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Closed session focuses on city lawyer's office

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY, Ga. -- Working behind closed doors for nearly six hours Tuesday, the Albany City Commission questioned the entire staff of the city attorney's office after what one commissioner said were internal personnel issues were brought to the commission table.

When they finished at 2:50 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, commissioners took no action and said relatively little about their discussions.

Mayor Pro Tem Christopher Pike, who presided over the last portion of the meeting after Mayor Willie Adams had to leave early, said that there will be likely more meetings before the body decides what, if any, action could be taken.

"We have been addressing some issues brought before us concerning the city attorney's office," Pike said after the meeting. "I can't go much more into it than that because it is a personnel matter ... but there will likely be a future executive session to finish discussions."

After Adams convened the meeting and went into closed session at 9 a.m., commissioners called before them City Attorney Nathan Davis, Assistant City Attorney Janiece Smith, Niger Thomas with the human resources department, and Assistant City Attorney Kathy Strang.

Following the meeting, Davis said that he would reserve comment until after the commission completed its work.

"I can't really comment at this point, not until they're done," Davis said over the phone from his office at the Law Enforcement Center.

As the commissioners interviewed various members of city staff, The Albany Herald received information from two different city employees that the issue before the commission stems from ongoing friction between Davis and a staff member in his office that escalated when Davis recently attempted to fire the employee but was told by the city officials that it was outside of his authority to do so.

Under the city charter, Davis is hired or fired by the City Commission because he is considered an appointee of the commission. But those who work in his office are, under the charter, city employees who can only be hired or fired by City Manager Alfred Lott.

Much like other city departments, Davis can recommend termination or other disciplinary action, but it must be approved by Lott before it can be carried out. "Well, it's because I'm the one who is down range on things like that; I'm the one who gets sued," Lott said.

Following the meeting, The Herald requested the latest evaluations of staff who work within the city attorney's office, as well as that of Davis himself. Additionally, the newspaper requested any complaints that may have been filed against Davis in the last 30 days.

Davis has been in the headlines recently after the commission voted to suspend him for three days after Strang discovered a handgun and knife in his desk drawer.

City officials would not speak as to whether the handgun incident was specifically related to Tuesday's marathon closed meeting.