Signed, unsigned letters express fear of retaliation for coming forward
Even after the resignation of the 911 center director, allegations of a tense work environment remain, towards Bernard “Buster” Brown and others in management.
Earlier this month, Mical Heminger, the husband of a 911 employee, went public with complaints over unfair scheduling practices and an aggressive conversation with Brown. County Administrator Steve Rapson confirmed to media outlets that Brown turned in his resignation the morning of Monday, October 8. Brown’s resignation was accepted by the county, and according to Rapson, he is not working at the 911 center or in the county office for the remainder of his two-week notice.
Amber Heminger, who has been an employee of Fayette County 911 since Aug. 2017, laid out her complaints in a letter that addresses not only this particular incident, but the center’s overall working environment. Her letter echoes many of the grievances alleged by former employees in February, from inappropriate behavior to improper training.
“I absolutely love what I do, which makes writing this letter very hard because I fear I will soon not have a position with this 911 center in the near future due to speaking out and speaking up,” she said, noting that many employees work in fear of their jobs. “I would rather sacrifice myself and my happiness in hopes for a better future for those I care about.”
Brown’s treatment of employees had been in question dating back at least to a February 2017 incident where he was accused of verbally assaulting and physically engaging a 911 supervisor, for which he received a written reprimand from the county. At the Feb. 2018 meeting where calls for an independent investigation were denied by Chairman Eric Maxwell and Commissioners Charles Oddo and Randy Ognio, several current employees said Brown had changed and was kinder towards them. An audio recording was referenced wherein Human Resources Director Lewis Patterson acknowledged the bad behavior of Brown with regards to work environment, and said he “was in the process of changing.”
Heminger said his temperament soon reverted, and current employees saw more of what former employees warned the county about.
“He got all of the new employees to be on his side because he showed support and acted like he cared,” she said. “These last six months, the real Buster has come back out.”
She recounts being called by center management and Brown yelling very aggressively and reiterating, “Nobody tells me no.”
Heminger says she was shaking and crying, on the verge of an anxiety attack, after getting off the phone with Brown because she was so upset.
Fayette Newspapers has received copies of additional letters outlining complaints about Brown, both sent to the county anonymously for fear of retribution.
One letter shares similar stories of issues with “on call” obligations and being made to feel as though their job would be on the line for refusing to work even when they were not “on call” at the time, echoing the Hemingers’ statements that they are made to feel they must put the center before their own families.
One letter claims that Brown took information shared in private and openly shared it with employees to mock.
“I want to remain anonymous because I feel if I were to openly say these things, then I would be personally attacked more, and my job would be at risk,” says one of the letters.
Allegations also include whoever maintains the center’s presence on Facebook deleting negative comments about Brown.
An Oct. 7 post on the “Fayette County (GA) 911” Facebook page recited a poem by Paul Green Hooper, “True Leaders Change the World,” in part, “Leaders follow a different drum beat / They do not, the normal regimen share / They teach for success – they know not defeat / They are willing to risk – willing to dare,” and declared, “Thank you (Buster Brown) for being a true leader at Fayette County 911. You are changing the world.”
Mical Heminger commented on the post, saying Brown’s resignation was not by choice but was a forced resignation.
“These qualities are not those of a world changing leader,” he said.
His post was deleted initially, a fact which he pointed out in reposting that it is illegal to block or delete public comment on a governmental account.
Commissioner Steve Brown lauded Amber Heminger in an email but expressed concern for others in a similar situation who are fearful of consequences they could face for going public.
“The courage of Amber Heminger to come forward to file complaints is extraordinary. She is former active duty military, and she had the guts to go public,” he said. “We have others who have complained to me but fear retaliation if they go public. They cannot afford to lose their jobs.”