Warner Robins department heads lose job appeals process

mstucka@macon.comFebruary 3, 2014 

Keith Lauritsen cast the sole vote against stripping the appeals process from Warner Robins department heads.

THE TELEGRAPH

WARNER ROBINS -- The climate may get cooler in City Hall, but department heads could feel a bit more heat after the City Council voted Monday.

The council agreed to spend $600,114 to replace the air-conditioning system in City Hall and the civic center. Discussion on the item came in a conference room that was noticeably warm, and city officials said the contractor, Keadle Heating & Air Conditioning, would be pushing to get the system installed before hot weather hits.

That was by far the biggest financial obligation council members approved Monday in a 6-0 vote, with Mayor Randy Toms absent. But another vote, which abolished an appeals process for city department heads, drew much more heat.

The vote split 4-1, with Councilman Keith Lauritsen voting against stripping away the appeals process and Councilman Chuck Shaheen abstaining. Lauritsen told The Telegraph he wished the process hadn’t been so rushed, and he would have liked to have consulted with other people, from the city’s own Human Resources Department to the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, on how to properly handle terminations of department heads.

Such firings are not common, with longtime employees saying it happens about once a decade. In discussions last month, council members who supported the repeal of the appeals process said it was almost moot: A majority of council members would be required to vote to fire a department head, who could then appeal and earn pay until the very same council reconsidered the decision.

Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Davis said Toms supported the measure. He was absent from the meeting because he was working with the state Legislature, Davis said.

Shaheen had suggested the council hold the vote after the mayor returns.

Separately, council members decided they wanted more information on how the intersection of Moody Road and Leisure Lake Drive could be fixed. City Engineer Walter Gray will return with more information on suggested improvements to the intersection, which suffers from short sight distances and other challenges. The project is one of the last to use money from the city’s special purpose local option sales tax.

Officials did not discuss the city’s Fourth of July celebration, though an event planner said last month the City Council will have to decide soon.

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