By: The Staff Reporters of Georgia Weekly Post
▲ Nearly three years after assuming duties as city manager, Marie Garrett appears to be out at Brookhaven.
Nearly three years after assuming duties as city manager, Marie Garrett appears to be out at Brookhaven.
The City Council, under newly elected Mayor John Ernst Jr, took steps this week to end her contract and mediate a settlement.
“The city honors its obligations,” Ernst said. “Unfortunately the contract negotiated by previous administrations is ambiguous and does not allow the city to know what its duties are.”
"In an effort to reach an understanding and amicable resolution with city manager Marie Garrett, we have agreed to participate in mediation next week. Final action by council will be deferred until after the mediation," he added.
The mayor said that while working toward an orderly transition, the city has become mired in conflict over the terms and conditions of that agreement. He said the responsible thing to do is to have a third party resolve these disputes.
“We wish Marie Garrett well,” Ernst said.
▲ Mayor John Ernst Jr. of Brookhaven. “The city honors its obligations,” Ernst said. “Unfortunately the contract negotiated by previous administrations is ambiguous and does not allow the city to know what its duties are.”
Garrett came under fire locally in 2014 when terms of her contract were disclosed, showing that through most of 2013 and some of 2014, her base salary was $170,000 a year, making her one of the highest city administrators in the state. The contract also allowed for limited weekly hours and compensation for overtime.
Despite some outcry on the City Council and from residents of the city of 48,000, then Mayor J. Max Davis called her a top talent, and the City Council eventually revised her contract, raising her salary to $214,000 annually in March 2014.
That revised contract also gave Garrett virtual “iron-clad” tenure, allowing for a sizeable severance should the city ever decide to dismiss her in favor of another, unless she was found guilty of a “cause” for dismissal.
“The city seeks, at all times, to honor its obligations, also the city council believes in watching the taxpayers’ money,” Ernst said. “In an effort to reach an understanding and amicable resolution with city manager Marie Garrett, we have agreed to participate in mediation next week. Final action by council will be deferred until after the mediation.”
In the meantime, the city has named Police Chief Gary Yandura acting city manager.
Brookhaven’s city charter provides that the mayor appoints key administration officers, including the city manager, subject to confirmation by the City Council. It further states 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.
On Tuesday, Mayor Ernst and the City Council reaffirmed Susan Hiott as city clerk and Carl Stephens as finance director. Garrett was not reaffirmed.
After surviving her first controversy with her contract, Garrett later found herself criticizing her champion, Mayor J. Max Davis, after Davis was accused of sexual harassment of city staff. The incident left Garrett with fewer supporters among city leadership.
City Councilman John Park said the city has few options in replacing Garrett.
“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,” Park said.