ALBANY, Ga. -- Known for her calm, mild-mannered demeanor, Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard reached a breaking point with Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell at the Albany City Commission's work session Tuesday, banging her gavel to cut Postell off as he railed against Water, Gas & Light Commission policies.
"I will not be short-changed," Postell said as Hubbard cut him off.
"My intention is not to short-change you," Hubbard said. "But you have strayed into an area that is not on the agenda. We know the money (requested and approved for WG&L expenditures) was used as the ordinance was written; these people have not misused that money.
"When you want to discuss this further and it's on the agenda, we will."
Postell had initially questioned WG&L Finance Director John Vansant about annual stipends of some $8,400 given to four utility executives in lieu of their using WG&L vehicles, money Postell called "bonuses." Vansant acknowledged that the practice had been implemented by Water, Gas & Light Executive Director Lem Edwards "10 or 12 years ago."
Then Postell turned his remarks to the WG&L board, which is appointed by the City Commission.
"If someone on that board is giving the city's money away, we need to get them off ASAP," the Ward VI commissioner said. "They're doing work that is clandestine."
When Postell started talking about Edwards, Hubbard cut him off.
"Your director is not superior to the city manager," Postell said. "When you do things we do not know about, citizens think ..."
Hubbard rapped her gavel.
"It is not fair for you to share your opinion on the general manager with (Vansant and WG&L Assistant General Manager Keith Goodin) when Mr. Edwards is not here," Hubbard said. "Mr. Vansant and Mr. Goodin have no say in this matter.
"We appreciate your opinion, but it's an opinion that's going to require four votes from this table. They have provided information you requested, and now you're expressing your opinion about Mr. Edwards. We knew what your opinion was from the beginning."
Hubbard said after the meeting she'd encouraged Postell to speak about the matter of Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia reimbursement credits approved for use by WG&L to make repairs on the utility's building and to buy equipment. Postell had initially said the request was only for money to repair the roof on the building and to repair its elevator.
Minutes from the meeting at which the funding was approved, however, showed that WG&L officials had requested additional funds for specific equipment as well. The money allocated totalled $1 million.
"We gave Mr. Postell an opportunity to discuss that matter last week, but he chose not to," Hubbard said. "This was not the forum for him to bring it back up. And it was not the forum -- not in an open session like this -- for him to talk about someone who was not present."
Vansant said after the meeting that all expenditures, including funding for vehicles, is discussed before the entire City Commission and at least twice more in open WG&L meetings before being approved.
"Mr. Postell believes we should change the way we run an organization that has been run the same way for more than 100 years," the WG&L finance director said. "I believe he has a lot of anger about the emergency (rate) increase we passed earlier this year."