Erickson steps down from Macon council

jgaines@macon.comFebruary 17, 2011 

Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

COLLIN C. CHAPPELLE — The Telegraph

After serving less than one term, Erick Erickson is leaving Macon City Council for an earlier time slot for a radio show he began hosting last month.

“I’m not going to turn down a full-time career opportunity for a part-time City Council job,” Erickson said Wednesday afternoon.

He sent a resignation letter to Mayor Robert Reichert and Council President Miriam Paris, copied to senior city staff, Wednesday morning.

“We’ll miss him when he’s gone,” Reichert said.

In January, Erickson was hired to host a radio show on 95.5 WSB-FM, following Herman Cain, when the station dropped Michael Savage. Then Cain quit two weeks ago to launch a campaign for president, and Erickson inherited his time slot. That requires him to be in the Atlanta studio by 6 p.m. weeknights, he said.

Most council committee meetings don’t end before 5, and full council meetings often last until 7 p.m. or later.

Erickson, whose resignation is effective Friday, said he intended to resign when he took the regular job at WSB, but was dissuaded by Chief Administrative Officer Thomas Thomas and several council members. He said previously that he was delaying his departure in part to support an anticipated push from Reichert to set new rules for city financial reserves. Now, however, Erickson said he doesn’t expect major initiatives to emerge until after the fall election for mayor and council. His last major policy concern is lengthening the runway at Middle Georgia Regional Airport from 6,500 to 8,000 feet. City officials are lobbying for millions in federal funding for that work.

“I still think that’s going to happen,” Erickson said.

When first hired by the radio station, he said he probably would resign in “less than six months,” though he wouldn’t set a date.

“The schedule very much changed, a lot quicker than I thought it would,” Erickson said. “I was expecting this to happen maybe around Labor Day.”

He also just bought a new house slightly closer to Atlanta and will move this weekend, he said. The new address given in his resignation letter is a five-bedroom, four-bath house just north of Bass Road and Interstate 75.

Erickson’s resignation letter includes some of the same rhetoric usual in his columns for The Telegraph and online writings.

“I am also glad to have been put in a position to fight back against the all too frequent bullying and inappropriate and misplaced screams of racism that occur on Council,” he wrote. “The behavior of some has too often resembled that of third world kleptocrats and I have relished the opportunity to point out and combat the behavior.”

Even if Erickson could legally stay on the council, he’s too busy as a radio host, website editor and family man to do the job, his letter states.

Erickson said he has stayed in touch with Paris and council committee chairmen, but according to attendance records he hasn’t actually attended a full City Council meeting since Jan. 4.

He missed three subsequent ones, and he wasn’t there for 13 of the 27 council meetings in 2010 -- nearly twice as many absences as any other council member. Council has held two work sessions in 2011, and Erickson missed them both. He attended one Dec. 14, but that was one of only three he attended -- out of 19 -- held in 2010.

He hasn’t attended an Ordinances & Resolutions Committee meeting, of which he’s a member, in nearly five months. His last appearance there was Oct. 4, and there have been nine meetings since then. Erickson was present for just 14 of the committee’s meetings in 2010.

Erickson also is a member of the Community Resources and Development Committee but hasn’t been to any of its four meetings held since Dec. 7. And he was only at nine of the committee’s 20 meetings in all of 2010.

The Public Properties Committee, which Erickson chairs, hasn’t met at all this year. He attended its last meeting, Dec. 14, but missed two of the 16 prior meetings in 2010.

Erickson, whose Red State.com blog regularly rails against government spending, has continued to draw his City Council paycheck every two weeks, according to Human Resources Director Ben Hubbard. Council members are paid $10,000 a year, plus an allowance for a cell phone and gasoline.

With the schedule change making it virtually impossible for him to attend council meetings, it “didn’t seem right to me” to keep the seat any longer, Erickson said.

The remaining 10 months of his term likely will be filled by council appointment.

A special election is required to fill a vacant council seat unless there’s fewer than 12 months left in the previous officeholder’s term, City Attorney Pope Langstaff said. The appointment needs to be made within 20 days of the official vacancy, he said. That would require action by March 12.

Though it’s not in the city charter, a “courtesy tradition” would allow Ward 5 council members Lauren Benedict and Nancy White to nominate someone for the post, Langstaff said.

“That is the tradition, that the two remaining members of the ward come up with a name, but that name has to be approved by a majority of council,” he said.

Benedict said Wednesday she and White have been talking “off and on” since December about a replacement for Erickson but haven’t decided on anyone. She wouldn’t discuss potential candidates.

“I would love to have this handled as soon as possible so that Ward 5 is fully represented,” Benedict said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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