City holds public hearing at Kennedy’s request

Published 11:37 am Saturday, June 9, 2018

By Beth Alston

Part 2
AMERICUS — After 16 individuals spoke at the recent public hearing requested by recently fired city manager Steve Kennedy. Americus Mayor Barry Blount asked for input from council members.
Council member Nelson Brown spoke up. He kept saying that the 4-2 decision to terminate Kennedy’s employment took “more than 40 minutes.” He was referring to the 40-minute closed-door session the mayor and council held on April 25 when they decided to fire Kennedy. In their rush to fire the city manager, the four council members failed to follow the proper protocols, and were required to take the same action to terminate Kennedy again in a called meeting on May 9, according to city attorney, Jimmy Skipper.
Brown said the 40 minutes was “a process, and it’s been ongoing ever since Mr. Kennedy’s been here.” He said he wants to talk to people but there are “stipulations.”
During his 20-minute speech, Brown said at least four times that he was “threading the water.” He told the audience they need to read Kennedy’s contract, and the letter Kennedy sent to the mayor and council (published in the Times-Recorder in its entirety) and the evaluations. (See story next week on Kennedy’s evaluations.)
Brown said the first year of Kennedy’s employment, the mayor and council didn’t do an evaluation until, he, Brown, told the mayor they should, “per his [Kennedy’s] contract.” He said another evaluation is “ongoing right now” and “you should demand to know what that evaluation is also.”
Brown said the necessary elements for success are trust, transparency, training, accountability, communication and information. “So why is it that some people have a problem with that when I’m saying it?” he asked.
Brown said he had talked to Kennedy for four hours the Monday prior to their vote to terminate Kennedy’s employment on Thursday. “It wasn’t rude; it was professional … It was time for his evaluation. One of those things was a self-evaluation.” Brown said he had requested that Kennedy do a self-evaluation prior to the mayor and council evaluating Kennedy’s performance. He said he wanted to know what Kennedy’s “thought process” was and what Kennedy saw as his own strengths and weaknesses.
He said his main focus is service to the community from city council, department heads and staff of the city. He said city employees need to be appreciated. He mentioned the recent cost of living raise that all city employees received. He said he was not satisfied with some employees getting more of a raise than others.
Brown also stated that he wants to make sure, according to the Sunshine Law, that he says nothing about whatever was said in closed session. It is not against the law to discuss what is said in closed session. It is unlawful for a governing body to discuss matters other than personnel, pending litigation and real estate acquisition in closed session. He said he prays he doesn’t violate the Sunshine Law, which in Georgia, relates to Open Meetings and Records.
He pointed out that he has a personal and a city cell phone and will talk to anyone “24/7.”
He said he would have appreciated if Kennedy had attended the hearing. He said if Kennedy had been present and had said “something” that it would open the floodgates for him, Brown, who would talk about problems with Kennedy.
He offered an example. He said the entrances to the city are beautiful but Kennedy wasn’t responsible for them.
Brown talked very little about Kennedy, but talked about himself. He again asked people to attend the city’s meetings.
Addressing the rest of the city council and the mayor, Brown said, “If we all tell the truth, we know there is some displeasure with Mr. Kennedy. All of us sitting up here know that. … Some of the council members do have a problem with Mr. Kennedy.”
Council member Charles Christmas then made a motion to rescind the April 25 resolution to terminate Kennedy’s appointment due to no reason given, which was seconded by Council member Lou Chase.
Before the vote, Brown talked again, saying that he wants the council members to “start working closer together and respect each other and stop letting [unintelligible].” He said he wants council to start doing what is right by the citizens. Mayor Barry Blount also commented. He said he believed in Kennedy and that the city has “some good things going,” and that there will be more good things, “but not because of us up here but because of you who are sitting out there. It’s people working together. We all have different backgrounds, and experience in life … And that’s why Americus is different from a lot of other communities … ”
The mayor also shared what he called his “favorite story” about Chan Gailey from Americus who went on lead in the NFL. He said Gailey believed that every year, the Americus High School Panthers were expected to be a winning team. “That’s what makes this town so great,” Blount said. “It’s the people and the expectation that we’re going to succeed and … be great.” He also mentioned the community getting through the bad times such as the flood of July 1994, the tornado of March 2007, and the fatal shootings of two law enforcement officers in December 2016. “But through all the tragedy, this community came together. That’s what’s going right now. I supported Steve Kennedy. I think council members have their right to their opinion and their vote and I respect that. … When we leave here, I hope we leave here … as a unified community … to work together to do better … ”
Voting for the motion were Christmas and Chase, and voting against were Brown, and Council members Kelvin Pless, Juanita Wilson and Daryl Dowdell.
The latter three didn’t say anything during the entire hearing.