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City spends $11,000 on lawyers during Edwards issue

POSTED: November 8, 2017 5:00 a.m.
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Billy Edwards

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Hinesville spent a little more than $11,000 on lawyers to deal with the aftermath of city council’s 3-1 vote in June to suspend former City Manager Billy Edwards.
Invoices obtained by the Courier through an open records request show expenses billed to the city from Jones, Osteen and Jones as a result of Edwards’ suspension and subsequent severance package.
The billing period ran from June until the end of August.
In June, documents were reviewed and teleconference calls made between city attorneys and Edwards’ attorney Hugh McNatt. There were other teleconference calls between city attorneys with city officials and council members. Those minimal fees totaled $27.45.
The July invoice shows $1,794.50 charged for suspension issues, $943.50 was charged for the severance package agreement, $333.00 was charged to review a complaint made by Liberty County Code Enforcement Officer Becky Speir against Councilwoman Diana Reid and $111 was charged to review litigation letters.
The biggest expenses were billed in the August invoice where $5,587 was billed as attorneys worked to finalize Edwards’ severance package.
In addition, attorneys billed the city $2,312.50 to amend the Georgia Municipal Employees Benefit System Retirement plan.
Edwards was suspended for two weeks without pay on June 1 by a 3-1 vote of council members Diana Reid, Vicky Nelson and Keith Jenkins, after Mayor Allen Brown had adjourned and walked out of an executive session.
Councilman Jenkins appealed the adjournment and the executive session continued with Mayor Pro Tem Kenneth Shaw serving as the chairman.
A tape of the executive session obtained by the Courier shows an apparent rift between Reid and Edwards over the handling of a grievance made against Reid by Liberty County Code Enforcement Officer Becky Speir May 9.
After his suspension, Edwards hired attorney Hugh McNatt. Legal wrangling went on until mid-August.
The Hinesville City Council accepted a negotiated severance package for Edwards on Aug. 17. The agreement acknowledged that the long-time city manager “was not terminated for cause,” and that his resignation will be noted in the city’s personnel records as being voluntary. Edwards resigned and agreed not to sue the city.
Those three months cost the taxpayers $11,108.95.

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