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January 8, 2019 | News

Albany, Dougherty boards face major issues

Writer: Carlton Fletcher

Published January 6, 2019
Albany Herald

A day of reckoning could be at hand for city of Albany and Dougherty County governments as both the Albany City Commission and Dougherty County Commission hold their first meetings of 2019 Tuesday and Monday, respectively.

County officials apparently are ready for action on the decision to name a permanent county administrator, as that board’s agenda was changed late Friday to reflect the addition of a vote on the administrator position that has been filled on an interim basis by Assistant County Administrator Mike McCoy for the past 11 months.

The vote by four county commissioners — Gloria Gaines, Anthony Jones, Clinton Johnson and John Hayes — to keep McCoy out of the administrator’s seat vacated by Richard Crowdis at the end of January 2018, despite the fact Crowdis personally recommended McCoy for the position and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government named McCoy as the most qualified candidate, created a sea of controversy that raged throughout 2018.

In the aftermath of those four commissioners’ opposition to McCoy, which followed an altercation between McCoy and Hayes that eventually led to McCoy settling a hostile work environment suit against the county for $50,000, the fallout has been dramatic. Albany attorney Maurice King filed a suit on McCoy’s behalf asking for “at least $3 million” from the county, claiming, among a long list of grievances, retaliatory action, harassment, defamation and libel.

The ongoing racial hostility stirred up by the county officials’ action — all are African-American — spilled over into the political arena as Hayes faced three opponents in his quest to return to the commission for a fifth term. One of his opponents, former Commissioner Victor Edwards, who had been removed from office during his tenure and served jail time, claimed the most votes in the Democratic primary, but his total was not enough to claim outright victory.

Chastising the commission for “focusing on meaningless internal issues and forgetting about the people of the county,” Edwards stunned many in the community — including Hayes, who had the backing of some of the most well-known African-American ministers in the community — by winning the runoff and ousting Hayes after a 13-year career on the commission.

Edwards indicated during campaigning that he supports McCoy’s quest to become permanent administrator. Shortly after Edwards and District 4 Commissioner Russell Gray — who spent the latter part of 2018 on the board, claiming the seat without opposition when incumbent Ewell Lyle chose not to seek re-election and moved to north Georgia before his term expired — are sworn in Monday, the commission will hold an executive session to discuss “pending litigation and personnel issues” and then will vote for a third time on removing the interim title from McCoy.

If Edwards and Gray remain true to their previously stated support of McCoy and the other two members of the commission — Chairman Chris Cohilas and District 1 Commissioner Lamar Hudgins — maintain their support of the current interim administrator, McCoy could be the new county administrator by Monday evening.

McCoy chose not to respond to questions about the ongoing legal and political issues surrounding his possible appointment over the recent holidays, saying, “Let’s see what happens when we start back up in 2019.”

The City Commission has promised to move forward Tuesday with its aggressive agenda to address infrastructure issues in 2019, but some board members say they want an immediate answer to voluminous complaints over the holidays that calls to the city’s Utilities Department went unanswered. The Herald received a number of such complaints and experienced similar frustration in attempting to contact city officials at the department.

One Utilities employee, who asked that his/her name not be used said, “The managers let all of these employees save up their vacation days to the end of the year, and we were very undermanned during the holidays. It was impossible for us to answer phone calls because we were too busy dealing with the high volume of customers who came in for service.

“A lot of people who came into our offices were frustrated, too, because there weren’t enough people working to handle the volume of customers. It seemed ridiculous that management allowed all these people to take off at the same time and left those of us who didn’t take off to try and do the jobs of three or four other people in addition to our own jobs.”

Some members of the commission have indicated that they plan to bring up the customer service issue at Tuesday’s meeting.