The Statham City Council approved a new acting police chief Tuesday, Dec. 17, but it took four closed sessions over three meetings.
The council continued to fuss over differences between current and new officials.
The meeting degenerated at the end when council member Hattie Thrasher presented a bench for outgoing mayor Robert Bridges. Catherine Corkren, a critic of Bridges and the city government, was shouted down and drowned out by hissing when she tried to say, “On behalf of the people you hurt ….”
Thrasher said the bench was from the Sunflower Festival Committee and the council.
The police chief saga started when chief Allan Johnston turned in a brief letter of resignation Dec. 2. However, according to one official, Johnston turned in his cruiser and personal items Dec. 3 and did not work out his notice. His last day on the job was to be Dec. 15.
The council hired John Davis as the acting chief, but some council members were confused about what position was being hired. The position was referred to as the “assistant chief” and the “interim” chief.
John Wood, who had been the assistant chief, declined to be named chief after a closed session Dec. 11 — when two closed sessions were held for the same purpose in the same meeting. Wood also resigned as the assistant chief and took a patrol position.
Council member Betty Lyle made a motion to hire Wood for a year and to provide him with six-months salary if he was fired without cause. That motion did not pass.
Wood declined the job after the closed session.
A fourth closed session was held for about 13 minutes Tuesday night before Davis was hired.
The council held closed sessions to discuss the police Dec. 11 (two), Dec. 12 and Dec. 17.
The assistant chief and an update on the city’s audits were added to the agenda Tuesday.
Mai Chang, city administrator, said the FY2017 audit is on schedule to be completed by the end of the year.
Joe Piper, the incoming mayor, said he and council members will meet with members of Bates Carter, the firm hired to do the 2017 audit, at 9 a.m. Jan. 7 “to see if they are on track with commitments made to (the) previous administration.”
The new mayor and council members also will meet at 1 p.m. Jan. 2 with Athens Micro, the city’s information technology firm, “to discuss our partnership.”
Bates Carter was hired in August to complete the past-due audits. The state requires annual audits to be turned in by Dec. 31.
Statham has been on the state’s non-compliance list because of its lack of audits since early in 2016. The city does not have complete audits for FY2017 and 2018. In another two weeks, the 2019 audit will be non-compliant.
Bates Carter said the FY2017 audit would be completed by the end of 2019. The firm is charging $12,950 for the work. If the company is retained for the FY2018 audit, the price will be the same.
Chang said the company said it would take three to four months to do the FY2018 audit.
In other business, the council:
•approved spending $500 for the Barrow County adult literacy program. The city has spent that amount for the past several years.
•heard a plea from Tammy Crawley at the work session Dec. 12 to provide more time for water customers to pay their bills. Crawley said the city had given customers more than 20 days to pay past-due bills before the service was cut off. She said it was changed and now the service is cut off on the sixth day. She said bills are sent out about the 15th of the month. Customers have five days to pay and then service is cut off. Chang said the city policy has been the same for a “long time” and had not been enforced. Chang also said the city attempts to “work with” any customer with a past-due bill.
•heard Corkren say the sewer lines for the Lakes of Statham subdivision are risky and bonds adopted for potential repairs “will not come near” paying for potential problems. She cited a report from the city’s engineering firm, EMI, that she said recommended against the city owning the sewer line.