Stonecrest hires firm temporarily to help transition to in-house staff

This is a screenshot from the Stonecrest City Council meeting on Monday.

Credit: City of Stonecrest

Credit: City of Stonecrest

This is a screenshot from the Stonecrest City Council meeting on Monday.

Stonecrest is preparing to hire its own staff, and it’s bringing in some temporary help to make that transition.

The City Council voted Monday to enter a short-term contract with Atlanta-based staffing firm Talantage to provide a human resources director to assist with in-house hires. The move comes roughly two months after Jacobs Engineering, the company that currently staffs Stonecrest, announced it would end its contract with the city at the end of 2021.

Stonecrest currently pays Jacobs about $5 million a year to provide the city with nearly 40 employees who run City Hall and oversee city services for residents. Jacobs has staffed the city since it was founded in 2017, but the company’s departure has forced the young city to become self-sufficient more quickly.

Acting City Manager Janice Allen Jackson, who is also a contracted employee, previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the city 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 was hired in April, and while her contract is set to expire at the end of 2021, there is a provision that allows her to continue working beyond that date if Stonecrest has not selected a permanent replacement.

Her hiring came shortly after an internal investigation found the city’s $6.2 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds were misused and potentially a kickback scheme. Several Jacobs employees were fired and replaced as a result of the investigation. A further investigation into the relief program is ongoing.

Mayor Jason Lary, who is among those implicated in the investigation, spoke at the end of Monday’s meeting about the in-house hiring effort. He recently returned from medical leave and said he wanted the city to quickly hire its own employees for city offices and its economic development departments.

“I want to see us do dramatically better on the subjects that I mentioned during executive session,” Lary said, referring to staffing issues. “I also (want) for us to collectively remember why we came together and put this city together. The driving force for putting a city together was for us to stand on our own and be proficient economically, and the standard for this is economic development.”

Gia Scruggs, the city’s finance director, said the contact with Talantage is estimated to cost $54,000 and should last roughly four months. Jackson interviewed four candidates from two firms before making a decision. The council voted unanimously to approve the contract.

Councilwoman Jazzmin Cobble previously said it’s not clear whether the city will need to hire 40 employees to precisely replace the number of contract workers Jacobs was using.

A Jacobs spokesman affirmed to the AJC on Wednesday that the company, which is based in Dallas, Texas, will also work to ensure a smooth transition.

“Although Jacobs has chosen to not renew the contract with the City of Stonecrest, Jacobs is committed to a smooth transition to City-managed operations,” the statement said.