SF mayor willing to hear appeal of fired city employees

SF mayor willing to hear appeal of fired city employees

Posted: Monday, March 21, 2011 9:46 pm
By: Chris Menees, Staff Reporter

By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
South Fulton Mayor David Crocker told The Messenger he is willing to hear an appeal by four recently-terminated city employees.
Crocker recently fired South Fulton public works director Hubert Maynard, utility foreman David Glisson and employees Robert Weatherford and James Donnell, citing alleged insubordination.
Crocker has been serving as interim city manager for about 21⁄2 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.
Although it wasn’t on the agenda at Thursday evening’s South Fulton City Commission meeting, a large crowd of supporters of the fired workers packed the commission room and three citizens addressed the mayor and commissioners with their concerns.
Maynard told The Messenger last week that the events leading to his dismissal began March 11 when he failed to notify Crocker that he was taking time off from work and escalated March 12 with a conflict over the capping of a gas meter that workers felt created an unsafe situation. He said he was told that he and the other three men were fired for insubordination.
In responding to questions during the commission meeting, 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.
After the meeting, Crocker told The Messenger he was standing by his decision to terminate the public works employees. He said he simply wanted the gas line repaired.
Crocker said local Shriners were scheduled to hold a breakfast in the city’s community room March 12 and he said he had spoken with Maynard about three weeks ago about fixing the gas for the stove’s use. He said there had been some issues with the gas stove in the past and the gas was cut off after each use.
He said the gas needed to be turned on Friday in order for the stove to be cleaned in preparation for Saturday’s breakfast. He said he had the gas lock taken off and someone called Weatherford to have it put back on. Crocker said he called Weatherford to the scene and asked about the lock being put back on. He said Weatherford informed him it was unsafe and he asked the employee to show him what was unsafe.
“He told me what was unsafe about it and I said, ‘Fix it,’” Crocker said.
The mayor said the worker told him what was unsafe and how to make it safe, explaining that an outside cut-off valve for the gas tended to leak.
However, Crocker claims the employee refused to make the repairs. He said he sent the worker home after telling him three times to make the repairs and instructed him to return for a meeting with him. Crocker alleged the worker did not clock out and instead called Maynard, who came to the scene.
The mayor said he explained to Maynard that he had sent the employee home and told him to return Monday to decide about his future employment. Crocker alleged Maynard told him he was not going to do that and the situation escalated after he inquired about Maynard’s taking time off Friday without notifying him, with Maynard ultimately also told to report to his office Monday morning.
Crocker said the stove was cleaned Friday and then the gas turned off outside and a lock put on the cut-off. The gas was unlocked Saturday, turned on for use and the breakfast proceeded as planned. When it was over, the gas was turned off at the cut-off and a lock put back on.
“I was the only one who had the key to it,” Crocker said. “As soon as they did that, within five minutes, David Glisson pulled up with a hacksaw, cut the gas line below the cut-off and cut the regulator out of the line. And that’s when (someone) called me.”
Crocker said he went back to the community room and called Maynard to come down. He said when Maynard and Glisson approached, he met Maynard at the door, asked for his keys and indicated he was fired. He said Maynard wanted to go inside and get his personal property, but he told him he couldn’t do so at that time.
“I said, ‘You’re no longer allowed on city property,’ and that means places where the public can’t go because they have knowledge of what to do — they just went back there and cut the gas line with a hacksaw,” Crocker said.
The mayor said he told Glisson they would have a meeting Monday. He said he came in at 7 a.m. and called a department meeting with all of the employees. He explained to them that Maynard had been terminated and that he had worked out an arrangement with Fulton’s city manager to receive assistance from the neighboring city’s public works department in the event of an emergency that South Fulton’s crews might not be able to handle alone.
Crocker said he indicated to the men that they were going to repair the gas line that had been cut, put a regulator back on and put a lock on it. He alleged Glisson declined to make the requested repairs and, after the third refusal, he told him to clock out and leave.
Crocker claimed the same refusal to make the repairs also came from both Weatherford and Donnell.
“It’s still not fixed,” he said Thursday night.
Crocker alleged the terminated employees have contacted several state agencies trying to report the city for various alleged offenses. He said he has since been busy making contact with those same agencies himself to ensure state officials that South Fulton is covered by employees who are certified to answer emergency calls.
Appeal
Crocker explained that the South Fulton City Commission hires and fires the city manager, while the city manager hires and fires all other employees. The city commission approved a personnel policy last year and Vowell had indicated at that time that there may be some “tweaking” to be done.
Crocker said the terminated workers asked him about the appeals process. He said he explained to them that they make their appeal to the city manager, not the commission, based on the personnel policy.
“I said I’d set up an appeal sometime next week,” he said Thursday. “I’m willing to do that.”
The employees also claimed they had not been given termination letters to explain the reason for their firings and Crocker told The Messenger he had not done so last week because he had been busy “putting out fires” from the former employees’ alleged calls to various state agencies.
“I’m just trying to keep us in compliance with the state,” he said.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at cmenees@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 3.21.11

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