DDA director picked, administrator search begins
Abridged and adapted from Swainsboro City Minutes by Deanna Ryan
Mayor Greg Bennett and the Swainsboro City Council held a special meeting on Tuesday, January 24, 2023 at city hall. A full audience surrounded the proceedings, including five prospective city administrators. All city council members were present along with city attorney Jon Levis and interim city administrator Melissa Kirby. Rev. Jonathan Hampton of Life Applications Ministries gave the invocation which was followed by the pledge.
Councilperson D.J. Davis made a motion to accept the January 10, 2022, minutes with Councilperson John E. Parker’s requested corrections. The motion passed unanimously.
In old business, Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Chair Anna Gambrell presented the DDA Board’s recommendation to hire Melissa Kirby as director. Parker questioned the legality of voting on the nomination presented to them. City attorney Levis stated stated from his understanding “the issue council had was with the procedure and not the applicant.” The DDA met during the week to ensure all applicants were interviewed and resubmitted their recommendation. Councilperson Stafford made the motion to hire Melissa Kirby as the DDA Director. The motion passed 4:2 with Parker and Quarterman against.
The DDA board’s nominations of Shaye Davis and Bryant Lewis to fill the two vacant board seats were approved 4:2 with Parker and Quarterman against.
The council rescinded the vote to hire Chu Lin Ooi as the Interim City Administrator by a 4:2 vote with Parker and Quarterman against. Councilperson Bobbie Collins questioned if the motion was legal, since the council was told Kirby quit. Mayor Bennett stated the assumption was made that she had quit but she had not quit. He also stated, “the city has a contract with Ms. Kirby until she puts her resignation in, or the council fires her.”
City attorney Levis stated that as far as he was aware there was no formal resignation. Levis stated that the ambiguity was whether there was a vacant position or not at the time in which it was filled. Levis stated that was clarified the next day in an email of a non-resignation. Levis stated that as he indicated in his letter, two people cannot do the same job. He also stated the council needs to promptly and formally remove Ms. Kirby or Ooi from the position.
Parker questioned how Ms. Kirby came back to work the next day when they voted 5-0 to hire an interim city administrator?
Mayor Bennett advised the council that they have a contract with her and until she formally resigns, it’s a legal contract.
Councilperson Gregory Quarterman stated, “You do see how this looks to the public.”
Levis stated, “It looks horrible, and I’m not disagreeing with that on any means.”
Quarterman questioned, “I’m just wondering if she was another race would we be going through this?”
Mayor Bennett stated there were two options on the table: 1. To rescind Chu Lin or 2. Not to rescind Chu Lin.
Davis asked if we could ask Chu Lin if he would accept the approval.
Chu Lin stated that he would be happy to serve however they decide.
Davis motioned to rescind to save the city from unnecessary lawsuits after it passed he made a motion to go into executive session to discuss employment of new city administrator. Motion passed 4:1 with Quarterman against and Parker abstaining.