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Britt: Why reinstate McCorkle?
Council member asks fellow councilmen to explain vote; citizen files suit
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      In the middle of a motion during Tuesday night's Statesboro City Council meeting, Councilman Will Britt asked council members to address their decision to rehire former City Clerk Judy McCorkle, drawing heated comments from other councilmen.

       The council was preparing to vote on an item after a motion was made when Britt abruptly changed the subject, bringing up citizens' concern for City Manager Shane Haynes and controversy surrounding McCorkle's rehiring.

       Haynes fired McCorkle last year after reporting at least four incidents of insubordination. He said he followed the council's directives to exercise his power to do so if he saw fit. However, during the council's June 2 meeting, members voted 3-2 to reinstate McCorkle, after she threatened to sue the city.

       Britt and Councilman Travis Chance voted against the move; council members Tommy Blitch, Gary Lewis and Joe Brannen voted to approve the motion.

       Haynes was not present during the June 2 meeting and was unaware of the council's actions, as he was out of town on family business. Brannen said Tuesday Haynes would be out of the office a while longer tending to his ill father.

       The council's actions June 2 sparked heated reaction from many city employees, concerned about work environment and job stability. Both Britt and Chance publicly questioned why the council needed to settle with McCorkle.

       During his unexpected interruption of council business, Britt ignored the motion on the floor and asked the council to give citizens answers to questions that have been posed "in person, in emails and through the media" concerning the decision to reinstate McCorkle.

       Pointing out what he called an unusually large crowd for city council meetings (the room was about two thirds full), Britt said people were there "in support for Haynes" and asked the other councilmen - Brannen, Lewis and Blitch - to explain their reasons for voting to reinstate McCorkle.

       Chance was not at Tuesday's meeting. According to current City Clerk Sue Starling, he had called to say he "had an emergency meeting and could not get out of it."

       Britt said he wanted to know why Brannen, Lewis and Blitch chose to "restore an employee that clearly did not work with our city manager."

       Brannen interrupted Britt's diatribe with a reminder that a motion was on the table.

       "You're off on something else," he said.


Britt's threats

       Britt threatened to vote against the remainder of the agenda in a blanket move if his questions were not answered.

       "I will vote no on that (the motion in question) and repeat that" for the next 14 issues to be considered for vote, he said.

       "Until we can answer some of the questions that have been proposed ... that have been asked to your face, in e-mails and in the newspaper ... why was this done in a clandestine move?"

       Britt told the other councilmen he would continue with the meeting as it was listed on the agenda if his questions were answered.

       "I would be glad to move forward," he said. "I would be glad to vote yes on (the motion on the table) and the rest ..."

       But Brannen interrupted again. "We'll table all those (other motions)," he said.

       Britt said he would "rather not stop the flow of government" but wanted to "give the opportunity to answer a question."

       He said he had driven back to Statesboro from South Carolina in order to make the meeting, and again pointed out the significance of what he said was an unusually large crowd.

       "I don't think we've had a crowd this large in years," he said.

       Lewis spoke up, anger evident in his tone. "I do think you're off in left field by yourself," he told Britt. "No, I won't be forced (to answer). I think you're trying to impress the crowd."

       During the exchange, Lewis did refer to a rumor that has been circulating that the council planned to fire Haynes.

       "We're not gonna fire Haynes tonight, not gonna fire him next week, not gonna fire him the week after that," he said.

       When Britt continued pressing for an answer, Lewis was visibly upset. "I have a right to vote any way I want and I don't have to answer to you ... that's not on the agenda."

       "The only reason three (video) cameras are here are because of this," Britt said.

       "I'm not going to answer your question because personally, I don't have to," Lewis countered.

       Brannen interceded. "It was an item that did not need to be brought up at this meeting," he told Britt. After a brief exchange, all councilmen agreed to move on with the agenda.

       Britt voted to approve the remainder of the motions filed, and even made some motions himself. The actions taken by councilmen included approving resolutions to make changes in fees and charges in various departments, as well as motions to approve construction of a well to replace one lost last year.

       Councilmen also voted to approve budget amendments to Fiscal Year 2009 and 2010 budgets; a motion to adopt a resolution to revise the Bulloch County Joint Service Delivery Strategy and other city business.

       McCorkle was not present during Tuesday night's meeting, but she was reportedly at City Hall Monday.

       By the council's vote, McCorkle was reinstated to her former positions of city clerk, director of finance and administration and supervisor of city elections following an executive session during the council's June 2 meeting.

      City attorney Sam Brannen said McCorkle could not act officially in her position as city clerk until she is formally reappointed by the council.

       "(McCorkle) was reinstated by a vote of the council, but she has not been reappointed," Brannen said. "Since she was out of her position for some time, she needs to be reappointed."

       Brannen did not know when the council would take that action.

Citizen files suit against city

       While he did not speak during the council meeting, a Statesboro man who filed suit against the city Tuesday was present at the meeting. Anthony Mann said he did not seek to be placed on the agenda to speak Tuesday.

       Mann filed suit with the Bulloch County Clerk's Office Tuesday at 5:05 p.m., claiming the Statesboro City Council violated the city charter by voting to reinstate McCorkle.

       Mann's suit claims the actions taken by Brannen, Lewis and Blitch were "not authorized by law" and states House Bill 1460, passed in 2000, supercedes previous charter language and that the council lacks the power to reinstate McCorkle.

      Mann said he is "a resident of the City of Statesboro and has a vested interest in the legal and orderly operation of city government and the expenditure of city tax revenues."



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