Residents support terminated employees
Posted: Friday, March 18, 2011 9:02 pm
By CHRIS MENEES
It wasn’t on the agenda, but the termination of South Fulton’s public works director and three employees dominated discussion at Thursday evening’s South Fulton City Commission meeting.
The personnel controversy began last weekend with the firing of public works director Hubert Maynard and further escalated Monday with the firings of utility foreman David Glisson and employees Robert Weatherford and James Donnell.
South Fulton Mayor David Crocker, who is currently serving as interim city manager, indicated Monday the matter is a personnel issue and said he could not disclose further details at that time.
Crocker has been serving as interim city manager for about 2 1/2 months since the departure of Jeff Vowell, who accepted a position in the banking business. The search is under way for a new city manager.
Maynard told The Messenger earlier this week that the events leading to his dismissal began Friday when he failed to notify Crocker that he was taking time off work and escalated Saturday with a conflict over the capping of a gas meter that workers felt created an unsafe situation. He said he was told he was fired for insubordination.
A large crowd of supporters of the fired workers packed the commission room for the South Fulton City Commission’s regular monthly meeting Thursday evening. Only three citizens addressed the mayor and commissioners during the portion of the meeting specifically designated as the time for questions, comments and suggestions from citizens.
Joe Glasgow said the commission needed to do “three simple steps” — remove Crocker from the temporary city manager’s position, appoint another commissioner to fill the position and vote to return the fired employees to their jobs.
Chad Rushing inquired about the status of the fired employees and the reason they were terminated. Crocker said all four were fired for insubordination and Rushing asked if he could be more specific.
Crocker claimed Maynard disobeyed a rule. He said he’d had a meeting with department heads in regard to their leaving early and had asked them to contact him whenever they left in order for him to keep up with them. He said Maynard took off Friday without calling him and the problem “snowballed from there” with the gas line issue Friday and Saturday involving the use of the gas stove at the city’s community room.
“I don’t think everybody is getting the complete picture on the gas issue,” Crocker said. “The gas department was told to fix the gas and they refused to fix the gas. It’s as simple as that.”
Rushing asked about a gas meter being deemed unsafe and Crocker replied, “They were to fix the gas.” When Rushing inquired about the employees being certified to make the repairs, Crocker responded, “They were told to fix the gas and they refused to fix the gas. I don’t know how else to put it.”
Rushing asked who gave the order to fix the gas and Crocker said he gave the order for the repair after being told it was unsafe. Rushing asked Crocker if he had ever been trained or certified in gas repair.
“They are the gas department. I don’t know who else we would go to (in order) to fix our gas other than our gas department. It’s as simple as that,” the mayor said.
Kathy Stem said those in attendance were led to understand that the workers were told by Crocker to turn on the gas and the workers told the mayor it was unsafe.
“And I told them to fix it. That’s the whole gist of everything. I told them to fix it,” Crocker said.
Ms. Stem made reference to the former employees’ combined 50-plus years of service and questioned whether Crocker was indicating they were lying about the situation.
“I’m saying that they were told to fix the gas and they refused,” the mayor said.
When Ms. Stem persisted, Crocker said, “We’re not holding a discussion about this right now. If you want to make comments to us, I’ve explained as much as I want to explain about the personnel issue. I apologize, we’re not trying to be short with you, but that’s exactly what it is.”
Ms. Stem asked Crocker several more questions in regard to any rules in city policy that prohibit two brothers “from holding such high positions in the city” — a reference to Crocker being mayor and acting city manager and his brother, Andy Crocker, being police chief — and in regard to who would replace the fired employees.
Crocker reiterated his reason for firing the employees.
“They were given a direct order from me, acting as city manager, and they refused,” he said.
Ms. Stem alleged they refused because the gas situation was unsafe.
“Well, they’re the gas department. They’re supposed to make it safe,” Crocker said. “That’s what the whole deal is. They were supposed to have fixed it.”
Ms. Stem questioned whether the fired workers would have an opportunity to respond and intimated the employees were no longer working for the city because of Crocker.
“So if you have a city employee and you tell them to go out and shoot somebody, just because you say so and they don’t do it, you could get them for insubordination,” Ms. Stem asked.
“No, ma’am, but when I ask a city employee to do their job, when they refuse, when I ask them again to do their job and they refuse, and I ask them again to do their job and they refuse — I don’t know anywhere else you can do that and keep your job,” Crocker said.
In other business during Thursday evening’s brief meeting, which was opened with the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer led by commissioner Tony Perry, the commission:
• Accepted the resignation of commissioner and vice mayor Keith Curlin, who has submitted his resumé for South Fulton’s city manager position.
Crocker said the Municipal Technical Advisory Service indicated it would be better for Curlin to resign since he has applied for the job. He thanked Curlin for his service and said he did a good job.
Commissioner Charles Moody said he believes Curlin would be a great asset to the city. He said former city manager Jeff Vowell “left us in pretty good shape” and he hated to see him leave.
• Appointed Moody to serve as vice mayor. He was nominated by Crocker, who indicated Moody had held the position in the past.
• Received an update on the process for searching for a new city manager.
Crocker said commis-sioners have received copies of the resumés submitted and are in agreement that it should be narrowed to about five applicants. He said they will then be contacted to set up interviews.
• Was informed by Perry there has recently been a rash of break-ins in the community and efforts are under way to restart the Neighborhood Watch program. He said the Neighborhood Watch program previously stopped due to lack of attendance. He urged residents to be alert for suspicious activity.
• Indicated the commission will be seeking the names of residents who could fill the Ward 4 commission vacancy created by Curlin’s resignation.
After a motion was made to adjourn Thursday’s meeting, one audience member asked to address the commission. Crocker indicated the business had been conducted — including the designated time for citizens to make comments — and a motion already made to adjourn.
Editor’s note: Crocker spoke with The Messenger at length after the meeting to further explain the personnel decision. His comments will be included in a follow-up story next week.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 3.18.11