County Commission opts to keep CARTS director on payroll

Disgruntled former CARTS employees wait to speak at the July 19, 2022, Cullman County Commission meeting. (Amy Leonard for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – After a barrage of former Cullman Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS) employees showed up at a Cullman County Commission meeting last month to voice displeasure with CARTS Director Joyce Echols, the commission opted to use an outside attorney, instead of Cullman County Attorney Emily Johnston, to address “possible or pending litigation” against the commission and/or Echols. The commission chose to keep Echols on the payroll, and voted to approve the outside counsel’s list of recommendations at its most recent meeting on Aug. 16. 

Attorney Hope Curtis Hicks recommended that Echols receive additional management training including management coursework, books, articles or instructional materials with evaluations every three months to ensure that “she has adjusted her management style from one that is disrespectful to one that is respectful to all employees and citizens.”  

Hicks went on to suggest “that, at a minimum, Ms. Echols be written up for poor job performance including disrespectful conduct toward employees, failure to communicate with employees, poor communication regarding limitations of software and transition/implementation of new software that has caused additional work for employees.” 

Additionally, Echols is to work with her office staff to communicate with local businesses to ascertain which are currently open with an emphasis on restaurants. The office staff is recommended to have staff meetings to determine CARTS riders’ needs, possible schedule adjustments and how to communicate effectively with the riders. Echols is also tasked with creating a training protocol for her staff. 

Lastly, staff meetings are proposed to be held monthly, at a minimum, over the next several months in hopes “that issues can be resolved without rising to the level of complaints that currently exists.” The meetings are to cover routes, schedules, the newly established training protocols, software system, completion of paperwork, etc. 

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