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oakley goggles Internal reports reveal incompetence, lack of leadership: Birmingham, Jefferson County residents must demand better (Our view)It's no wonder they wanted to keep the records under wraps. The damning assessment of each agency is a scathing indictment of those in charge. -- Within a week, separate examinations of twovital government agencies reveal what many would say they've known all along. Some areas of government in Jefferson County suffer from a lackof competence, a lack of management, a lack of direction, and a lack of morale all due to a lack of leadership. Those deficiencies have real consequences for you.Jefferson County Commission President David Carrington. (Frank Couch/fcouch@al.com)U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith in October appointedindependent receiver Ronald Sims to oversee Jefferson County's Human ResourcesDepartment to make sure the county complies with a federal consent decreeconcerning its hiring practices. "Overall, therehas been a lack of strong leadership at all levels of the county," Sims wrotein his report. "These historical failures in leadership have compoundedover time into low morale and a plethora of ongoing organizational problems andcrippling crises." Separately, an auditof Birmingham Water Works revealed poor communication, bad record-keeping andsubstandard software that harms the utility and makes it ripe for fraud. The report byMichael Mason of Forensic CPAs specifically found that In a direct impact on you, Just digest thatfor a moment: If you have a problem with your water service, it's an accepteddepartment practice to simply ignore your problem until you call for the third time.Forget about experience or expertise or procedure, simple consideration of howyou'd like to be treated should lead to better customer service. Despite remindersabout the quality of the water works' award-winning product, it appears a basicsense of duty to serve might be an endangered notion. AL.comreporters Barnett Wright and Joseph D. Bryant obtained copies of the HumanResources and Water Works reports, respectively. Rather thanacknowledging problems and promising to address them, officials and lawyers representingboth agencies made arguments for why the reports shouldn't be made public. Too often, publicofficials clamor to get themselves into public positions, and then doeverything in their power to resist operating in public view. They feel a needto protect you, their boss, from worrying over the pesky details of thebusiness you put them in place to conduct. AL.commaintains that reports paid for with public money from public agencies areindeed public records. In this case, effortsto suppress the information only serve to give credence to the veracity of thereports. Particularly, Mason's report only echoes in writing what critics foryears have said about the Water Works. But it's nowonder they wanted to keep the records under wraps. The damning assessment ofeach agency is a scathing indictment of those in charge. It's somewhatheartening to see that, according to Sims' report, Jefferson County officialshave demonstrated an attitude of cooperation. They now must begin the hard workof fixing those problems identified in the report. By contrast, the In fact, some waterboard members appear more concerned about how the report was made public andabout damage to the system's image than eager to dissect the substance of thedocument. In other words,kill the messenger. We know that tactic well. But it doesn'tfix problems. In these twoseparate reports, the residents of Jefferson County have in stark detail thecaliber of leaders in charge. The questionis: Will you dismiss them as someone else's problem? Or will you demandbetter? They're youremployees. Here's their contact information below. Let them know your expectations. BirminghamWater Works Board: 205-244-4000 Jefferson County Commissioners DavidCarrington: George Bowman: Sandra LittleBrown: JimmieStephens: Joe Knight: Written by,community news director at The Birmingham News location for AL.com.