It’s been three decades since Hinesville had to interview applicants for the job of city manager, so some confusion over the process is probably understandable.
That at least would explain why the Courier was hand-delivered two separate notices within the span of a few hours regarding interviews of potential city managers.
The first said Mayor Allen Brown and the city council “will conduct interviews for the city manager’s position” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday.
It ended with the line, “All interested citizens are invited to attend.”
The notice was later amended, and the sentence “all interested citizens are invited to attend” was removed.
Georgia law on public meetings does not require city councils to conduct such interviews in public. The law does require the city to provide names of its finalists for the job. That has not happened yet.
However, Brown said there will be three or possibly four people interviewing for the position Thursday, including Interim City Manager Kenneth Howard.
The city is looking for a replacement for longtime City Manager Billy Edwards, who resigned in September after nearly 40 years on the job. He was suspended in June by a 3-1 vote that led to some controversy and the discovery the council violated Georgia’s open meeting laws for discussions in executive sessions.
Tapes of the May 18 and June 1, sessions, obtained by the Courier, showed a rift between Edwards and Councilwoman Diana Reid. The matter stemmed from a complaint, made May 9 by city employee Becky Speir, claiming Reid libeled and slandered her after Reid spoke about Speir at the May 4 council meeting.
At the May 18 executive session, Reid said Edwards’ intent was to use Speir’s complaint against her, and added the mayor also conspired against her.
On the tape of the June 1 executive session, city attorneys were heard repeatedly telling the mayor and council that they were in violation of the open meetings act. Yet council members continued to discuss the matter even after Brown, as the city’s executive officer, adjourned the June 1 executive session.
Councilman Keith Jenkins appealed the adjournment and the discussion about Edwards continued.
After the executive session, in public and with Mayor Pro Tem Kenny Shaw serving as chair, Reid motioned for the suspension of Edwards. Reid, Jenkins and Councilwoman Vicky Nelson voted yes. Jason Floyd voted no and Shaw did not vote.
Edwards resigned Aug. 17, and agreed as part of a settlement not to sue the city. The agreement acknowledges the longtime city manager “was not terminated for cause,” and his resignation is noted in personnel records as voluntary.
The severance agreement details the salary and benefits the city paid Edwards on the day his resignation becomes official. This includes the two-weeks of wages Edwards did not receive during his 14-day suspension in June. The city is required to pay Edwards the nine months of salary he would have earned after Sept. 12. This amount will be paid in two installments; $30,000 was paid Sept. 12, and $86,347 is due by Jan. 2.
The issue also cost the city $11,000 in legal fees.
Jeff Whitten and Patty Leon contributed to this story.