By Kevin Hogencamp
After it was publicly revealed that then-Downtown Manager Don Buie spent a year in prison for a federal bank fraud conviction and that his background check had been shredded by Albany city staffers, new Human Resources Management Director Mary LaMont went to work.
She ordered a staffer to perform background checks on all department directors who, like Buie, had come to the city via an executive recruiter, Bob Slavin. And LaMont directed the staffer in charge of such things to stop shredding public information.
But City Manager Alfred Lott stepped in and stopped LaMont from determining whether former police chief James Younger, new police chief John Proctor and even Lott himself – among others — had criminal histories.
Public records show it was Lott who initially encouraged LaMont to review the matter, but that Lott had a change of heart once LaMont ordered that the background checks be conducted. Lott, meanwhile, steadfastly refuses to provide information documenting whether he knew of Buie’s conviction before hiring him in November 2008. Lott’s federal conviction was revealed only after he became mired in a public corruption scandal on Lott’s watch that resulted in Buie being convicted of nine felonies and receiving a one-year jail term.
Buie has completed his sentenced and has been banished from Dougherty County.
Following is an e-mail exchange between Lott and LaMont on the background checks.
n Aug. 19, 2009, LaMont to Price copied to Lott, Assistant City Manager Wes Smith and Assistant Police Chief Wilma Griffin.
“Thank you Angela. Please process a background check for all employees who came to us through Slavin and let me know when they are all done. All background checks will be stored permanently in the employee’s personnel file. Please do not shred any HR documents in the future. As always, I appreciate your assistance and support.
n Aug. 20, 2009, Lott to LaMont, Price, Smith and Griffin:
“Please place this action on hold until further notice.”
Slavin was hired by the City Commission in 2005 to identify candidates for the city manager position following the forced resignation of then-city manager Janice Allen Jackson. After Lott was hired, Lott paid Slavin more than $100,000 to assist in hiring some of his subordinates, including Younger and Proctor, despite having city staffers whose job it is to recruit and hire city employees.
Lott has often violated a city policy requiring that criminal background checks be conducted on all employees, but he blamed Lott blamed Slavin for Buie’s hiring, erroneously saying that it was the headhunter’s job – not his – to conduct the background checks.
Lott’s staffers, meanwhile, say they violated city policy by shredding a private Slavin-ordered background check on Buie, which was in Buie’s personnel file. The city’s human resources management staffers also did not conduct background checks on Lott, Younger, Proctor and others; it is unclear whether Slavin did.
Lott, meanwhile, refuses to answer The Albany Journal’s questions on the matter, including whether he has a criminal background