By Kevin Hogencamp
Former City of Albany Finance Director Shirley Smith says that not only did then-City Manager Alfred Lott slander her, he committed perjury during a court deposition for a civil lawsuit she filed.
In public records filed in Dougherty Superior Court, Smith says her perjury claims are substantiated under oath by an Orlando city official who likely would have been her boss if Lott hadn’t have slandered her.
The claim is at least the third perjury against Albany city officials; City Attorney Nathan Davis and Assistant City Attorney Jenise Smith also are accused by former city officials of committing a crime by lying under the oath. Criminal charges have not been filed in any of the cases; perjury is a felony.
Like fired Civic Center Director Mattie Goddard before her and former Human Resources Director Mary LaMont since, Smith says that Lott used lies and coercion to force her from her job. Smith’s longstanding suit against Lott and the City, which is being defended with attorneys funded by Albany taxpayers, remains in the hands of Superior Court Judge Denise Marshall.
In her suit, Smith alleges that Lott’s critical and false statements about her to the news media and to a prospective employer – the Orlando official – were slanderous and damaging to Smith’s reputation and career.
“Subsequent to her termination from the City of Albany, Shirley Smith sought employment with the City of Orlando and applied for an opening as a manager within the Budget and Accounting Office …” Smith’s suit claims. “After an initial telephone interview, Smith was invited to travel to Orlando to meet and interview with Raymond Elwell, the deputy chief financial officer for the City of Orlando. After the interview, which went well, Elwell telephoned Lott for a ‘backdoor reference’ for information about Smith.
“Lott claims he did not speak with Elwell about Smith, but according to Elwell, Lott answered every question Elwell asked and … Lott’s statements to Elwell about Smith then became a decisive factor in the City of Orlando’s decision not to further pursue Shirley Smith for the open position.”
Elwell said in a deposition that Lott told Elwell that “there was more cause for Ms. Smiths’ termination than any other termination he’s done in 30 years.”
Lott, who was forced from his job by the City Commission last summer and now works for the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., fired Smith in 2006, months after lauding Smith’s performance and rewarding her with a bonus and city car, after City Commissioner Tommie Postell caught Lott in a cover-up of a business trip Smith made to Canada.
Lott, who falsely claimed that he did not know about Smith’s trip, suspended Smith and then paid a consultant $15,000 – $2,500 a day – of taxpayers’ money for the investigation and scathing report that resulted in Smith’s firing.
The consultant, Gloria Wright of Lawrenceville, Ga., reported that Smith’s employees claimed that – in addition to managing by fear and intimidation — Smith fleeced taxpayers by having employees perform personal work for her while on the job, and changed appraisal scores to benefit some employees and victimize others.
However, while Lott says that Wright was hired to examine the Finance Department’s leadership culture, public records show that Wright was hired to build a termination case against Smith. In a Sept. 7, 2006 letter to Smith, Lott offered Ms. Smith three months’ severance pay in return Lott not publicly disclosing Wright’s report of “egregious managerial malfeasance in the Finance Department,” records show.
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 2010 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.
Meanwhile, early this year, Lott and Smith nearly reunited in Savannah, where Smith is now employed. Lott was a finalist for the city manager’s post there until City Council members learned not only about Lott’s track record, but that Lott had hid it from his would-be bosses and their executive headhunter.