Staffing company to drop Stonecrest: City prepares to replace workers

The city of Stonecrest.

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The city of Stonecrest.

The company that staffs most of Stonecrest’s government jobs recently told elected officials it plans to end its contract with the city at the end of 2021.

Jacobs Engineering, a Dallas, Texas-based company, informed Stonecrest at the end of June that it didn’t plan to renew its contract, which has been in place since the city was founded in 2017. Stonecrest currently pays Jacobs about $5 million a year to provide the city with nearly 40 employees who run City Hall and city services for residents. City officials say it’s not clear if they will need to hire the same number of workers once Jacobs leaves.

The announcement comes after a tumultuous few months for the south DeKalb County city. Several Jacobs employees were fired and replaced in spring 2021 after they were implicated in a scheme to misuse $6.2 million in federal coronavirus relief funds. Mayor Jason Lary, who is among those tied to the scandal, has been on medical leave for the past three months.

“Jacobs believes this is a natural time to provide this notice,” the company said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The period to request an annual renewal of the agreement is in June ... The six-month period between June and the official end date in December also provides time for the City of Stonecrest to effectively assume the services and facilitate a smooth transition.”

Councilwoman Jazzmin Cobble said the City Council has been discussing transitioning away from Jacobs for months. Councilmembers previously told the AJC they were discussing hiring their own department heads and assumed the change would take place soon.

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Since 2005, Jacobs has staffed most new Georgia cities, which typically begin hiring their own employees later.

Cobble said Friday that Jacobs’ decision did not come as a surprise.

“Although it may not have had a ticking clock at that time (of discussion), it’s not a brand new conversation or a brand new revelation (for the city) to provide services to our constituents in a different method,” she said.

In April, the city began exploring new staffing options following an internal investigation into how money was spent that the city received from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. A city charter change was also made, which shifted power from the mayor to the City Council and city manager.

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At the same time, Janice Allen Jackson was hired as acting city manager. While she isn’t a Jacobs employee, her contract is set to expire at the end of this year, but she said there is a provision that allows her to continue working beyond that date if Stonecrest has not selected a permanent replacement.

“We will negotiate our way through this transition in a way that is in the best interest of our organization and the city’s residents,” Jackson said in an emailed statement.

According to the city’s charter, Stonecrest must provide its citizens with economic development, community development and parks and recreation services in addition to basic city administration and finance services. Cobble said Jacobs currently provides nearly 40 employees to fulfill those departments, but she said the change will allow the city to figure out its own staffing needs.

“That’s the number that Jacobs decided that we needed to provide those services. That doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the true number,” she said. “We may need more, we may need less, or that maybe spot on.”

While the council is in the early stages of determining its steps forward, Cobble said it is possible that Jacobs current staff assigned to the city could be hired as permanent city employees. If that’s a route the city pursues, the hiring would take place on a case-by-case basis.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to finally stand the city up on our own and provide these services to our constituents,” Cobble said.

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