The June 20 front-page article "Fairfax Consumer Division in Turmoil" presented a skewed portrait of the county agency. The article:

* Said two unfortunate embezzlements at other agencies in past years cost taxpayers more than $2.7 million. It didn't say that all the money was recovered, so that there was no cost to the taxpayers.

* Quoted unnamed sources saying that the county government has grown unwieldy. Since 1991, the Fairfax County staff has grown by less than 1 percent as the county's population has grown by more than 200,000.

* Said rank-and-file workers have nowhere to go to report mismanagement. The county has appropriate human resources policies and a grievance procedure as well as a waste, fraud and abuse hotline.

* Said that three employees were demoted while retaining their salaries. One employee requested a demotion, and county policy allows the retention of pay level for voluntary demotions as long as they fall within the new salary range. The other two employees were not demoted; they were transferred to other agencies into non-supervisory positions and thus maintained their pay because they retained their grade levels. A demotion for disciplinary or performance reasons means a 5 percent pay reduction, but readers were given the impression that there was favoritism in these personnel actions.

In the government workplace, as in the private sector, an unfortunate byproduct of human interaction is an occasional misstep. The way the organization responds shows the strength of its management and staff.

In this case, we improved internal controls and the accountability of staff, made some organizational changes, took some personnel actions, and initiated reviews of several county policies.


County Executive