ALBANY, GA (WALB) -
New Albany City Manager Tom Berry has replaced James Taylor, who resigned abruptly from his interim position Tuesday.
The move was part of a shakeup in downtown leadership that left a host of questions, unanswered phone calls, and concerns from the community.
A WALB investigation revealed Taylor paid one city employee a bonus of more than $20,000 and signed off on other bonuses and pay raises just days before he quit.
Taylor came under fire by City Commissioners and taxpayers when documents from a public records request revealed he had given Veronica Wright, a city Risk Management Division Manager, a bonus of $20,374.
Documents including city emails further revealed that Wright had initially requested a bonus of $41,685 - more than double the bonus amount she was actually awarded. She also requested an annual raise of $8,840, but was denied that raise by Taylor.
In a statement Wednesday, Wright responded to the questions surrounding Taylor, commenting that it was "unfair" for him.
In addition, Sandy LeMay was promoted from Accountant to Controller, and received a raise of $28,891.
"I think no man should have that much power," said Albany resident Yusef Ross. "Because that could be money used for homeless shelters, schools, grants, things to empower the city."
"We're paying tax[es]. We've got a right to know what's going on in the city," echoed resident Pat Williams.
Taylor signed off on all the paperwork on July 1st, right before he left for a vacation and put in his letter of resignation.
WALB attempted to contact James Taylor several times since breaking the story about the bonuses and raises, but he did not respond to repeated phone calls and email.
"It sounds planned," said Albany resident Wallace Harper. "And nobody can check it. Nobody can do anything about it."
The City Manager is authorized to spend up to $40,000 without the City Commission's approval. Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said Commissioners may consider changing that.
"The thing I think we probably need to look at is the charter; and maybe if we're not satisfied with the charter, then we need to look at the authority that the City Manager has."
Mayor Hubbard said Thursday she hopes the city will focus on moving forward with the new leadership.
As a correction to part of the story, WALB originally reported that former Interim City Manager Taylor had approved more than eight raises for the finance department. These raises and bonuses were initially proposed, approved, and listed by the city, but were not actually signed of by Taylor.
Raises for Derrick Brown and Sandy LeMay were approved and signed by Taylor. WALB regrets the error.