Brookhaven City Council is set to finalize its severance package with former city manager Marie Garrett at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 26, including a resolution thanking her for her service.
J. Max Davis, the first mayor of Brookhaven who hired Garrett, said he believes the current council’s decision to separate from Garrett is appropriate.
“I think it’s a good time for a change … it’s appropriate,” he said Monday, adding some “friction” between Garrett and him and between Garrett and the council started springing up during his last months as mayor.
Mayor John Ernst and council members have declined to comment on Garrett. Attempts to reach Garrett for comment have not been successful and Garrett’s attorney, Dan Klein, also declined to comment.
“It was becoming more and more evident the city needed change. I think the unanimous vote from the council is pretty telling,” Davis said. “I’m glad the new mayor and council decided to move on.”
Davis said Garrett would make some decisions without consulting or informing the City Council, such as removing the “See Click Fix” mobile app that allowed residents to inform the city where potholes were located, for example.
“I had a resident call me to say he couldn’t find it and that’s when we found out she canceled it and did not have another [program] put immediately in place,” Davis said.
“That was one of the things that started to bubble up. And there was high turnover,” he added.
Some Brookhaven residents criticized Garrett’s $214,000 salary, but Davis defended his and the council’s decision to pay her that amount.
“Marie had great expertise. There was no one else like her” when it came to get a new city up and running, he said. But after 18 months, the council and staff had gained more experience and her niche skills were not as necessary, he said.
“She was what we needed and the salary was what she deserved,” he said. “Certainly after the second year we were all beginning to reevaluate our needs.”
Davis cleared in EEOC complaint
A federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint into allegations of harassment against a city employee by Davis has also been dismissed.
“I knew it was a spurious complaint and the timing was suspicious,” Davis said of the incident. Davis was set to campaign for a seat in the state House; he was defeated by Democrat Taylor Bennett.
The incident became “overblown” and the complaint was “baseless,” Davis added.
“I didn’t do anything wrong and am glad I can close that chapter,” he said. “I’m glad for my family’s sake. There was nothing out there to give credence to a sexual harassment claim.”
But the tension in City Hall between Davis and Garrett was apparent, Davis said, and he believes Garrett was “trying to cover her behind” because she feared being terminated when she wrote an email to the city’s human resources director alleging sexual harassment against an employee when Davis sprayed Lysol near two women.
“I think that was done to head that off,” he said. “She knew it would be part of the public record. And that was a time when the friction was great. But I don’t know her motivation. That’s just speculation.”