A simmering debate about whether to hire a city administrator boiled over at the Warner Robins City Council meeting Monday, including allegations of secret meetings.
The discussion began in pre-council when Councilman Keith Lauritsen suggested that the council state its plans for a city administrator so that those running for mayor will know what the job will entail. Council members Mike Davis and Clifford Holmes disagreed and the discussion soon became heated.
Holmes said he wasn’t taking a side in whether the city should have an administrator but does not believe it should make any pronouncement on it before the election.
Councilman Tim Thomas said that was not the reason.
“I’m not going to make a vote on anything to slant an election either way,” Thomas said. “That’s not what our intent it is. ... I do believe that we have a responsibility to those who are putting down their $3,000 (qualifying fee) to run for mayor, that this is our intent if you get elected.”
Davis, who is opposed to having a city administrator, accused other council members of having secret meetings on the issue, including with a potential candidate for the job. Council members Tim Thomas, Chuck Shaheen and Holmes denied they have met illegally. Up to three council members can meet without it being open to the public and they said they have remained in that limit.
The discussion became especially heated when Mayor Randy Toms said he wanted all future meetings on the subject to be in the open. Shaheen and Holmes both took offense, saying they took that as an accusation.
“There was one meeting that I absolutely believe was illegal,” Toms said.
Holmes said he did go to a meeting and when he got there he saw there were three other council members, and he implied that he did not go in. He also said City Attorney Jim Elliott was there.
“This is the strategy of people that are insecure because they are going to point the finger somewhere else to try to say that someone else is doing something wrong instead of addressing the issue,” Shaheen said, referring to Toms. “Obviously your city attorney is there, if we had done something wrong, he would have pointed it out.”
Shaheen has said he would run for mayor if the council approved a city administrator. But he said in the meeting that he is running for mayor “whether it is full or part time.”
Toms has advocated turning the job of city clerk into a city administrator by giving the clerk more authority.