Macon IT director's future uncertain

Macon’s manager of information and technology was on administrative leave Thursday, his future with the city unclear.

Tom Tourand, the city’s IT director, was sent home Wednesday by Chief Administrative Officer Thomas Thomas after being asked to surrender his office keys and city cell phone. Thomas said he has given Tourand two options regarding his employment — the CAO would not say what the choices were — to which he must respond by noon today.

Tourand saw the administrative leave as an effort to fire him. After being sent home, he sent an e-mail to Mayor Robert Reichert and all 15 City Council members asking to meet with Reichert to “respectfully request that my termination be reconsidered.” In that same e-mail, Tourand said he had diligently performed the tasks requested of him and had never refuted Thomas’ directives.

“I don’t understand the manner in which I am being treated, and don’t feel that I have done anything so gravely wrong to be terminated,” he wrote.

Tourand declined to comment on the situation Thursday.

Thomas said his initial intention had been to place Tourand on leave until they could sit down and discuss ongoing departmental issues. The CAO had reprimanded Tourand by letter in late April for missing project deadlines, not ordering computers on time, lacking a plan for computer replacement in the next budget cycle and “personalizing issues and becoming defensive during discussions.”

Thomas said the final straw involved creation of a tracking system to monitor requests for repairs and to collect performance measurement data.

The IT department does not have such a system, which Thomas said was commonly used in cities where he previously worked. He asked Tuesday that one be implemented by June 30 using as framework a separate, less comprehensive program already in place for managing other projects.

The tone of Tourand’s e-mailed response to that request led to the current situation, Thomas said.

“He was very angry,” Thomas said. “I thought it was best that he go home because he was angry.”

In the e-mail, the IT director agreed to bring the new system online by month’s end but seemed to criticize Thomas for meddling. He told the CAO the tracking system as requested was not the panacea he thought it was, but “of course coming from someone lacking any true hands-on management of day-to-day technical operations, this glaring oversight is understandable.”

“I do not agree with your assumptions concerning the operation of this department that has been managed well by me for nearly 8 years,” Tourand wrote to Thomas. “Further, I do not hold to management styles that reflect an insecure personality nor which demonstrate an inexperienced person that oftentimes demands constant documentation and micromanagement of experts.”

Thomas called such comments “derogatory.” He said he was also concerned that Tourand did not realize he had been previously reprimanded. The CAO wrote an April 30 letter of reprimand to Tourand, outlining problems he found with the department in the interest of accountability and “improving your performance.” But the IT director wrote in his e-mail to Reichert and council members that he had never received a formal reprimand or disciplinary action.

Tourand was hired in July 2001. He previously worked for the city of Atlanta.

If he were ousted, it would mark the third department-level manager to be shown the door since Reichert took office at the end of 2007 and Thomas started work last November.

Former Economic and Community Development Director Kevin DuBose was forced to resign at the end of January. In February, the mayor fired Lori Howard, who was the administrator of the Macon-Bibb Office of Workforce Development.

Andrew Blascovich, Reichert’s director of external affairs, said there has been no conscious effort to weed out department heads predating the current administration.

“In terms of one of the campaign promises the mayor made, he said he was going to bring top-level management to the city,” Blascovich said. “When you want top-flight management, you bring accountability to your departments.”

To contact writer Matt Barnwell, call 744-4251.