By Kevin Hogencamp
If Round 1 of Sean Reddish’s battle against the City of Albany is any indication, the fired and indicted airport operations and maintenance manger may soon his get job back.
The Georgia Department of Labor last week ruled that Reddish is due unemployment compensation because of the city’s failure to provide evidence that he failed to perform his duties or follow orders, rules or instructions.
At city hall’s urging, Reddish is under indictment on theft charges for cashing in on $1,100 of scrap metal at the airport. Still, the Department of Labor concluded – based on evidence presented in a hearing – that no evidence of theft was presented by the city.
“The testimony of the employer is hearsay in regard to the incident. The employer did not provide any witnesses to the incident,” Department of Labor hearing officer Regina Stanley wrote on Feb. 1. “The testimony of the claimant (Reddish) is firsthand and therefore carries the greater weight of evidence. The claimant is not at fault in his discharge.”
City Manager Alfred Lott refused to answer The Albany Journal’s questions about Reddish’s case, including the city’s unsuccessful effort to prevent Reddish from collecting unemployment compensation. The city has until Feb. 16 to appeal the Department of Labor decision.
In violation of city policy, inconsistent with earlier personnel decisions and without explanation, Lott late last year upheld Reddish’s firing by airport director Yvette Aehle. City policy requires that an employee under felony indictment to be suspended without pay pending the outcome of the criminal case.
Indeed, if the city had followed its policy, the government would have had a net savings in the matter, because unemployment benefits would not have been an issue. Now Reddish, who is white, says he is planning to file a discrimination complaint against Lott, who is black.
“I still strongly contend that I am innocent of committing any crime and my termination was an egregious abuse of power,” he said in an interview. “I am moving forward with a complaint to the EEOC.”
“There is now an official ruling in my case by a 3rd party governmental agency without a political agenda. They have reviewed the evidence and I believe their findings will resonate in the criminal case and with the EEOC.”
Reddish’s criminal case has not been resolved; he maintains his innocence. Yet, airport Director Yvette Aehle fired Reddish, who appealed the decision.
Lott wrote in a Nov. 12 letters to Reddish’s attorney, Phil Cannon, after Reddish’s appeal hearing:
“I have reviewed all documents presented in Ms. Aehle’s termination recommendation and studied all documents and issues presented at the name clearing/appeal hearing of your client. Accordingly, I have decided to sustain Ms. Aehle’s termination recommendation. As a result, your client Sean C. Reddish’s employment with the City of Albany, Georgia is terminated, immediately. I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.”
In addition to violating personnel policy, Lott did not follow protocol by citing the reason Reddish was fired. Meanwhile, in at least three recent cases, the city did not fire employees under felony indictment.
Reddish denies the theft charges and has produced a letter from a contractor stating that the contractor gave him the metal – old signage that had been replaced. Lott refuses to answer questions about the case, including whether he directed Aehle to violate policy and fire Reddish.
Upon Reddish’s arrest, Aehle maintained that Reddish didn’t break the law, but rather used bad judgment. Indeed, Aehle previously allowed Reddish and others bring a smaller amount of scrap metal to a recycling center to raise money for employee activities such as pizza parties, but Aehle and Reddish said that the employees never took Aehle up on her offer.