Oakland County fires top assessor amid probe into worker complaints

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — Oakland County’s top assessing officer has been fired amid an internal investigation into employee complaints of "a hostile workplace environment," a county spokesman confirmed Wednesday. 

The firing of David Hieber, manager of Oakland County's Equalization Department, comes after Hieber was sent home from work last month over the unspecified complaints.

William Mullan, a county spokesman, said Wednesday that Hieber, who had been on a paid administrative leave pending the outcome of a human resources investigation into complaints, was fired on Tuesday.

Mullan declined further comment on Hieber's departure or findings of the investigation.

Equalization Division Chief Terry Schultz, a Level IV assessor, will be the signatory for all assessing matters at the county, officials said in a statement. Oakland County Management and Budget Director Kyle Jen will be supervising the daily operations of the Equalization Division until the county hires a new equalization officer.

Hieber, who worked for the county for 27 years — the last 19 years as equalization director — declined an interview with The Detroit News. County officials in and outside of his office also have not discussed the nature of the employee grievances.

Hieber's attorney, Nakeisha Chaney, has said that her client “can’t comment about an open investigation.”

“Mr. Hieber stands firm in the knowledge that he performed his job well, with integrity and with a deep respect and integrity for Oakland County, its residents and its employees," Chaney said in a statement last week. 

The Equalization Department handles assessments and evaluations of all commercial, private and residential property for the purposes of county taxes. Hieber, whose annual salary was $138,323, supervised 83 employees.

In the past year, some unrepresented government employees in Oakland County have been signing up with UAW Local 889 to represent them in labor matters.

Oakland County Deputy Executive April Lynch has said the county has been supportive of workers seeking to join unions. She noted there have been 700 new union members across 12 departments in the county clerk's office, courts, health and human services, sheriff's office, water resources commission, facilities and central garage.

The county recently conducted a "workplace culture survey" to identify concerns workers in 21 county departments might have about their work environment, including leadership and whether they have heard racial, ethnic, or gender-based jokes, language, or remarks in their departments. 

There are about 3,300 employees in full-time positions in county offices and more than 1,000 more holding part-time jobs. About 40% of the county's workforce is not represented by any bargaining unit.

The 22-page, 55-question workplace survey was conducted from Sept. 27 to Nov. 5 and covered worker satisfaction and matters of racial, ethnic and cultural differences, including sexual orientation.

The survey was “100% voluntary and confidential” and workers remain anonymous, Lynch recently told The News.

Workers were given the option of completing the survey online while at work or after hours and also printing out the survey and submitting a paper copy of their responses, said Lynch, who oversees human resources for the county.

A third-party vendor will conduct randomized employee focus groups in January. The data will be analyzed at the end of February and the beginning of March.


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