Mega-bonus raises eyebrows - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Mega-bonus raises eyebrows

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ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Some Albany city commissioners and taxpayers are voicing concerns and questions after the city manager gave a city employee a big bonus.   Commissioners are concerned that this decision was made without them during a tight budget time. 

They also worry what message it sends to other workers.     

"That's the slap in the face..."    Albany City Commissioner B. J. Fletcher says a $20,000 bonus City Manager James Taylor gave to Risk Management Division Manager Veronica Wright is an insult to other hard working city employees.

"Look at the people that are saving the taxpayers money. We've downsized in staff and people have rolled up their sleeves and they're taking on two or three roles," said Fletcher.    

Fletcher and other commissioners say they're concerned about how this bonus could affect morale. Mayor Dorothy Hubbard says Taylor gave Wright the bonus because she saved the city $300,000.  

"I respect the fact if that's the truth that this lady saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, but that's her job. Put it in her evaluation form, put it in her sheet, but that's her job," said Fletcher.

We called and e-mailed city manager James Taylor to hear his reason for the bonus, but he's out of the office until Tuesday. He is authorized to spend up to $40,000 without commission approval, but Commissioner Roger Marietta says the bonus was a mistake. "I think it's politically a sensitive issue. And so certainly we would hope that the city manager would give the mayor a heads up or something like that. So that's a concern."

"I respect Mr. Taylor and I respect decisions that he's made, but when it comes to bonuses and the taxpayer's money, I just think that it needs to be a decision that the Mayor needs to be a part of, or the commissioners need to be a part of," said Fletcher.   

Taxpayers are divided on the issue.

"Times are tight, but evidently she deserved it. So I trust his judgment even though again, the finances of the city, it may not have been at the right time, but I trust his judgment," said Taxpayer Michael Stewart.

"If you're going to give out a bonus, give it to everybody. Not just that one person," said Barbara Robinson, a concerned citizen. "That one person doesn't make the whole community. That one person can't run that building by herself. That one person doesn't make up the whole staff."    

Commissioners hope for more answers during their next meeting, Tuesday morning. "It will be discussed and I hope as the Mayor and the commission, we get a handle on this. And personally I'd like to see it recalled," said Fletcher.

Other commissioners also voiced their concerns and want to hear from James Taylor.   There's been talk that he's getting ready to resign, but he has not officially done so.  We reached out to Veronica Wright, who is also out of town this week.      

She was hired as Risk Management Division Manager in 2009. Her duties include managing and administering the Risk and Safety Loss Prevention Program, Workers' Compensation Program and also addressing the city's insurance and property needs as they relate to risk and safety.       

 According to the city's website that office plans, organizes, implements and monitors a comprehensive loss-control program for the City.   It negotiates the adjustment of all insured and uninsured losses, participates in the investigation of accidents and injuries and prepares material the City uses in hearings, lawsuits and insurance investigations.

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