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City settles with Judy McCorkle
Council votes to award former city clerk $365,000 to settle potential litigation
McCorkle photo
Judy McCorkle - photo by FILE
    In another surprising move, the Statesboro city council reversed itself again and voted 3-1 to settle the potential litigation with former City Clerk Judy McCorkle, awarding her $365,000 to settle all claims.
    The motion to settle was floated by Councilman Will Britt after a brief executive session. Councilmen Gary Lewis and Tommy Blitch voted in favor of settling while Councilman Travis Chance voted against. Mayor Bill Hatcher did not attend the meeting, so Mayor Pro-Tem Joe Brannen presided over the meeting and did not cast a vote.
    Britt said he was not happy with the entire progression of the McCorkle situation over the past 12 months, but said he is happy for the matter to finally be resolved.
    “I personally wanted this to go to court, but I was worried that one of the three other councilmen (who voted for McCorkle’s reinstatement) would change their mind and vote to bring Judy back,” Britt said. “I wanted this to end today.
    Half of the $365,000 settlement will paid by the city out of its general fund balance, and the other half will be covered by the city’s insurance carrier, the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency.
    McCorkle was terminated by City Manager Shane Haynes last August on grounds of insubordination. Then in June, the council voted 3-2 to reinstate McCorkle to her former positions of city clerk, director of finance and administration and supervisor of elections. She returned to work for four days in June, at the request of the mayor, but subsequently stopped after a declaratory judgment was filed by Statesboro citizen Tony Mann, which argued the council did not have the authority to hire and fire employees in a city manager form of government.
    Chance said he cast the sole dissenting vote because it would go against his principles to award McCorkle any money at this time.
    “Even though my vote didn’t change anything, I could not look the voters in the eye and say that I did this,” Chance said. “I started out saying that this was not what we needed to do.”
    According to the agreement, McCorkle’s separation from employment is considered a “voluntary resignation” and she releases the city from any future claims relating to her employment with the city or her resignation. In addition, the settlement states McCorkle “represents and warrants that she will not seek re-employment with the city.”
    Though all concerned parties, including McCorkle and Mayor Pro-Tem Joe Brannen, have signed the document, the agreement will not take effect for seven days, after a federally mandated “cooling off” period.
    Lewis, who voted in June to reinstate McCorkle to her former positions, refused to comment on his decision to change his mind and said he wanted the case to be resolved so the city could move forward.
    “I can have a change of heart if I want to. For the betterment of the city, let’s just let it go. We’ve got over issues facing us and we need to straighten those up too,” Lewis said. “Everybody seems to be happy with it, so let’s just let it be.”
    The status of the declaratory judgment filed by Mann, which sought to prevent the city council from reinstating McCorkle on the grounds the city charter did not give authority for the council to act in such a manner, is still in question. As of now, the hearing is still scheduled for Aug. 24.
    “The city can now take a deep breath and move on,” Britt said. “I wanted this to be done for the staff – the staff needs this behind them.”
    Mayor Hatcher was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

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