An experienced workforce development leader hired to help solve problems at Atlanta’s troubled jobs agency walked away after three months, the latest in a string of high-level departures.
Valerie Carothers, hired as deputy executive director of WorkSource Atlanta, could not be reached for comment.
The City of Atlanta has not responded to a request to see documentation related to Carothers’ leaving.
A spokesperson sent an email confirming her depature late Thursday.
“At the end of her 90-day probationary period, Ms. Carothers decided to take another path,” it says.
Carothers has 20 years of experience in the field of management and workforce development.
Her loss is the latest for the agency that has seen leaders come and go, including five mayorally appointed CEOs in five years.
Some leaders wonder about the effects of the constant flux on the jobs agency’s ability to manage its programs. It oversees and spends millions of dollars in federal grants.
“I think it’s hard for any organization to succeed with continual turnover in leadership, especially for organizations who are troubled,” said City Councilman Matt Westmoreland.
WorkSource Atlanta is one of 19 federally funded regional jobs agencies across Georgia tasked with getting young people their first jobs, putting the unemployed and laid-off back to work, and filling employers’ rolls with qualified applicants.
It has often underperformed in fulfilling those duties. There was a federal investigation after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2014 exposed fraud and waste at WorkSource that ended with the city paying $1.86 million to the federal government and a WorkSource contractor going to prison for the theft of $600,000.
A 2012 city auditor’s report and 2014 city study pointed out multiple shortcomings, and the auditor recommended that Atlanta dump the program because of liabilities it was creating.
After the federal investigation, then-Mayor Kasim Reed appointed a former prosecutor to get the agency on track. He stayed more than a year before leaving. He was followed by four other mayorally-appointed interim or short-time CEOs.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms dismissed Reed’s final appointee in mid-2018, Audrey Lawrence, who had years of jobs-agency experience. She replaced Lawrence in the $140,000-a-year job with Kimberlyn Daniel, a former business executive with experience in human resources for companies such as First Data Corp.
In 2003, then-Mayor Shirley Franklin, brought in Deborah Lum to clean up WorkSource Atlanta after years of complaints of cronyism and corruption.
After a period of quiet, the Georgia Department of Labor cited the organization in 2011 for operational deficiencies.
In 2012, the city auditor recommended that Atlanta dump the agency because it was poorly run.
In May 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution exposed fraud and waste at WorkSource, and a few days later Lum left. A resulting federal investigation ended with the city paying $1.86 million to the federal government and a WorkSource contractor going to federal prison for the theft of $600,000.
A city study in July 2014 said WorkSource lacked leadership within and from its board; its programs were disconnected; it had no service philosophy, principles or strategic thinking; and even though business partners appeared plentiful, WorkSource was not engaging with them.
Former Mayor Kasim Reed and current Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms have appointed five interim managers or full-time CEOs in five years.