity.

As previously reported, late last year Hovis filed an internal harassment complaint against Commissioners President Jeff Cline (R) and one other county employee.

Hovis’ complaint alleges that Cline conspired with a county employee to intentionally leak county documents to A Miner Detail about an internal grievance that was filed against Hovis by the same employee.

County employees close to Slocum who spoke to A Miner Detail on background believe that Hovis’ impending departure is likely a result of him “targeting a county employee with a frivolous and retaliatory harassment complaint.”

Hovis was unanimously promoted by the previous commissioner board in December 2017 to a chief operating officer role. The former Maryland State Police officer was first hired by the county in 2004 as a gaming inspector. He was later promoted to oversee the county’s gaming commission.

Hovis, who is an at-will employee, has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

A Miner Detail filed a public information request with the county on Feb. 1, requesting details about Hovis’ reported departure.

Maryland law allows the county 30 days to respond to public information requests.

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