The Statesboro City Council essentially fired City Manager Shane Haynes Tuesday night. Perhaps they did him a favor by calling for his resignation, which qualifies him for a healthy severance payout, or they saved themselves from another expensive lawsuit.
Either way, Haynes is out, but that still leaves city residents with the problem of a council that has almost no credibility.
Make no mistake, what council member Travis Chance said after Tuesday's action is true: All of Haynes' major decisions since he took office in July 2008 were made with the knowledge of the mayor (Bill Hatcher and Joe Brannen) and council and all were approved by a majority of the council.
Let's run down the list:
When discrepancies were reported in Haynes' resume shortly after he was hired, Mayor Hatcher and others stood behind him.
When Haynes reported he was having insubordination issues with then city clerk Judy McCorkle, he was told by the mayor and council members to try to work with McCorkle, but the decision was his if he believed he needed to make a change. Of course, when he did fire McCorkle, Hatcher and several council members tried to say they never discussed her possible dismissal.
When Haynes hired outside counsel to help with the defense for the city after McCorkle threatened legal action, it was claimed Haynes acted without the knowledge of the mayor or council. But Mayor Hatcher signed every one of the checks paying for the service.
Haynes was directed by the council not to raise the millage rate to meet any budget shortfall, so one of his cost-cutting actions was to combine the police and fire departments and fire longtime Police Chief Stan York and several other long-serving city employees.
While we believe the whole situation could have been handled better, and said so at the time, all of Haynes' actions in the matter were discussed with every council member and ultimately approved unanimously by the council.
Financial settlements with McCorkle, and former city engineer Maz Elhaj, and separations with York and former fire chief Dennis Merrifield that cost more than $650,000 were all approved by the council.
No doubt Haynes made mistakes in his brief tenure and was not as politically savvy as he should have been. However, his forced resignation did not come about because he didn't follow orders from Council. Perhaps he made too many enemies because he did.
Chance voted against the move. Will Britt, a supporter of Haynes, said he voted to seek a resignation to help ensure Haynes received a full severance. So why did council members Gary Lewis, John Riggs and Tommy Blitch vote to oust Haynes Tuesday night? Why do they believe it is necessary to use more than $100,000 of taxpayer money to help make Haynes go away?
Lewis made clear he doesn't believe his constituents have a right to know.
Riggs issued a statement saying the move was in the best interests of the city, but nowhere did he say what those best interests are. A month earlier Riggs said Haynes was doing a good job and particularly praised the changes in the police and fire departments.
Blitch has yet to publically state his reasons for the move.
We do not necessarily disagree with the decision to change city managers. Perhaps so much animosity had built up against Haynes that it really is in the best interests of the city to hire a new top administrator.
But the city council members who are primarily behind this decision - Blitch, Lewis and Riggs - need to tell their constituents why such drastic action was necessary. Taxpayers deserve to know why another six figures soon will be gone from the city budget.
Unfortunately, we don't believe any explanation from Blitch, Lewis or Riggs will be forthcoming.
City government in Statesboro is in a state of disarray. It has no leadership and a city council that has no direction. We believe the personal interests of not only elected leaders but also those of others in the community have overtaken what truly is in the best interests of the city and all its residents.
The upcoming search for a new manager could be a chance to change the city's direction. It offers an opportunity for all council members to put aside personal agendas and find common ground in hiring and backing a new city manager.
However, simply changing managers won't solve Statesboro's problems. And, frankly, current city council members have not shown they are adept at solving problems.