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Dawson mayor defies council vote

Christopher Wright

Christopher Wright

DAWSON, Ga. -- The honeymoon period, it seems, may have ended sooner than expected for Dawson's young mayor.

The Dawson City Council voted 4-2 at its Feb. 14 meeting to stop Chris Wright, the city's 23-year-old mayor who ousted 32-year incumbent Robert Albritten on Nov. 6, from using a city-owned vehicle. City Manager Barney Parnacott had requested the discussion, and council members Charlie Sanders, Calvin Stephens, Sam Ward and George Wilson voted to halt Wright's use of the vehicle.

Not that Wright's given the vote much credence.

"I had been driving the city-owned car to conduct city business, and I still am," Wright said Thursday. "(Some city officials) are saying being mayor is a part-time position as if that should keep me from doing what the people require of me.

"Funny thing, though: They didn't seem to come to that same conclusion with my predecessor, who had a number of DUIs. If these folks would look at the city charter, they'd see that the mayor serves as CEO of the city government and as CEO has the responsibility of initiating what goes on in the city. They say that the city manager is the person with the power, but the city manager is responsible for carrying out what the mayor initiates. There just hasn't been much initiating going on around here lately."

Albany attorney Tommy Coleman, who serves as Dawson's city attorney, said any piece of equipment owned by any municipality should not be used for personal business. Coleman said he did not attend the Feb. 14 council meeting at which the vote was taken, but he said the rules that govern use of taxpayer-funded property are pretty much universal.

"The rule about use of, in this case, a car, is the same rule that applies to typewriters, cellphones and pencils," Coleman said. "A city official can't use taxpayer-funded public property for personal use. Since it's paid for by the public, its only allowable use is for public business.

"Now does that mean that if a police officer is allowed to take home a staff vehicle he cannot stop off at the Winn-Dixie and pick up a loaf of bread? I don't think anyone would expect the rule to be that strict. But the bottom line is that you just can't use public vehicles for private use."

Wright said he thought the vehicle discussion and vote came about after unfounded complaints from citizens as well as city officials.

"It's just crazy," the mayor said. "Someone called (City Hall) and said they saw (the city vehicle) at McDonald's. As if I just jumped in it to drive to McDonald's. I was on city business, and it was lunch time. What did they expect?

"And then I was headed for a trip out of town on city business and I stopped by the funeral home where I work part-time (Johnson and Son Funeral Service in Dawson) to pick up my briefcase. Someone called and said I was using it for personal work. It's almost comical."

According to minutes from the Feb. 14 City Council meeting obtained by The Herald through an Open Records request, Wright told the council during the meeting: "I wake up and go to sleep at night as mayor, 24 hours a day. I think it is feasible for me to use city transportation to take care of city business."

Wright also criticized detractors Wednesday who emphasized his status as a "part-time employee."

"Councilman Stephens used that argument, and I told him the next time someone broke into his house and we had one of our part-time police officers on duty, we'd let the policeman walk to his house so that he didn't have to use a city vehicle," the mayor said. "Or if we had to call on a part-time firefighter, we'd let him walk to the fire with buckets of water in his hands.

"They told me I should use my vehicle (for city business) and let the city pay me mileage at 37 cents a mile. I'm not doing that. As long as I'm in office, I intend to do the city's business the best way I can. And none of them are going to stop me."

Comments

dickyboy 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm with the mayor.... if Albritten got away with it..why not Mr Wright...why didn't Tommy Coleman address that during the Albritten reign...

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Trustbuster 1 year, 1 month ago

Mr. Coleman enjoys collecting his lawyer money by serving as city attorney to all of these hick towns. There is no telling how much dinero Tommy Boy makes. In Sylvester Coleman and his son work the traffic courts. He profits from govt. conflicts leading to law suits. This is another form of vampirism.

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jglass 1 year, 1 month ago

Mayor Wright, you stand your ground. DO NOT let them run all over you.

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maryvan 1 year, 1 month ago

Albritten used a city vehicle for city business. the rest of the time he drove his own car. Does the present major even have a personal car?

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maryvan 1 year, 1 month ago

Albritten drove a city car only for city business. the rest of the time he drove his own personal vehicle. Does the present mayor even own his own personal vehicle?

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 1 month ago

You go, Mayor!!! I think some people are just p.o.ed you won and want revenge. Keep your head held high.

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maryvan 1 year, 1 month ago

Guess KoasinAlbany doesn't pay Dawson taxes!!

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rightasrain 1 year, 1 month ago

Sounds to me that certain council members (and residents) are a hell of a lot racist and this is just bitterness that a black man is mayor. If fact, I'm confident they are; after all, this is Dawson and the new mayor doesn't fit in with the "good ole boy" crowd like Albritton. As far as Coleman goes...well, he's a lawyer...and he's not going to ruffle the feathers of the white boys in Dawson. Just to let anyone who's interested know...I'm a white male and I'm sick of racism from both sides, black and white.

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B4it 1 year, 1 month ago

Why would a city the size of Dawson need a car for a mayor (regardless of what as been done in the past)?

Start making good financial decisions for the tax payers. One way to solve this is for the City council to stop funding for a vehicle. There can not be that much business for the mayor to do in Dawson to justify having a dedicated automobile for the mayor.

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cleanup 1 year, 1 month ago

To B4it you are right , the business of the mayor is in walking distance from the City Hall to Johnson and Son Funeral Home where he work ..I guest parttime .....B4it The first thing the new mayor should have put in place was to get rid of that old big white car (gas drinker) that is a eyesore for the city of dawson. that would have been one good financial decision.

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cleanup 1 year, 1 month ago

Mayor C.Wright , you was not elected to point fingers, you was elected to improved the city of Dawson, what format our last mayor had was his format and what he did .. he did.. policeman are during there jobs , firemens are doing there jobs Now you do your job.. you need to focus on good decisions that is best for the citizens of Dawson , and remember the citizens put you in the office and citizens can move you ... NO ONE CAN STOP THEM !!!

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gotanyfacts 1 year, 1 month ago

Sounds like a maturity issue from both sides if we have all the significant details. Does the city have stated guidelines for the use of the car and a log for its use? Having the log, including notes of stops for personal business along the way, available for public review would give those complaining a place to check out their concerns before firing a shot with only half-a load. The City Council should determine that the Mayor has willfully abused access to the car before denying him its use. The quotes attributed to the mayor gives an impression of someone who may be confused about the authority he has acquired. (“… they say that the city manager is the person with the power, but the city manager is responsible for carrying out what the mayor initiates.”) Looks like Dawson has a situation where simple issues can’t be easily resolved because the “leaders” are focused on turf.

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 1 month ago

The Mayor should be allowed to use the city's car. That is just a pitiful nit-picky thing that the pissed off losers and supporters of Albritten are stirring up. Grow up Dawson!!! Leave that man alone and let him do his job....

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solo67997 1 year ago

Man who gave the city counsil's all this power? they are only interested in how much kick back they can receive, Hold your ground Mayor you are elected by the entire city. council's just have a area of people that vote for them,

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