Editor's note: Because of the size of the audio file and issues with our current website, our attempts to upload the audio from the May 18 executive session onto our site have been unsuccesful to this point. Here is a link however: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1GiTaVptprTdL0VVUSLyioTj8ghPhYQwO
Hinesville Councilwoman Diana Reid had some harsh words for former City Manager Billy Edwards and Mayor Allen Brown during a May 18 executive session.
Audio of that closed session, obtained through an open records request, shows Reid accused Edwards and Brown of lying and conspiring to have her removed from office.
Reid also argued with deputy city attorney Richard Braun.
Braun was filling in for city attorney Linnie Darden, who was not at the May 18 meeting, the last meeting before the June 1 executive session that preceded Edwards' suspension.
Reid called the executive session to discuss the handling of a complaint filed against her.
Reid said she felt Edwards was using the matter to have her removed from office and because of that she wanted him fired.
A complaint against Reid was filed May 9 by Liberty County Code Enforcement Officer Becky Speir after Reid spoke about Speir in open session during the May 4 city council meeting
After a resident went before council in April to discuss code enforcement, Reid revisited the neighborhood with Speir, reviewing code violations.
Reid, who later “adopted” the neighborhood and did a cleanup with volunteers, showed photos of the work they did at the May 4 meeting.
During her May 4 presentation, Reid said residents didn’t cooperate with Speir because she was, “threatening them and not talking to them. So I told them that I would come back and we would clean it up,” Reid said. “To me that is easier than going through the community and writing a lot of senseless violations.”
As a result, Speir claimed Reid both libeled and slandered her, while harming her reputation and causing her to appear unfit for her job.
According to the recording of the May 18 executive session, it is the first grievance filed by an employee against an elected official. Brown and Edwards in turn called Darden for guidance.
Reid said she found out about the complaint May 9 when Edwards brought a copy of the grievance to her job.
On the audio, Reid insisted Edwards said he and Brown told Darden to call the Georgia Municipal Association to see how they should handle the matter.
She said she was upset that they didn’t talk to her first.
She said she also was upset that Edwards demanded her thumb drive, which contained her May 4 presentation.
As they disagreed about the sequence of events, Reid claimed Edwards was lying.
She said she no longer trusted him and added that if it were up to her, Edwards, “would have been gone.”
The exchange takes up nearly 45 minutes of the 90-minute recording. But during the session, Braun can be heard saying some of the discussion should be done in public.
Braun said it was Darden who called GMA and had already concluded the grievance did not meet the city ordinance’s definition of an ethics violation.
“Linnie’s purpose in calling GMA was to confirm his belief. That is my understanding,” Braun said. “I might be wrong…but I believe Linnie came to the conclusion that this was not an ethics complaint and he wanted that backed up from GMA and Rusi Patel (a GMA attorney) agreed with it.”
“Have you been wrong before?” Reid asked.
“Yes I have,” Braun replied.
“Well you are wrong now,” Reid said. “I know what Billy told me when he came to my office. You are trying to excuse the fact that what I heard...that I’m a liar and I don’t like that.”
During the June 1 executive session, Darden confirmed it was his decision to call GMA and that the matter was not an ethics violation.
During the May 18 session, Reid said Speir was a trouble maker.
“What makes this so bad is that the person that wrote this has a track record,” Reid said. “(The) fire department didn’t keep her. She was in Mr. Howard’s department. She didn’t stay there and where she is now, she still causes trouble.”
Thursday, Speir denied Reid’s claims.
“I have worked for the city of Hinesville for 15 years,” Speir said. “I have served in three different positions, (and was promoted) within the city government each time. My performance evaluations speak for themselves.”
The city considered Speir’s complaint closed based on Darden’s decision. But Speir requested the matter be reopened on May 23. She asked that it be brought before the ethics committee. She also requested Darden be removed from the case since he is appointed by the mayor and council.
Reid referred to the second letter during the June 1 executive session, during which she said she wanted Edwards fired.
Instead, after discussion, in open session the council voted to suspend Edwards for two weeks without pay with council members Reid, Vicky Nelson and Keith Jenkins voting in favor. Councilman Jason Floyd voted against the motion and Shaw, serving as chairman.
Speir filed a third request to reopen the matter July 12, claiming city policy does not have a provision allowing the city attorney to circumvent the ethics committee.
Reid emailed Edwards, the mayor and council July 14, noting she was disturbed that Darden considered the matter closed.
“Therefore I am directing that the City Manager discipline Ms. Speir to the fullest measure under the city’s policy and report back to council,” Reid wrote.
Edwards, apparently acting under the advice of attorneys, did not respond to Reid.
Later Reid called Edwards insubordinate for his failure to reply.
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.