July 11, 2013
On June 3rd the BOC heard from Melissa Slocumb, 911 Director and Emergency Management (EMA) Director. She told the board that the “Hazard Mitigation Plan” had to be updated. This process was started last year with a grant to “hire an assistant”, but that person just wasn’t paid enough and didn’t get the job done. She continued that there was plenty of grant money to get this done and suggested a company named Lux Mitigation.
Now if Melissa Slocumb has a grant to “hire an assistant,” wouldn’t that most likely mean that Melissa will be doing some of the work and the assistant can do the typing and get the plan together? Not in this instance. Melissa wanted Lux Mitigation to be paid $7,000 to update the current plan and submit it to GEMA/FEMA before August 2014.
Just who is Lux Mitigation and why does Ms. Slocumb want this company so badly? It’s called Cronyism, and here is how the relationships work.
Ed Westbrook, former 911 and EMA director, hired Melissa Slocumb as his assistant several years ago. When he left the county to work for GEMA, he made sure Ms. Slocumb became the 911 and EMA Director with a huge raise. He also continues to serve on the Jasper County 911 Board (even though GEMA is over 911) and recently requested that Ms. Slocumb be given a raise (by not having to take furlough days) and be paid $11 per hour when she actually worked on the radio; this is in addition to her $40,000 a year salary.
Jamie Westbrook is Ed Westbrook’s son. He also works for GEMA and has worked and continues to work for 911 under Melissa Slocumb. Jamie was the campaign manager for the new coroner and served as assistant coroner for the first few months of 2013. The new coroner’s office is now located in the 911 center, and in fact Melissa Slocumb’s office and the coroner’s office are one in the same.
Katie Westbrook is Jamie Westbrook’s wife. She is the owner of Lux Mitigation and wants to do Jasper County’s Hazard Mitigation plan for submittal to GEMA/FEMA. She says there is no conflict of interest with both her father-in-law, Ed Westbrook, (GEMA Field Coordinator for Region 4) and husband, Jamie Westbrook (GEMA School Safety Coordinator Area D), working for GEMA.
The BOC was wise to have this project put out for bid. Melissa Slocumb wrote up the bid specifications for this job so it would be interesting to see if there are any “special” specifications that help Lux Mitigation. NEGRC, of which Jasper County is a member, did the last plan.
Before deciding who will do this job, it would be wise to ask the follow questions:
- Just how much work would be involved updating an old plan with the framework and narratives already laid out?
- How many Hazard Mitigation Plans has Lux Mitigation already done?
- Why is there a rush to get something done a year in advance?
- What influence will GEMA employees (father in law and husband) have over the submittal and approval of this plan?
- Are we going to continue to let friends take care of their friends and relatives?
The BOC has an opportunity to stop the cronyism that is evident in this situation and has been prevalent between the Westbrooks and Slocumbs for some time; if they will or not is yet to be seen.
You will enjoy this video. Children can always teach us a lesson.