Federal Judge Grants control of HR Department back to Jefferson County

By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times

Commissioner Sandra Little Brown during press conference after a federal judge signed an order ending the receivership of Jefferson County’s HR department. (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)

A federal judge on Wednesday signed an order ending the receivership of Jefferson County’s human resources department.

U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith, who appointed a federal receiver to make personnel decisions in the HR department in 2013, entered an order that returns those duties back to Jefferson County officials.

A monitor will now keep an eye on the county’s hiring and promoting practices as it moves to come from under a federal consent decree in place for more than three decades. The county had been under court oversight for discriminatory hiring practices.

“This is a great day in Jefferson County,” said Commissioner Sandra Little Brown. “This issue has been very important to me ever since I took office seven years ago. The ending of the federal consent decree has been a top priority for me and today we are one step closer with the ending of this receivership.”

Lorren Oliver had been appointed in 2015 to serve as receiver to work with the county manager and the Jefferson County Commission to bring the county into compliance after the county failed to hire and promote a more diverse staff to include women and African-Americans in a case that dates back to the 1970s.

Oliver replaced Ron Sims who was initially appointed receiver in 2013 before being removed.

The order means the human resources director, county manager and county commission will now oversee and direct all employment decisions for the county while being monitored by the federal court.

Commissioner George Bowman said the county is more diverse now than it’s ever been “at all levels of government.”

“This has created a positive and progressive environment for employees and citizens alike,” he said. “We will continue to abide by the guidelines set by the court. The county right now is in compliance and we will remain in compliance. This is another example of remarkable progress that this commission has made since we’ve been in office.”