Pendergrass city administrator came under fire from some city council members last week, a move that led to the tabling of an employment agreement with him.
The council meeting was held Jan. 26, a day before city officials learned that Rep. Tommy Benton was introducing legislation to abolish the city government (see other story.)
In a split vote that had Mayor Monk Tolbert breaking a 2-2 tie, the council agreed to an ordinance creating a contracted city administrator position and a resolution for a contract. But the council tabled action on executing an agreement with Russell.
Council members Nathan Pruitt and Harlan Robinson voted in favor of the two items approved with council members Sabrina Guevara and Willie Pittmon voting against the ordinance and being undecided on the resolution.
Guevara voiced opposition to the ordinance and resolution stating she felt like Russell has kept council members away from each other and keeps them from obtaining training that is available through the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA).
“You keep us ignorant on purpose,” Guevara said to Russell
She also said she felt like the council was not given the information for upcoming council meetings in a timely manner.
“You give us the packet the night before the meeting,” Guevara said. “And you expect us to just come in here and vote yes on everything.”
RUSSELL PUSHES BACK
Russell said all of that is incorrect.
“I don’t get training information for you all,” he said. “It doesn’t come across my desk.”
Russell also said he tried to deliver meeting packets to council members on Friday before the Tuesday morning meetings.
Guevara also said the council needs to have work session meetings to go over items coming before the council to give time for discussion before voting.
SEVERANCE PAY, INSURANCE AN ISSUE
In the employment contract issue, Guevara said she does not agree with a provision in the one-year contract that entitles the city administrator to receive severance payments equal to employee’s current salary for 12 months from the date of termination.
She also stated she did not agree with the provision that the city provide life insurance for the administrator equal to four times the his annual salary, up to $1 million.
Interim city attorney Paula Stewart said the city would be providing life insurance of $300,000 – four times the $75,000 annual salary – with the employee responsible for the rest up to $1 million.
Several citizens in attendance on Tuesday voiced opposition to the city providing a $1 million insurance policy for the city administrator when the police officers are not given the same.
“Why pay for a $1 million insurance police for the city administrator and not for the police officers?” asked Kathy Rizzo.
Ryan Long said he was also concerned about the $1 million insurance policy.
Resident Meredith Davison said she agreed with the others on the $1 million policy, but she said if council members knew the city had to pay the city administrator’s $75,000 salary for a second year, it could curtail an entire city council turning against the city administrator for some political motivated reason.
David Holcombe, city building official, said the complexity of city business had changed so much over the years that the city administrator’s position is a big part of the city in dealing with all of the local and state guidelines placed on the cities.
Guevara said she is concerned that if the city administrator is allowed to work out their essentially two-year contract, it would give them plenty of time to be able to “screw” the city.
Mayor Tolbert said due to the growth in the city, and all of the legal issues that cities deal with today, a city administrator with Russell’s 15 years of knowledge and experience is vital to the town.
“Twenty years ago, everything was simple,” Tolbert said. “Now you almost need a law degree to be a mayor.”
In other business on Tuesday, the council:
•received notice that Galilee Partners had withdrawn its controversial application for annexation of property on Old State Road for a large subdivision.
•heard a report from Russell on the overview of the January 14 Citizens Advisory Panel (CAP) meeting. The panel discussed the issue of on-street parking in Brooks Village and Seasons of Pendergrass subdivisions. Each of the two subdivisions have a Home Owners Association (HOA) and covenants that there is to be no on-street parking, but these rules are often ignored. Russell said a discussion was held on whether to have a city ordinance regarding on-street parking in subdivision streets. This causes problems for bus drivers, EMS services, fire services, and other residents. The second item discussed was updating the city’s nuisance ordinance to clarify parts of the existing ordinance to ensure all citizens and business owners understand each clearly.