CITY POISED TO SPEND ANOTHER $20K ON A HEADHUNTER TO REPLACE ITS OUSTED CITY MANAGER
By Kevin Hogencamp
City Manager Alfred Lott says that with the depletion of talent in the human resources management department in recent years, he doesn’t have the personnel capable of conducting an effective nationwide search. Mayor Willie Adams has a different perspective: He says, without providing details, that it’s simply cheaper to spend $20,000 on a headhunter rather than using city human resources personnel, the Internet, telephone and the U.S. Postal Service to recruit candidates.
Whatever the reason, Albany City Commission members say that despite the City’s poor recruitment record with and without an executive headhunter, they are willing to spend $20,000 for professional help in replacing Lott, who has been forced to resign as of July 31, 2011.
At its meeting Tuesday, commissioners interviewed representatives of two national recruitment firms, including The Mercer Group, which assisted Albany with its recent downtown manager search. Indeed, Lott and Assistant City Manager Wes Smith are listed in The Mercer Group’s application as “references” for the company.
Asked by The Albany Journal on Tuesday why he would use Lott, who is being forced from his job, and Smith, who has said he may be a candidate for the position, as references, the company’s CEO, Jim Mercer, said: “They were clients on the recent Downtown Manager search that I did for the City and since they are local, I thought they could speak to the success of that search.”
The City Commission is expected to hire Mercer or a competitor, Colin Baenziger & Associates, at its meeting Tuesday. Lott was hired in 2005 at an annual salary of $110,000. He now makes $138,000. Including benefits, his compensation package is valued at about $200,000. He is recommending that the commission hire Mercer. A third firm operated by Bob Slavin – who recruited Lott; arrested Downtown Manager Don Buie, a convicted felon before he was selected by Lott; ousted Civic Center Director John Mazzola; and ousted Police Chief James Younger — is now prohibited by the City Commission from being hired by Lott.
City Commission members refuse to discuss Lott’s departure publicly. Privately, some City Commission members say that Lott is being strongly encouraged to vacate his office by January because of his management failures, including federal employment law violations that resulted in complaints being filed by former Human Resource Director Mary LaMont.
LaMont 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 in November that the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission told her the City had agreed to mediation in exchange for her audiotaped evidence of illegal and unethical employment practices, including retaliatory discharge 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:
- Lott lied about LaMont’s discrimination complaints;
- A 61-year-old administrator was falsely accused of falsifying her employment application; and
- 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 at least one City Commission member.