Jefferson County HR Director Fired, No Comment on Cause

Michelle Rodrigues, former head of Human Resources for Jefferson County. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Three weeks after telling a friend on social media that she was “having a great time” in her job, Michelle Rodrigues has been fired from her post as the head of human resources for Jefferson County.

“Michelle Rodrigues is no longer working for the county,” county manager Tony Petelos told BirminghamWatch. “On personnel matters, I can’t comment on that. All I can say is she’s no longer working here.”

Rodrigues declined a request for comment from BirminghamWatch.

Rodrigues is the second top manager the county has lost in a week. Armika Berkley resigned from her position as executive director of Cooper Green Mercy Health System.

Petelos squelched thoughts that the actions might be related.

“No, it had nothing to do with that,” he said. “Michelle has absolutely nothing to do with Armika leaving or her contract.”

Jefferson County went under a consent decree in 1982 regarding its hiring practices. U.S. District Court Judge Lynwood Smith in 2013 appointed a receiver to select, hire, promote, demote, discipline or fire Jefferson County employees.

Receivership ended in the summer of 2018 and a monitor was appointed to have oversight of matters involving human resources. The monitor reports to the court.

Petelos would not say whether Rodrigues’ departure has anything to do with the consent decree. He said the HR department should continue to run smoothly.

“The monitor is still in place and we have five division managers,” the county manager said. “Those division managers know what they’re doing, they have their jobs and they’ll be reporting directly to the deputy county manager, Cal (Markert).”

Petelos acknowledged that neither he nor Markert is “an HR person, and we weren’t involved in HR because we were in receivership or the monitor was in place.”

“When issues crop up, we will get the advice from the monitor,” he said, expressing hope that Rodrigues’ post will be filled soon. “We’re going to expedite as quickly as we can the hiring process for her replacement.”

Rodrigues posted a link on LinkedIn to a June 4 BirminghamWatch story about Jefferson County seeking people to be wastewater apprentices. She responded to a comment about the impact she was having with Jefferson County.

“I am having a great time and the transition from corporate to local government work has been fulfilling,” she wrote. “Clean water / water reclamation is important to all of our communities. The jobs are well paid, especially for people who have a knack for science and math who may … want career alternatives to college. There are nationwide shortages of employees in the field and we are committed to lead the way with recruitment, training, development and retention.”