Americus council maintains decision to terminate former city manager

Americus council keeps decision to terminate former City Manager

AMERICUS, Ga. (WALB) - The decision stands to terminate with cause former Americus City Manager Charles Coney.

The decision came Thursday night after a three-hour appeals hearing on his termination.

Coney was fired back in February, just one day after his one year anniversary on the job.

He was terminated by the city council after an Atlanta law firm investigated complaints by city employees.

The complaints consisted of sexual harassment, sexism and inappropriate content.

One of those complaints involved Coney using Lysol to clean after a council meeting, at which time he said he was under the weather.

Appeal hearings were postponed due to COVID-19.

Wednesday night’s three-hour appeal hearing boiled down to race and the definition of what is a good cause to terminate.

Legal representatives from the City of Americus and the attorney for Coney, Maurice King, made their arguments to a majority-black council.

The City of Americus’ legal team, John Bennett and Timothy Boughey, disputed racist claims in their opening statements. They said “the same body that hired him in the first place. The same body that hired a black HR director.”

Bennett and Boughey are with Freeman Mathis and Gary, LLP out of Atlanta.

“If any of you black members of the council were treated in that manner, you would say you were treated unfairly,” King said during his opening statements.

City of Americus representatives stood behind the sexual harassment claims, while King said the claims were false.

King cross-examined the City of Americus’ two witnesses during the appeal. he asked questions that referred to Coney as having a positive and comfortable relationship with the employees who filed complaints on the former city manager.

King said they were not allowed to gather the needed documents or witnesses for a fair case, even after submitting the correct documents to the City of Americus.

Representatives for the City of Americus said Coney and his team had plenty of time to do so during the delays caused by COVID-19. They also said King could call anyone in the room as a witness, however, King did not.

Coney did not testify because he and his counsel claimed there was no subpoena for him to testify.

Representatives for the City of Americus said a subpoena was not needed for the hearing.

At least three complaints were documented in the investigative report.

Below is a copy of the report.

Two city employees testified. One was a human resources representative. The other was a female city employee who was present when one of the complaints occurred.

Council went into executive session for 30 minutes and returned with their answer.

Councilman Daryl Dowdell could not vote due to a conflict of interest.

Coney was hoping to return to his job or be bought out of his contract.

City leaders said Coney’s contract said he could be fired with or without cause.

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