WARNER ROBINS — Henrietta McIntyre stood idly by after Thursday night’s called City Council meeting, waiting for her turn to speak to the mayor and council.
She had sat for an hour as the council met in a closed session, then watched the group reverse a decision by the mayor suspending Police Chief Brett Evans for violating a city ordinance prohibiting political activity by city employees.
McIntyre made her way, supporting her frail 85-year-old frame with a cane she’s using while recovering from foot surgery, to each member of the city’s governing board to voice her displeasure with them. In the 66 years she’s been in the city, including 20 as a council member and a year as acting mayor, she said she’d never seen a spectacle like the “circus” she has witnessed since January.
“It’s an embarrassment to Warner Robins, and an embarrassment to the state of Georgia,” McIntyre told Councilman Bob Wilbanks. “If I could walk, I would be out there with a petition to recall every one of ya.”
After meeting in closed session for more than an hour on “personnel matters and matters of potential litigation,” Councilman Bob Wilbanks made the motion reinstating Evans, which passed 5-1.
Evans missed work Wednesday and Thursday after Mayor Chuck Shaheen suspended him for seven days without pay for violating a city ordinance prohibiting political activity by a city employee.
A mediator hired by the city to investigate harassment claims made against the police department by another employee said she discovered during interviews that Evans had told employees during a supervisor’s meeting that mayoral candidate Chuck Chalk had the best interests of the police department in mind. Jennifer Keaton of the Atlanta firm One Mediation also said it was determined Evans had campaign signs for Chalk in the yard at his Houston County home.
Friday morning, he said, he’ll be back behind his desk, ready to work.
“All I’m going to say is I appreciate the support of the council, the citizens and my employees,” Evans said after Thursday’s vote.
Councilman John Williams, who voted against the reinstatement, said he felt the decision of the mayor should have been upheld by the council.
“Brett Evans is a good police chief and a good friend,” Williams said. “But this council has not supported this mayor. I think it’s up to the council to uphold the mayor’s decision.
“And uphold the law.”
Wilbanks said penalizing Evans for something others also were guilty of did not sit well with him.
“When we take action on someone in the city, we’re making a statement,” he said. “If you think one employee made one statement about one election in a city of 500 employees, you’re mistaken.”
But if there are others who violated the same policy, why not go after them all?
“I’m not saying that you don’t punish anybody, or everybody,” Wilbanks said. “We just ask the mayor, as CEO, show fairness.”
What Thursday night’s meeting did was further underline the contention between the mayor and most of the council.
If it’s something the mayor wanted, the council was sure to vote against it. If it was something the council wanted, they say the mayor would find a way to come up with another option. His option.
A project to get a new building for the police department. Delayed. Annexation of “islands” into the city. Approved, but barely.
Several members of the council voiced their thoughts on the contention, saying Thursday night they plan to try working better with each other. Williams said again after the meeting that the council needs to better support the mayor.
Resident Mac McCraw agreed.
“He’s the only real man up there,” McCraw said of Williams.
To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.