Brookhaven, GA, January 13, 2016 – Commentary, by Trey Benton – The City of Brookhaven completed “phase one” in the City Manager termination process as per the City Charter when they suspended Marie Garrett as the City’s Top Administrator on Tuesday. Wednesday, the Mayor and Council are scheduled to meet at 3:30 at City Hall to complete “phase two” – actual termination.
According to the City Charter, the position of City Manager is a Mayoral appointment, subject to confirmation by the City Council. This is the process that was followed when former Mayor J Max Davis and Brookhaven’s first City Council appointed and subsequently agreed to Garrett’s terms of employment – her contract.
The Charter’s language, subject to interpretation by the City Attorney, says that when a Mayor takes office, he or she must affirm or reaffirm the positions which the previous Mayor and City Council appointed, or make his or her own appointments. Newly Elected Mayor John Ernst and Council followed this same process on Tuesday when they reaffirmed Susan Hiott as City Clerk and Carl Stephens as Finance Director – positions also appointed by the Mayor.
The subject of Garrett’s employment relationship with Brookhaven began with turmoil when The Post discovered Garrett was receiving compensation with no contract in writing with the City of Brookhaven. Later, amid scrutiny, then City Attorney Tom Kurrie prepared and presented a draft to Garrett, Mayor and Council. That contract was accepted by all parties. (You can read about it here.)
It is apparent that Garrett’s employment with Brookhaven will end in turmoil, as well.
The contents of Garrett’s contract later became the subject of deliberation after she began to fall out of favor with previous administrations. Its ambiguity and one sidedness, in favor of Garrett, left the City in a position that some may describe as being “caught with your pants down”, and left looking to find a “for cause” reason to fire her.
Effectively, Garrett’s contract holds the City accountable to pay a healthy severance should Brookhaven ever want to change City Managers, unless there is egregious behavior that warrants a “for cause” termination, or the City Manager decides to terminate her own employment. It’s really complicated, but could very well be culled down in to very simple terms.
Garrett’s “iron-clad” contract really does leave the City with few options, and no matter when the City decided to take action to change City Managers – now, a year from now, or even ten years from now – under this contract, the City would be faced with these same issues.
The contract is below. Sections 9 and 10 pertain to Termination of Employment and Severance.