Vote to fire Dougherty Co. administrator under investigation by Ga. Attorney General

The commission voted to fire the county administrator in a 4-3 vote. Commission Chairman Lorenzo Heard broke the tie in favor of termination.
Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 11:55 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 1, 2023 at 6:28 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - A recent vote by the Dougherty County Board of Commissioners to fire the county administrator is under investigation by the Georgia Attorney General’s Office.

The vote to fire Michael McCoy happened on May 22 during a work session meeting for the commission.

The commission voted to fire McCoy in a 4-3 vote. Commission Chairman Lorenzo Heard broke the tie in favor of termination.

Addressed in a letter to the county, the issue with the vote falls under the Georgia Open Meetings Act.

“It appears that the commission posted an agenda for its meeting on May 22, 2023, describing that meeting as a work session. The agenda does not appear to include any reference to discussing the employment status of the county administrator. Further, the applicable meeting packet online does not include any mention of a discussion about the county administrator’s employment status,” the letter states.

“However, during the meeting, the commission apparently approved a motion made to terminate the services of the county administrator. Press reports further state that at the commission’s special called meeting on May 25, 2023, a motion was apparently made to add an agenda item for a vote to repeal the commission’s May 22 decision to terminate the county administrator; that motion failed.”

The issue, the letter states, is whether the commission “properly considered the motion that was voted on at its May 22 meeting, in light of the fact that it was not included on the agenda.”

The Georgia Open Meetings Act states that before any meeting, that entity must make all matters expected to come before the entity during that meeting available on an agenda.

“Failure to include on the agenda an item which becomes necessary to address during the course of a meeting shall not preclude considering and acting upon such item,” the law states.

On Thursday, WALB News 10 asked Heard if the board broke the law.

“There was nothing illegal about the meeting. There was nothing wrong with the meeting, and there was nothing wrong with voting,” he said.

Heard said he is following the Georgia Municipal Association Meetings code. Under work session, it says these meetings “do not prohibit governing body members from taking official action.”

But critics say the board violated the Georgia Open Meetings Act, which requires such an action, to be placed on an agenda and publicized.

Attorney Maurice L. King, Jr., who has previously represented McCoy in a lawsuit against the county, said Georgia has a robust Open Meeting Act to make sure people know before actions are taken.

" You put it on the agenda because there are some citizens who might want to come and be a part of that meeting,” King said.

Heard said during the work session that McCoy should be fired because he did not tell him and the board before McCoy hired an assistant county manager.

“Do I think he should have talked with the board about this decision? Absolutely,” Heard said.

WALB looked up the administrator’s duties in the Dougherty County Code. It says, “the county administrator shall be responsible to the board of commissioners of Dougherty County for the proper administration of all affairs of Dougherty. It shall be his duty to appoint all employees for whom the board is responsible, except the county attorney and the chief of police.”

The code does not say the county administrator needs to inform the board of those hires.

Heard told WALB McCoy also was not on board about including economic development in his duties —something the commission chairman said is one of his top priorities. But that reasoning was not given at the commission meeting when McCoy was fired.

“When the board is not included then the board is not respected. How do you move the county forward? And you take the position that economic development is not your job. You have to decide at some point, okay, where do you cut bait? And we decided that day,” Heard said.