By Kevin Hogencamp
Mary LaMont says she thought about it for a moment, but that’s about all. Her ethics just wouldn’t let her walk away with $500,000 or more while leaving the ailing municipal government and Albany community in the dust.
LaMont, the former city human resources director who has audiotapes and other evidence documenting that the city is systematically discriminatory and retaliatory, is continuing with her federal complaint against the city with the intention of filing a lawsuit. She said this week that the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission told her that city had agreed to mediation in exchange for her audiotaped evidence of illegal and unethical employment practices, including retaliatory discharges and racial and sexual discrimination, by Lott and other city officials.
“My audiotapes, not unlike the deeply engrained sense of ethics and integrity instilled in me in my youth, are not for sale – not at any price,” LaMont said. “If money was my sole motivation, I could have gone along with the City’s illegal demands, said what they wanted me to say, and kept my mouth shut about the City’s illegal practices just like most other City leaders choose to do.
“If I had not complained, I would still be the human resources director for the City of Albany and I would probably have received a sizeable increase in pay just as (Assistant City Manager) Wes Smith, (Assistant City Manager) James Taylor, (City Attorney) Nathan Davis, and (Assistant City Attorney) Jenise Smith have. Niger Thomas’ EEO manager position was being reevaluated for a pay rate increase which she too would probably have received had it not been for her sudden, unexpected, and unexplained departure from the City.”
LaMont has recorded meetings and conversations while working for the city. Among other indiscretions by city officials, the tapes – some of which have been reviewed by The Albany Journal — reveal:
- City Manager Alfred Lott lied about LaMont’s discrimination complaints;
- A 61-year-old administrator was falsely accused of falsifying her employment application; and
- 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. 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.
Lott refuses to provide information and perspective regarding LaMont’s situation. In response to the Journal’s request that LaMont to provide a detailed explanation of her recent discussion with the EEOC, she provided the following statement:
“I spoke with an EEOC mediator who advised me the City of Albany had agreed to mediation in exchange for my audio tapes. I did not understand why or how the City could agree to mediation when I had sent the EEOC two (2) forms to the EEOC stating I was not interested in participating in mediation with the City of Albany. After considering what the Mediator said about this being the quickest resolve to my complaint and how mediation would be in “my” best interest, I returned the Mediator’s call and stated I would be willing to participate in mediation provided the City of Albany come to the table with a minimum offer of $500,000.
The Mediator called me back and said mediation does not work like that. I responded that is exactly the way mediation works to which he replied mediation could not be entered into with any set demand. I explained it was not a set demand because I had no intention of settling for $500,000 in exchange for my audio tapes and that’s why I stated I would be willing to mediate if the City came to the table with a “minimum” offer of $500,000. The Mediator questioned what type of information was on the audio tapes and after I explained the contents of a couple, he stated he would tell the City what I said and see if they would agree.
The Mediator called back and said he could not in good conscious tell the City what I said because in order for mediation to be successful, both parties must come to the table in good faith, with an open mind, and a willingness to compromise. He further stated mediation could not be established with parameters already set. I responded I did not understand why it was permissible for the City to set out what they were willing to negotiate for (my audio tapes), but not permissible for me to set a parameter. He then stated he had misstated what the City said and clarified that the City had actually stated that in order for mediation to be meaningful, the City would need to review my audio tapes. I responded that is not what he originally stated to me, but it basically means the same thing.
The Mediator stated $500,000 was an unreasonable request without the City having previously reviewed the audio tapes and I responded I viewed the City’s demand for my audio tapes prior to any agreement to mediate to be just as unreasonable which is why I responded the way I did. I explained I have no intention of turning my audio tapes over to the City. I informed the Mediator that I had participated in a City EEOC mediation preparation meeting so I know from experience the City does not act in good faith and does not come to the table with an open mind or a willingness to compromise. City leadership’s sole motivation for participating in EEOC mediation is to gain unrestricted access to the Claimant’s evidence to assess how damning the evidence is and to aid the City in building a bogus defense. I explained the Mediator’s attempts to convince me that mediation was in my best interest or that both parties would come to the table in good faith, with an open mind, and a willing to compromise were in vain. I was not interested in mediation and I would prefer he forward my complaint to the Enforcement division of the EEOC.
I explained the bottom line is that I provided the EEOC with two (2) response forms on two (2) separate occasions when I signed my EEOC Charge Forms stating I was not interested in participating in mediation with the City of Albany. The resolve I am seeking is for the EEOC to do their job and investigate my complaints in an effort to help put an end to the rampant discriminatory practices plaguing the local government of the City of Albany. I explained my understanding of the EEOC mediation process is that it is a voluntary option that both parties must agree to. I thought I had been clear each time I responded to the question of mediation both orally and in writing that I was not interested in participating in mediation because I do not believe a mediation settlement will do anything to resolve the core issue of my complaints which is the widespread discriminatory practices being permitted and promoted by City leadership.
How can anyone not question why all of the people who participated in the illegal conduct I reported to the EEOC received unjustified pay increases shortly after my departure? The City claims they did not implement the pay raises justified by Phase II of the City’s Pay Study because of budgetary limits, but I find it more than a little concerning that there is always money available to fund unjustified pay rate increases for the highest paid City leaders.
Could someone please explain this:
Both Wes Smith and James Taylor received pay rate increases in January of this year and again in July of this year.
Nathan Davis who was suspended for a serious safety violation in April of this year and who was the subject of a report filled with a litany of poor performance issues in May of this year received a 4 1/2 % increase.
Jenise Smith who still does not meet the minimum qualifications outlined in the City’s Assistant City Attorney job description also received a sizable pay rate increase.
The revelation of audiotapes implicating Lott’s, Smith’s and others’ chicanery at city hall came this fall 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 other commissioners 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 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. 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 expired 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.