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Rosen: Albany Civic Center chief deal nixed over diluted drug screenings

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- The man who was initially tapped as the city's top choice to become the head of the civic center says that he was unfairly dismissed as a candidate when two pre-employment drug tests came back inconclusive.

Lane Rosen, who is the managing partner of the State Theatre downtown, was declared the "most qualified candidate," by Albany City Manager Alfred Lott Dec. 15.

But by December 30, city officials said that negotiations had turned sour and that no agreement had been reached.

Citing the city's policy for confidentiality on personnel matters, Assistant City Manager Wes Smith told The Herald at the time only that "I'm not going to talk about it as a courtesy to him," he said. "I'm sorry (it didn't work out) and we need to move on."

At the same time, Rosen initially blamed bad timing for the failed negotiations.

""Do you think this is a good time to negotiate with the city?," he said. "It is very challenging to deal with the city at this point."

But in an e-mail to the Herald Tuesday, Rosen spelled out what he contends to be the series of events that ultimately led to his fall from grace as the would-be head of the Albany Civic Center complex.

He cites two drug tests he was told to take prior to negotiations being finalized.

According to Rosen, he was told to take a pre-employment drug test on December 27 by a member of the city manager's staff.

The next day, he was told to take a second test without being told why, before meeting with Lott on Dec. 29 for a final round of negotiations.

During that meeting, Rosen contends he was told by Lott that both of his urine samples had come back as "inconclusive;" the result of being diluted.

After having his another test done at his own expense, Rosen said he was informed by Lott informed that under city hiring policy two consecutive inconclusive results equals a failure of the drug screening and that further negotiations would not take place.

Rosen says that he believes he should have been made aware of the results of the first test before he was instructed to take a second, that he should've been allowed 48 hours under city policy to retest rather than the 24 he was given and, moreover, that the results of his own test came back negative for drugs.

"I insist that I was totally available and forthcoming for the process and that city representatives that I dealt with were not, or at the least, were uneducated with regards to human resource matters. I should have been afforded the same medical consultation and instructions that are given to current employees after a first diluted test. This medical explanation of results is given to all city employees after a first test on a mandatory basis but was not in my case.

"I regret that misguided policies (new hires have different rules than current employees) and inadequate execution of duties by city personnel (total absence of Human Resources involvement) have obstructed what was sure to be a positive turn in this city's economics and morale," he writes.

In response to the e-mail Tuesday, Lott declined to comment specifically about Rosen's drug test or any other facet of his pre-employment screening, but said that the city has a policy in place for pre-employment drug tests and that policy was followed.

"If there are two inconclusives...two consecutive inconclusives for that particular employee or potential employee, that employee shall not be considered for employment," Lott said. "That's what the policy says, that's what we've done in this and every other case."

Under a request using Georgia's Open Records laws, the city provided The Herald with a copy of its pre-employment drug screening policy.

That policy states in part, that "two consecutive, inconclusive results shall be considered to be a positive drug test result and shall also preclude an applicant from being employed by the City/WG&L."

It also suggests that there is a different standard for applicants than for employees in terms of consideration, saying that employees who have two consecutive inconclusives "shall be considered a positive drug test result by the Medical Review Officer and shall cause an employee to either be terminated or referred to the EAP (employee assistance program.)"

In his e-mail, Rosen also suggests that Lott told him that the city would take the public position that negotiations weren't fruitful and suggested to him that he attribute the split up to Rosen's hesitance to divest himself of his interests at the State Theatre which was viewed as a possible stumbling block given the conflict-of-interest it poses to booking events at the civic center.

Lott has since tapped former Valdosta-Lowndes Conference Center and Tourism Authority Executive Director Timothy Mabe as the top remaining candidate for the position.