CITY MANAGER CONTINUES ILLEGAL COVER-UP, WON’T RELEASE POLICE REPORT, SUSPECT’S STATEMENT
By Kevin Hogencamp
The Albany airport’s operations manager has been suspended with pay after being arrested Friday and charged with two felonies, theft by taking and theft by deception. Sean Reddish was released Saturday from the Dougherty County Jail on $10,000 bond.
More arrests could be forthcoming as city officials say that some public records cannot be released because of an ongoing investigation. City Manager Alfred Lott is committing a misdemeanor crime by withholding other records, including the police report, in violation of state law. Reddish is the target of the closely kept police investigation for cashing in on scrap metal left behind from a recently completed airfield lighting and signage project.
In an interview last week with The Albany Journal, Reddish said he did not realize he was doing anything wrong when he made 11 trips from Southwest Georgia Regional Airport to a recycling center in a city vehicle, pocketing about $1,100. Reddish says he made all of the trips in July; city officials, however, refuse to reveal information that would substantiate or reject that claim.
Reddish says a contractor gave him the scrap metal – a claim the contractor supports. Additionally, Reddish says that while working off the clock at the airport, he disassembled the old signage, saving the airport thousands of dollars by salvaging lights and circuit boards that were replaced with new signage by TCA Electrical Contractors of Omega, Ga.
City officials, however, released a public record Tuesday that indicates that the old signs are city property – and weren’t TCA’s to give away or Reddish’s to cash in on. Lott is withholding information that would provide more perspective on the matter, particularly Reddish’s point of view, including Reddish’s statement to Albany police.
Police also are attempting to determine whether Yvette Aehle, the airport director, committed a crime or violated city policy by giving Reddish permission to profit from scrap materials, a claim levied by a former airport worker and steadfastly denied by Aehle and Reddish.
Recently fired airport employee David Bradford said last week in an interview with the Journal that Aehle told Reddish, Bradford and others that they were welcome to profit from selling the airport’s scrap metal at an Albany recycling center. Aehle and Reddish say that Aehle did give permission to the employees to cash in on a small amount of metal that had been at the airport for years – “enough for maybe an employee pizza party,” Aehle said.
Bradford has filed a federal discrimination and hostile-workplace complaint against Reddish and the city.
An Albany law, meanwhile, requires employees who receive gifts to report the gifts to the city Board of Ethics or its designee and to “have the gift added to the inventory of property of the city.” Violating the ethics law is punishable by disciplinary action up to and including termination.
Aehle and Reddish said that Reddish did not take Aehle up on her offer, however, and that Bradford had no knowledge of the metal TCA left behind because Bradford was fired in March.
Reddish says that he readily identified himself at the recycling center as an airport worker, and was wearing his work uniform, which signifies that he didn’t take the scrap metal under a shroud of city. He says that if he is required to do so, he will pay the city the money he made from the scrap metal sales. An airport employee since last fall, Reddish said last week that he has not been shown documentation of a law or policy that he has broken.
Aehle says that she will require Reddish to give the city the money he was paid by the recycling center and that he will also be disciplined following the police investigation. But she, too, says she feels that Reddish is “guilty of poor judgment, but not a crime.”
Following is a report that Assistant City Manager Wes Smith made to Lott on Aug. 10. The document was requested from the city the same day and released to the Journal on Aug. 16.
Late on the afternoon of August 3, 2010, I was called by Veronica Wright, Risk Manager, reporting an anonymous tip that an airport staff member, Sean Reddish, was taking scrap metals from the airport and selling them. Ms. Wright assigned her investigator to go to the scrap metal company the morning of August 4, 2010 to inquire about this possibility. His investigation confirmed several sales totaling over $1,000 by Mr. Reddish, and confirmed that he was in an airport vehicle at the time of the sales.
Ms. Wright informed both Mr. Lott and me of the findings on August 4, 2010. Mr. Lott then advised Yvette Aehle, Airport Director. Ms. Aehle was given a chance that afternoon to ask Mr. Reddish about the events. APD was provided the information as well. Mr. Reddish confirmed much of the information stating that he had permission from the airport sign project construction company to take the scrap and he did not think he had done anything wrong. On August 5, 2010 APD was provided a copy of Mr. Reddish’s written statement given to Ms. Aehle, and asked to conduct a complete investigation to determine if this may be a criminal act.
At this time, the incident is still under investigation by APD, and remains a personnel matter for Ms. Aehle. Once the investigation concludes and a determination on charges, if any, is made, further action will be determined as appropriate.
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