ACC Auditor accuses mayor, manager of discrimination, intimidation

UPDATE (6/10/21): An error regarding the timeline of events has been corrected (Girtz didn’t reprimand Maddox a week after her confrontation with Williams, but rather a week after her last reappointment vote).

ACC Internal Auditor Stephanie Maddox held a press conference yesterday where she accused Mayor Kelly Girtz and ACC Manager Blaine Williams of intimidating and discriminatory conduct which has subjected her to a hostile work environment. 

ACC Auditor Stephanie Maddox
ACC Auditor Stephanie Maddox

“I have endured [for] almost three years in October the most traumatic experiences of my life,” Maddox said.

Maddox filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint last year alleging that she was confronted by Girtz and Williams after filing an open records request in 2019 for the ACC 2018 Compensation and Pay Study. Her request was unrelated to any ongoing audit and may have seemed an unusual ask to some as open records requests are usually reserved for those outside the government.

Maddox says she made the request so she could read the report and explain it to her employees who may have had questions about their salaries after not receiving pay raises based on the report.

Manager Blaine Williams
ACC Manager Blaine Williams

Maddox was pressured into withdrawing the request by Williams, who she claims confronted her and backed her against a wall, anger evident in his voice as he accused her of wasting staff time and requesting the report for selfish reasons. This was in October 2018.

Maddox was reappointed by the ACC Commission for a two-year term on June 4, 2019. Less than a week later, according to Maddox, Girtz issued a formal reprimand and put her on a personal improvement plan for her poor performance as auditor, despite not having mentioned anything negative at her last performance review. The overall performance of the Office of Operational Analysis under Maddox’s leadership has been recognized as subpar, both by commissioners on the Audit committee and by the 2020 Overview Commission, who last year suggested completely restructuring the Audit committee as a way of improving performance.

Mayor Kelly Girtz
Mayor Kelly Girtz

When Maddox tried to defend her performance, she says Girtz told her to “shut up.” The Office of Operational Analysis currently has no staff beyond Maddox herself. It has not completed a full audit since 2019 despite repeated assurances by Maddox that two audits were “in the home stretch” as she stated at the last Audit committee meeting, which was in March.

Maddox’s complaint is still under independent investigation, as it has been for roughly a year.

Maddox held the press conference with the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement who is encouraging supporters to call their commissioner to discuss the situation. The ACC Commission will hold a vote on whether to reappoint Maddox for another two-year term next Tuesday.

Despite the timing, Maddox claims that she is not focused on saving her job. Instead, she states that she held the press conference to encourage others, who she says have suffered similarly, to come forward.

Girtz declined to comment, telling APN he could not comment on personnel matters.

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