By Kevin Hogencamp
Mary LaMont, the former City of Albany human resource management director, has some solid evidence to back up claims that she and others are victims of retaliation and racial and sexual discrimination at city hall.
She has audiotapes.
LaMont says she recorded meetings and conversations while working for the city. Among other indiscretions by city officials, the tapes reveal:
n City Manager Alfred Lott lied about LaMont’s discrimination complaints;
n A 61-year-old administrator was falsely accused of falsifying her employment application; and
n Assistant City Manager Wes Smith says that Assistant City Attorney Kathy Strang became a political casualty after confidentially reporting that her boss kept a loaded gun in his desk.
LaMont, who worked for the city for 13 months, says she began the recordings after it became clear to her that she was working for an organization that systematically disregards the law and city policy. The Albany Journal began reviewing those tapes this week. On the tapes with LaMont are nearly every department director and a City Commission member.
The tapes reveal that in a May 11 meeting, Smith told LaMont that city commissioners pressured Lott to “get Strang out of there or he wouldn’t be city manager, anymore.” Smith says the mandate came after Strang confidentially reported that she found a loaded gun in City Attorney Nathan Davis’ desk at the Albany Law Enforcement Center. City officials claim Strang was fired for reasons unrelated to the gun incident – a crime for which Davis was never charged.
“The problem from Al is it’s a political maneuver,” Smith said in a taped May 11 conversation with LaMont. “Commission, the mayor, the commission (sic) apparently have pressured Al to move her. Basically, if he doesn’t get her out of there, he won’t be city manager anymore. He’ll be fired because he’ll be accountable to them.”
In the same conversation, Smith describes City Commissioner Dorothy Hubbard as a “voice in the wind” and a “nobody” with no support among her colleagues.
Also, the audiotapes along with other documentation reveal that Lott and other city officials fabricated charges that human resource benefits administrator Martha Faye Everson falsified her employment application. Indeed, records show that Everson reported on her application that she had an accounting diploma from Albany Area Vocational School and, from the options given, she noted that “technical college” mostly closely resembled her post-high school graduate education.
Everson was fired 10 days after a co-worker, Beverly McCrimmon, complained that she should be making as much money as Everson. Public records show that city officials falsely contend that McCrimmon filed a complaint alleging that she was a victim of racial discrimination. Everson is white and McCrimmon is black.
Audiotapes provided to the Journal by LaMont also prove that Lott lied when he said publicly that LaMont had not voiced any concerns or complaints to him or anyone else at the City about the discrimination and retaliation she was suffering at the hands of Smith, Lott and others before she filed charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Lott has publicly stated that LaMont lied in her EEOC charges, which include a claim that Lott attempted to force LaMont to provide false information to the EEOC concerning another employee’s discrimination complaint. But unlike LaMont, Lott refuses to provide evidence supporting his claim and refuses to answer the public’s questions on the topic.
The revelation of audiotapes implicating Lott’s, Smith’s and others’ chicanery at city hall come amid a new effort to hasten Lott’s ouster. Multiple sources close to the situation told the Journal under the condition of anonymity that commissioners Jon Howard and Bob Langstaff had support when they pushed for Lott’s firing or immediate resignation, but that commissioners Roger Marietta and Christopher Pike relented to Mayor Willie Adams’ request to allow Lott to remain on the job until July 2011. The later departure date enables Lott time to find a job and to otherwise move on without having the blemish of a termination or forced resignation.
Adams says he wants Lott to stay on the job. Commissioner Tommie Postell, who unsuccessfully tried last week to prevent the Dougherty district attorney’s office to investigate Cutliff Grove Family Resource Center’s use of federal funds in a failed housing venture, is a steadfast supporter of Lott. It is unclear where commissioner Dorothy Hubbard stands on the matter.
All of the City Commission members except Postell refuse to be interviewed by the Journal about Lott’s status as city manager.
Lott’s contract expires Sept. 19; rather than firing Lott and paying $69,000 in severance – half of his $138,000 annual salary – the City Commission is effectively refusing to extend Lott’s employment contract, as the Adams-led commission did in 2004 with former city manager Janice Allen Jackson. Lott falsely claims that he is leaving his job because he desires to be close to his immediate family in the Northeast.
Sources close to the situation say that Lott likely will leave post under duress no later than January 2011. An executive session, a private-but-legally held meeting by public officials, was called Tuesday to discuss a personnel matter Tuesday, but city commissioners refused to discuss the meeting.
Lott’s removal from the office he has held since September 2005 was originally discussed in a private City Commission meeting on July 20. The next day, Lott announced his resignation amid new charges being leveled against him by LaMont, who was on the job for 13 months. In addition to her discrimination complaints, LaMont accused Lott of additional legal and policy violations on the day of his resignation.
Among her charges, LaMont says that Lott, who is black, refused to allow LaMont, who is white, to fire a subordinate because the subordinate is black and may file a discrimination suit. And LaMont claimed that Lott attempted to require LaMont to make false statements to the U.S. Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission to create a “credible and believable” story in response to a discrimination complaint filed by a white employee that Lott required LaMont to fire. Also, LaMont said that Lott attempted to force her to lie to federal authorities during a discrimination investigation. Later, Lott was retaliatory, stripping LaMont of her authority, LaMont said.
Lott refused comment when asked by the Journal for an interview on the Lamont matter. But he has publicly said that LaMont is lying and is now discrediting LaMont by saying that she misspent funds while attending a professional conference – allegations that LaMont denies and that are not in her personnel file at the time of her resignation.