By Kevin Hogencamp
Albany City Manager Alfred Lott’s selectee to fill the Civic Center director slot has notified Lott that he will not accept the job, partly due to Lott’s lame-duck status.
Shannon McCullough, operations director of the Athens Classic Center, says he was surprised to learn that he had received an “informal” job offer from the city. The offer wasn’t informal, but Lott delays official announcements of new hires for 14 because of his continued misinterpretation of a Georgia open records law requirement.
McCullough says he is interested in contracting with the city to provide private managerial services. The suggestion is consistent with a $350,000 strategic plan that was adopted by the City Commission and then was quickly and largely abandoned after Lott was hired to manage the city in September 2005.
State law requires political bodies, but not administrative personnel such as city managers, to give 14 days notice of the top three candidate finalists’ names before making a hiring decision. McCullough had been named by Lott as the top candidate; no other finalists were named.
Another top candidate for the position was eliminated from consideration for the Civic Center director’s post because of information revealed during a background check, city officials said. Lott refuses to identify that candidate, saying he was not yet one of the top three finalists when he was eliminated from consideration.
The City Commission recently forced Lott to resign due to performance issues, but gave him until July 30, 2011 to leave his $138,000-plus-benefits post.
Following is McCullough’s letter, which was e-mailed on Friday to Lott:
“Mr. Lott, I wanted to thank you for your time throughout the interview process. Although I was very pleased to make the short list, I was surprised to see that I was informally being named the Civic Center Director. What a thrill it was to hear that I was being named. However, after much consideration and conversation with my family, I will have to informally decline the position.
I do feel it necessary to explain my thought process and why I have made this decision. First of all, I have the potential for another opportunity at my present venue. We are in the process of a SPLOST vote and if it goes through, new doors will open for me in Athens. I have always expressed to your group how much I respect and admire my current employer and that has never changed. Additionally, one of the main reasons I looked to Albany was certainly because of you and your leadership. Being able to spend a bit of time with you specifically was an honor. Your leadership style and ability to get things done within your city’s politically charged environment is unprecedented. I respect you and the rest of your team for the hard work that you all have done to bring Albany where it is today. I will be honest, knowing that you would be leaving in the next year has definitely played a role in my decision.
I have copied Mr. Smith, who has also been extreme helpful through this process. Please convey my apologies and gratitude to Angela and the rest of your team.
On a separate, but somewhat related note. Please know that I am very interested in helping Albany and the Civic Center. One of the new opportunities I may have is to go into managing multiple venues. Has the city of Albany ever considered a management company for the Civic Center? It would allow you to have relationships with other venues that could help with routing concerts as well as conferences and convention.
Again, I really do appreciate the informal offer and I wish you well.”
Lott is attempting to replace John Mazzola, who Lott forced to resign earlier this year because of performance issues. Lott had previously fired Mattie Goddard as Civic Center director, a decision that cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees because, in terminating Goddard, Lott bypassed personnel policy requirements. Goddard unsuccessfully sued the city; the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that Goddard had no rights-of-employment under the city personnel policy because, as a department director, she was an “at-will” employee.
Fired Finance Director Shirley Smith also has a pending suit against the city because of Lott’s personnel policy and law violations, including Lott’s efforts to prevent Smith from obtaining future employment by inaccurately discrediting her to a prospective employer, and then lying about it.