City HR quits, rips officials

ALBANY, Ga. -- The head of the city's Human Resources department has resigned, leaving behind a scathing letter filled with accusations targeting high-level city officials.

Mary LaMont's resignation was officially accepted Monday, City Manager Alfred Lott said.

In a response to an Open Records Request filed Tuesday by The Albany Herald, the city released her resignation letter. That letter was first published along with the initial story at albanyherald.com.

In it, LaMont accuses Lott personally of making sexist and racist comments to her, including stating that "being white will always be 'an issue' for (LaMont)" and that "the Human Resource Department needs a 'male authority' to gain control of the women" working in the department.

Lott said Tuesday that the letter was "fraught with inaccuracies," and that city officials had tried as late as Monday to speak with LaMont and address her concerns.

"The word absurd comes to mind," Lott said, when asked about the accusations made in the letter. "Mary was a good employee. She did a lot of good work in HR and we would have liked to have seen her stay.

But I can say unequivocally that the comments made about me and my staff in that letter aren't true."

LaMont has been a central figure in the city's efforts to create a new personnel management policy and, according to her letter, has developed the city's first new employee handbook in 35 years.

But she contends that after she filed a federal discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission the city retaliated by reducing her workload, undermining her authority in front of her subordinates and making false statements against her to others with the ultimate goal of making her miserable enough so that she would resign.

"The conditions of my employment with the city of Albany have become so intolerable and insufferable that I can no longer continue to bear the brunt of your continued acts of retaliation to force me out of the organization," LaMont writes. "Therefore, the purpose of this letter is to inform you that you have become successful in your efforts to affect a constructive discharge against me. I am resigning my position effective Monday, July 12, 2010."

In response, Lott says that the city took no steps to retaliate against LaMont, but that they also refused to budge when LaMont asked to be placed on paid administrative leave when she filed the complaint.

"She wanted to be put on paid leave until the complaint was handled and sit at home on the taxpayer's dime," Lott said. "I couldn't do that.

"So she gave us an ultimatum that if we couldn't do that, that her resignation was in her desk."

Lott said that the accusations are meritless and aren't supported by any evidence, and that he'd be willing to defend himself in court if it comes down to a suit.

In the meantime, Angela Price has been named interim HR department head until a search is started to find a permanent replacement. Price has served as interim director before.