ANOTHER CITY HALL COVER-UP REVEALED
The truth about why Lane Rosen wasn’t hired as Albany Civic Center director
Rosen: Lott urged Rosen to lie about inconclusive drug test and say that Rosen’s stake in the State Theatre was the deal-breaker, but Rosen refused.
By Kevin Hogencamp
State Theatre managing partner Lane Rosen says that he was denied the Albany Civic Center director’s position because of circumstances regarding his drug test results, not because of his ownership of the theater – and that Lott encouraged him to lie about it.
Rosen says that Lott and Assistant City Manager Wes Smith’s secretary told him that Rosen’s two drug tests were “diluted” and that city policy prohibits his employment for that reason. Rosen, who said there’s no reason he wouldn’t pass a drug test, immediately underwent an independent, physician-prescribed drug after meeting with Lott on Wednesday, and passed.
Lott and Smith, who Rosen says was involved in the cover-up, have not yet responded to The Albany Journal’s request for information and perspective for this report. Last week, Smith said in a news release that Rosen – Lott’s third selectee for the vacant position – wasn’t hired because Lott and Rosen’s negotiations were unsuccessful.
Rosen says that’s not true; indeed, the two successfully negotiated an employment agreement, he said.
Details of the disagreement between Lott and Rosen are outlined in a letter to the community that Rosen sent today to the City Commission and news media . Here is the letter:
Ladies and Gentlemen of the community, City Commissioners and Media Representatives,
Let me start at the ending with Albany City Manager Alfred Lott’s last words to me, “Lane, our official response will be that negotiations weren’t fruitful and I suggest you could say that you were simply unwilling to divest from the State Theatre”.
If I had anything to hide, that would have been good advice. However, my response to him was, “My Granddaddy taught me that honesty was the best policy and that I have done nothing wrong.” Perhaps you all will demand a change to what Lott called “a bizarre set of circumstances”.
Since I have nothing to hide, and contrary to Al’s suggestion, I am writing this for my whole community — which has so warmly supported me – to read.
Over the past few weeks since the news of my selection for the Civic Center director position was announced, I received an unending show of support and renewed HOPE from Commissioners, the citizens, business leaders, and the media of this area. I am sure you have heard it, as well. Most importantly is the local College Foundation that contacted me and pledged to sponsor four of the biggest shows that the town could hold to “prime the pump” and because they had that kind of faith in me. Also, a Bank President contacted me with a similar offer. Furthermore, both said they were unwilling to deal with the previous managers there.
Now the facts:
All of the City of Albany Human Resources Department staff is either fired or on vacation. They should have handled this matter.
Monday, December 27th: Wes Smith’s assistant (not H.R. Department) calls at approximately 10:40 a.m. to inform me to make “deliberate haste” to take the pre-employment substances screening. I did so and was tested at about 11:15 a.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 28th: The same assistant calls about the same time and asks for a second test. I said “of course.” Three times I asked, “What happened with the first sample?”; three times she would not answer. The test results should have been discussed with me before any potential employer (the lab violated this rule). Wes Smith’s assistant (untrained to H.R. Department matters) only would assure me a second test was not uncommon. So without a mandatory explanation and medical counsel, I raced to take another test and was tested at about 11:30 a.m. (Keep in mind that Human Resources staff wasn’t in to tell me I had 48 hours to take the test.) Herein lies the whole problem. I simply needed to be consulted, as all city employees are, to hold back on fluids because the first test was diluted.
Wednesday Dec. 29th: At 10:00 a.m. in Alfred Lott’s office, we came to a successful agreement for the terms of my employment. For the first time, he informed me that both of my pre-employment substance screenings were “diluted”. I chuckled and said, “Of course, they are, because by 11:30 every morning I have had the better half of a pot of coffee.” Al said this was a potential problem that needed policy clarification from Nathan Davis, the City Attorney. Seeing the writing on the wall from “these guys”, I immediately called a Doctor (specialist) from the phone book. After some simple orders not to drink anything for a couple of hours before the test, the Doctor “prescribed” the same test. I chose the same lab and took the test at 4:30 p.m. at a personal cost of over $300 after you figure in the Doctor fees. Moreover, this test was done within the 48 hour time period (from the first inconclusive test) for the testing to preserve its randomness.
Wednesday. December 29th, 3:30 pm: I was informed by Lott that two inconclusive samples equals a failure and that they had to break off the deal that we had tentatively agreed to. Later, I was informed by high city officials that their “practice” and understanding of city policy is that I have to be consulted by a medical officer after the first test and I have up to 48 hours to take the second test. Regardless of policy interpretation it is a fact (from multiple, high city officials) that employees have been hired with diluted samples. I went one step further to get conclusive results within the 48 hour time period.
Thursday, December 30th: The results arrived to the Doctor’s office from Wednesday’s test. This test was, of course, “CLEAN AS A WHISTLE!”
I insist that I was totally available and forthcoming for the process and that city representatives that I dealt with were not, or at the least, were uneducated with regards to Human Resource matters. I should have been afforded the same medical consultation and instructions that are given to current employees after a first diluted test. This medical explanation of results is given to all city employees after a first test on a mandatory basis but was not in my case.
I regret that misguided policies (new hires have different rules than current employees) and inadequate execution of duties by city personnel (total absence of Human Resources involvement) have obstructed what was sure to be a positive turn in this city’s economics and morale.
Thankful, and at your service,
On Wednesday, the same day that Rosen says that Lott informed him of the two “diluted” drug test results, Smith informed commissioners and reported that “negotiations with the announced most qualified Civic Center Director candidate have not proved fruitful.”
