WARNER ROBINS — Former City Clerk Stan Martin said Monday the actions that led to his termination by the city were misconstrued, and criticized the current mayor and council for missing the chance to “right this wrong and hire me back.”
Martin was fired late last year for actions involving what authorities say was an attempt to break into the late Mayor Donald Walker’s office in search of guns and money that allegedly was hidden there. Martin has said he knew of no such treasures, and was trying to prove to another employee that they didn’t exist.
Speaking before Monday’s pre-council session in the second-floor conference room at City Hall, he said he saw what happened to him as simply the result of being on the wrong side of politics in Warner Robins.
“I never had a chance to explain my side,” Martin said to the audience of about 50 people. “When did trying to help another employee who was having a hard time become conduct unbecoming? When did examining a building that you have keys for, where the employees call you when a toilet overflows ... become conduct unbecoming? Where did looking for a gun that could pose a possible threat to someone become conduct unbecoming?”
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Martin said he was trying to quell a rumor heard by information technology employee Christine Armstrong that Walker was hiding money and weapons in his office. A week after the mayor’s death, the two set about, equipped with a ladder and the combination to Walker’s longtime assistant Faye Coulter’s office, to see what was hidden in the ceiling of the office. Martin said he poked his head into the ceiling after removing a tile, finding nothing consistent with the rumor. He allowed Armstrong to look as well.
“She looked, and said ‘I guess you’re right,’ ’’ he said. “We put the ceiling tile down, folded up the ladder. She went home and I went back to work.”
The next day, he says, he got a call from then-Mayor John Havrilla, saying he was being placed on administrative leave with pay while the incident was investigated. Martin says he told Havrilla he could explain what happened. Havrilla, Martin said, told him he could tell his story to Houston County District Attorney Kelly Burke.
Burke’s office handled the initial investigation into the incident, finding nothing to warrant criminal charges against Martin or Armstrong. On Dec. 27, however, the council voted to terminate Martin’s employment with the city, citing conduct unbecoming as the reason. Armstrong was notified of her termination by mail.
Martin said he couldn’t understand how he had been fired while nothing happened to others he said also made questionable decisions. He mentioned the shooting of a turtle at a city sewage plant, and pictures he said allegedly were taken from City Hall.
Martin also claims the current mayor and council could have rehired him when they took office in January. Retired educator Alton Mattox began as the city’s clerk two weeks ago.
“This mayor and this council had a perfect opportunity to right this wrong and hire me back,” he said. “Instead, they chose to hire Alton Mattox. Instead they ignored me. Ignored the basic principles of right and wrong.”