Commissioners question DeKalb exec's days outside office

A top DeKalb County administrator did not come into his office for 82 workdays last year -- including more than 60 that are undocumented -- but he was still paid.

This is the same administrator whom county commissioners have cut from this year’s budget, but he is still receiving his $150,000-a-year salary.

An investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News found Public Safety Director William “Wiz” Miller did not go into the public safety headquarters or his personal office on 82 workdays in 2010 but still indicated he worked eight hours. The time does not include weekends, holidays, annual leave or days off.

Of those 82 days, Miller attended meetings at the county’s executive building on 20 days. Now, county commissioners want an audit explaining where Miller was on those 62 other days that he received a check and was supposed to be working.

“It’s arrogant,” Commissioner Elaine Boyer said. “The CEO needs to explain to the board why a major staff person is not accounted for and what he’s doing. It concerns us he has so many days he can’t explain himself.”

Miller, a 27-year veteran of DeKalb County government, chose not to speak to the AJC. He canceled an interview, then declined to comment and also did not return phone calls.

Burke Brennan, a spokesman for county CEO Burrell Ellis, said Miller had declined to give an interview because he felt "he wouldn't get a fair shake."

Ellis, Miller's boss, is out of the office recovering from surgery but has defended the public safety director in the past.

Brennan defended Miller and said he could have been working from home or visiting police or fire stations. There are no records or listed meetings at these precincts or fire stations, however, on Miller’s schedule.

“He could be at other government buildings, in police precincts or the 26 fire stations,” Brennan said. “It’s acceptable. He is the public safety director. It’s not mandatory to document when he works.”

Brennan said salaried employees do not have to document their work hours on timecards in most cases.

But officers say they can’t reach Miller and the times he has visited precincts are minimal. Commissioners have complained that he doesn’t attend budget meetings and he didn’t show up during this year's snowstorm, when chiefs and other high-ranking public safety officials worked around the clock.

The AJC and Channel 2 Action News reviewed records for 2010 for Miller's security access card, including access to his individual office, the public safety building and the county administrative building where the CEO is located.

On some days Miller has numerous card swipes documenting his movements throughout the public safety complex. On others, Miller checked into the public safety building during the late afternoon.

And then on 62 days, he didn’t go to either building.

A review of Miller's calendar indicated that he was paid eight hours a day but had multiple doctors' appointments or other personal errands. Notes on the calendar mentioned the PGA Tour and the NFL draft.

The calendar includes numerous county events on some of those 62 days, but it is unclear which ones he attended.

“His physical presence in his office is not the litmus test to determine whether he is doing his job,” Brennan said.

Last month the commission voted on a budget with $33.6 million in cuts, including no funding for the public safety director’s office.

Despite the vote, Ellis refused to remove Miller and continues to pay him from the Police Department’s budget, which was cut $4.7 million and faces possible layoffs.

“He shouldn’t even be working here,” Boyer said Wednesday. “If things have to change around here, you have to start with the people making the most.”

The CEO created Miller’s job in 2009 to oversee the police and fire chiefs and consolidate public safety operations with the goal of putting more officers on the street and cutting administrative costs. Commissioners say costs and crime have gone up.

Commissioners said they could choose to go to court but are hoping Ellis takes action.

“Our policy is not being followed,” Boyer said. “There is no accountability and the employees don’t respect him. We’re in a real quandary.”

Before the commission defunded Miller's job, Commissioner Larry Johnson asked Ellis to terminate Miller after Miller said he “could care less” about the commissioners’ concerns about his job performance.

“Now more than ever, we need to be looking at each county employee, the work they do, their roles and are they being productive. ... I can’t point to any accomplishments to show me we’re saving or we are safer,” Commissioner Lee May said about Miller’s two years in the job. “It’s been a $300,000 waste.”

Our reporting partner

Atlanta's most experienced journalists -- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News -- have worked together to dig deeper into DeKalb County government. This story is a result of our investigative efforts based on documents reviewed by the AJC and Channel 2 Action News.