By Kevin Hogencamp
City Manager Alfred Lott has shortened Airport Director Yvette Aehle’s suspension of two airport safety supervisors following revelations of widespread misconduct by employees on duty, including having sex on the job.
Safety officer Leonard Edwards admitted during an investigation that he had sex with his girlfriend in the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport safety office, while supervisor Eric Roney admitted to lying about his knowledge of sexual activity at the airport.
An investigation by Aehle was prompted by an anonymous letter that said that sexual activity was rampant among staffers and visitors throughout the airport, including on a fire truck. After both men appealed their suspensions, Lott reduced Edwards’ 30-day suspension to five days and Roney’s 15-day suspension to three days.
In suspending Edwards, Aehle wrote: “On Saturday, November 20, 2010, Ken Johnson, Bernard Ford and Russ Snow (Risk Management) conducted a formal investigation on alleged sexual misconduct at the Airport Safety Office. During the interview, you indicated that you have personally observed visitors at the airport while on duty, and even responded that there have been ‘girlfriends in the bunk rooms’. You also admitted to engaging in sexual activity ‘one time’ on an unknown date with a girlfriend at the Airport Safety Office. You also noted that Airport Safety Officer Franco Paige brought a visitor in a bunk room when the question was asked, ‘Do you or other officers take visitors to other parts of the airport or in closed quarters while they are visiting? If so, who and where?’
“As a supervisor, you are required to keep management in the loop on items that could be detrimental to the operation of the Airport Safety Office. You have been negligent in notifying Safety Chief Bernard Ford, the Deputy Director or the Airport Director about visitors in areas where they should not have been. Your having a sexual encounter while at work shows a complete lack of judgment for your important position and how that could affect your co-workers. You could also be held directly responsible for creating a hostile work environment.
This memorandum constitutes notice of a suspension for inability to perform the required duties of your job satisfactorily by reason of violation of City of Albany Personnel Policies & Procedures Section III: Disciplinary Actions and Grievances Policy, Items
B.2.a. Misconduct and b. -Negligence.”
In overruling Aehle, Lott wrote to Leonard: “I have reviewed all documents presented in Ms. Aehle’s 30-Day Suspension recommendation and studied all documents and issues presented at the name clearing/appeal hearing. In light of your display of honesty and the fact that your record is otherwise relatively clean, I have decided to reduce the suspension to 5 days or 40 work hours, and a written reprimand. In the future, you must comply with all work rules and city policies. Failure to comply with this and other directives, policies, rules and procedures, could result in further disciplinary action, including termination.”
Lott did not address Leonard’s falsification of timesheets by reporting that he was working when, instead, he was having sex.
In suspending Roney, Aehle wrote: “During the interview, you indicated that you have personally observed visitors at the airport while on duty. You have observed your wife, Victor Motley’s wife, Franco’s girlfriends. and ‘occasional girlfriends and wives’ at the airport.
“When the question, ‘Have you ever known or heard of any officer (including yourself) to engage in sexual activities while on duty?’ you answered that you had not heard of any activity, but yet acknowledged that Franco Paige had a girlfriend in a bunk room when he first began on your shift. You stated that he had only done it one time and left the door open and Mr. Paige was ‘briefed on the incident.’ You then said that you heard about another Airport Safety shift supervisor engaging in sexual activity. This is a direct contradiction of what you had initially said during the interview.
“As a supervisor, you are required to keep management in the loop on items that could be detrimental to the operation of the Airport Safety Office. You have been negligent in notifying Safety Chief Bernard Ford, the Deputy Director or the Airport Director about the oral correction action that you took with Mr. Paige. You have also not been an efficient supervisor in documenting the oral briefing with Mr. Paige or communicating with management about a potential issue that could create a hostile work environment. The City has utilized the Performance Pro computer tool for notating all important communications between employees, and you did not do so.
“You are very aware of how to write a note utilizing that software. because there are twenty-one (21) other notes in Mr. Paige’s Performance Pro record to date. This memorandum constitutes notice of a formal suspension for inability to perform the required duties of your job satisfactorily by reason of violation of City of Albany Personnel Policies & Procedures -Section Ill: Disciplinary Actions and Grievances Policy, Item B.2.b. -Negligence and c. -Inefficiency.”
In overturning Aehle’s ruling, Lott wrote to Roney: “I have reviewed all documents presented by Ms. Aegle’s 15 day suspension recommendation and studied all documents and issues presented at the name clearing/appeal hearing. Accordingly, I have decided to reduce the suspension to three (3) days or 24 work hours, and include a written reprimand. In the future, you must keep your supervisor, Chief Ford, informed of all critical occurrences. Failure to comply with this and other directives, policies, roles and procedures, could result in further disciplinary action, including termination. Good luck in future endeavors.”
Lott did not address the safety issues associated with the officers’ conduct; indeed, federal guidelines require that airport safety officers respond to emergencies within three minutes.
Following is the anonymous letter that prompted the investigation.
I am writing this to you as an anonymous tip because I do not want my significant other to become a victim of an airport scandal.
There are airport safety officers who are having their wives and/or girlfriends visit the safety office after hours for the purpose of engaging in sexual activities. I was told me that a lock was put on the bathroom door for this very reason. I was also told that other people will leave post so that the others can have privacy. Apparently, this sexual activity has gone on inside the fire truck as well. My significant other is not willing to speak up to the Chief or director because of fear of it causing employment problems.
My significant other and I do not like the idea of having to work in this type of environment. It is unethical, unsanitary, and disgusting. We believe that this behavior would interfere with safety of the airport if they needed to respond to an alarm and are busy engaging in sexual activities.
I hope you are the right person to whom to address this. If not, please report this to the appropriate people so this can be put to a stop. From the things I hear, some of these officers are out of control and the management is turning a blind eye. I am sending this to the newspapers and Channel 10 as well.
Thank you for your help.”
In an interview shortly after she learned of the complaint, Aehle said she was unaware of sexual activity involving employees on the job. Further, she said. “The person who wrote this email is wrong about the reason for the bathroom door being locked. The ladies restroom has a lock and a key is issued to female Airport Safety Officers due to male Safety Officers (in the past) utilizing the ladies’ restroom after their facilities were dirty. To keep only ladies utilizing the ladies restroom, we had to put a lock on it.”
Roney, meanwhile, is the subject of independent criminal complaint by former operations and maintenance manager Sean Reddish, who says that Roney illegally used a police computer for a verification check on Reddish’s vehicle’s license tag. Reddish recently filed a complaint with the Albany police chief, Dougherty County sheriff and Dougherty district attorney’s office.