“The city manager is now determining his next step in the process of filling the position,” Smith further said.
Filling the Civic Center has been challenging for Lott. Last summer, Smith told reporters that one of Lott’s initial top candidates for the Civic Center position was eliminated from consideration because of information that was revealed during a background check. Smith and Lott refused to name that candidate.
In September, Shannon McCullough, operations director of the Athens Classic Center, was named by Lott as the top candidate for the position. He said he withdrew from consideration partly due to Lott not telling him about his lame-duck status with the city.
Today, Smith announced that Timothy Mabe of Valdosta had emerged as the latest “best qualified candidate for the Albany Civic Center Director position.”
“Negotiations with the initial qualified candidate were unsuccessful,” Smith further said. “Mr. Mabe was then interviewed a second time before he was determined for this designation.”
Mabe was most recently executive director for the Valdosta-Lowndes County Conference Center & Tourism Authority. He says on his resume that he was worked in the Valdosta post from October 2009 to October 2010, but Valdosta news reports said he started the job in December 2009 and resigned in August 2010 to pursue other opportunities.
Asked to clarify the matter, Rabe immediately responded Monday, saying, “My contract in Valdosta was year to year and started when executed in Oct 2009. I actually moved to Valdosta on Dec 6th and was in the office working on December 7th. I resigned in August.
Rabe added: “I am pleased to have been selected as best candidate and am looking forward to the chance of working with the great staff at the center as well as area stakeholders who desire the success of the Albany Civic Center including the Albany Journal.”
He says that he was general manager of a Garland, Texas, events center for five years, executive director for the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center Authority in Dalton for seven years, and has 14 additional years of entertainment industry experience.
The new director will succeed embattled Civic Center directors Matty Goddard and John Mazzola. With strong support from most City Commission members, Lott fired Goddard, a longtime director, within months after Lott was hired in 2005. Lott violated personnel policies in dismissing Goddard, but Goddard was unable to win her job back in a federal complaint she filed.
It is customary for Lott to fill department head positions two weeks after announcing his top candidates for the position. He does so because of his misinterpretation of a state law requiring a 14-day notice after top candidates for top executives for government agencies such as university president, school superintendent, or city or county manager.
In 2006, Lott hired Mazzola, a Floridian who was identified as a candidate for the position by government-management headhunter Bob Slavin, whose firm helped Lott lure three high-profile, infamously troubled former department directors to the city – Downtown Manager Don Buie, Police Chief James Younger, and Finance Director Robert Jones. Buie was hired despite being a convicted felon – which was revealed by journalists during the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s probe into public corruption on Buie’s part. Buie was convicted of nine felony counts and sentenced to a year in jail; he has been released, but is banned from living in Dougherty County. Lott forced Younger’s resignation and fired Jones after three months, yet gave them large bonuses – using taxpayer funds – as they departed.
Mazzola’s tenure, which ended in spring 2010, was rocky. Pulled in different directions by Lott and City Commission members who wanted favors, Mazzola generated many citizen complaints, as Goddard did during her tenure, before Lott relented to public pressure and began documenting Mazzola’s management failures. He found a job in Dodge City, Kansas, at his bosses’ urging (he also worked for Assistant City Manager Wes Smith), but has since been fired.
In 1992, the General Assembly restricted access to information regarding those who were applying for, or were being considered for, positions such as university president, school superintendent, or county manager. In the law, the class of jobs affected was defined as the “executive head of an agency… or of a unit of the University System of Georgia.”
The argument that was provided by legislators for limiting records access was that qualified applicants would be less likely to seek public jobs if their interest in the job was disclosed. So the law now states that “at least 14 calendar days prior to the meeting at which final action or vote is to be taken for the position, the agency shall release all documents which came into its possession with respect to as many as three persons …” considered finalists for the job.
An applicant would at that time be able to withdraw his/her name from consideration and avoid disclosure, in which case the identity and records of the next most qualified candidate would be disclosed. If the agency decides to not be fully accessible to the public during its entire search, it need not wait 14 days to take action on the position. An agency cannot avoid disclosure provisions by hiring a private person or agency to assist in the search and to maintain all records. In addition, the agency must disclose the demographic detail of the entire applicant pool at any time request is made.
Like with many of the people he has hired, Lott’s tenure has been plagued with mishaps since he left his Tacoma Park, Md., public work director’s post in September 2005 to become Albany’s city manager. Indeed, Lott is being forced by the City Commission to leave his post by July 31, 2011.
Upon being selected in December as Lott’s “top candidate” for the Civic Center post, which also includes managing the Albany Municipal Auditorium and Veterans Park Amphitheatre, Rosen said he’s excited about the prospects of bringing quality events to the Civic Center while ensuring that public money is spent as efficiently as possible.
“Like I told the citizen’s panel (during the interview process), if the Civic Center ever operated in the black, we’re going to get it operating in the black again,” he said. “All of the employees there are hard-working, they’re proud of it, and I feel like we can turn things around at the Civic Center.”
Rosen, 40, opened the State Theatre seven years ago. It hosts a variety of local and out-of-town entertainment, from country star Luke Bryan, to Albany State University parties, to community fund-raisers and wedding receptions. Marketing entertainment venues adequately is a key factor to success in the business, he said.
Rosen said last month that he was uncertain whether he’ll keep operating the State Theatre, which he co-owns with restaurateur and musician Bo Henry. “One thing I do know, though,” he said, “is that the State Theatre is an important tool in the community’s entertainment arsenal.”