The Hinesville City Council agreed Thursday to accept a negotiated severance package for former City Manager Billy Edwards. All five council members voted to release Edwards after reconvening from an executive session in which they discussed personnel. Council members then voted to appoint Acting City Manager Ken Howard as interim city manager.
“It’s a very sad day for the City of Hinesville,” Mayor Allen Brown said. Brown said Edwards had “done a great job” for the city for the past 30 years.
District 4 Council Member Keith Jenkins commented the council basically wanted to go in a different direction and felt Edward’s severance package was fair. Mayor Pro Tem Kenneth Shaw agreed, saying the city can now move forward. Edwards could not be reached for comment.
During a workshop held prior to the regular meeting, council members discussed Section 2-282 which deals with the appointment of a city manager, and Section 2-286 which deals with removal of a city manager. Several council members had called for clarification of the ordinance’s language, proposing the ordinance accurately reflect that a majority vote of council members was enough to remove a city manager without also needing the mayor’s vote. The original wording of the ordinance reads, “The Mayor and City Council may remove the City Manager for good cause at any time by a majority vote of its members.”
District 2 Council Member Jason Floyd said he spoke with two former Hinesville mayors, Jim Thomas and Thomas Ratcliffe, to hear how they interpreted the ordinance. Floyd said from his research he concluded that the mayor’s vote would not override the council, “but by giving him a vote you give him a voice.” Floyd was opposed to amending the ordinance.
Jenkins said he also researched the matter, speaking to Brunswick city officials and former Mayor Thomas. Jenkins said a mayor should have strong input in recommending the selection or removal of a city manager, but that a majority vote of council members should determine a city manager’s hiring or firing.
Former Mayor Jim Thomas was asked by council members to offer his interpretation of the ordinance. Thomas likened the mayor to the CEO of a company, and the council to a board of directors. He said the mayor’s role was to work with the advice and consent of the council. “The mayor, essentially, doesn’t vote except in the case of a tie,” he said. Thomas added that the city manager should report to one person - namely the mayor – in order to avoid confusion.
Editor's note: The Courier has asked for the amount of the settlement with Edwards and was told to file a Freedom of Information Act request. The Courier is following up on that angle, and others.