Augusta Environmental Services director resigns

Resigned city Environmental Services Director Mark Johnson walks away with a three-month severance package after tendering his resignation Monday.

 

The Augusta Commission voted 7-3 after a Tuesday closed-door meeting to award the package, worth about $28,316 plus benefits, in exchange for Johnson signing a release. Johnson was allowed to waive a city requirement he give 90 days’ notice to receive severance pay available to all senior-level staff.

Johnson’s resignation and the payout come a few days after the city disclosed an ongoing investigation into misuse of city equipment by a landfill employee at a private site in Lincoln County.

No action was taken against the employee, solid waste manager McKinely Williams, but Williams’ planned retirement date was the day after the evidence was presented to City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson, spokesman Jim Beasley said. Beasley said the investigation remains open and its findings will be reviewed by the commission.

In Johnson’s resignation letter, obtained by The Chronicle, he asked for the maximum severance allowed, six months, and to wipe from his record all pending and potential investigations and consider them settled.

“A new and changing administration, an evolving political landscape and questioned departmental programs and actions have led us to a point where mutual trust has eroded,” the letter said.

Supporting the decision to give Johnson the lesser three-month package, Mayor Pro Tem Mary Davis said Johnson had “done a great job for this city.” Mayor Hardie Davis said he also supported the move. Commissioner Dennis Williams said giving Johnson the package was “being consistent, based on our past history.”

Opposing the decision were commissioners Ben Hasan, Sammie Sias and Marion Williams. The only one to comment openly was Hasan, who was away on vacation and voted by telephone. Before he was cut off by the mayor, Hasan said over a speakerphone that Johnson had directed McKinely Williams during the events.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said the opposite before the meeting, that McKinely Williams “wasn’t taking orders” from anyone.

Johnson had been at the landfill since 2003 and managed Augusta’s garbage collection contracts. He did not return messages seeking comment and his city cell phone wasn’t working Tuesday.

It was not his first brush with commission members. A year ago in another matter that divided the commission, Johnson spent several weeks on leave without pay after The Augusta Chronicle brought to Jackson’s attention that Johnson and several other landfill employees had received raises the year before that Jackson said she had not approved. In his defense, Johnson produced records showing then-Deputy Administrator Ted Rhinehart appeared to be aware of the raises.

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

 

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