Citizens raise issues

by Benita Fuzzell

During the portion of the South Fulton City Commission meeting Aug. 19, designated for Questions, Comments and Suggestions from Citizens, a number of area residents voiced concerns to the elected officials, ranging from questions and concerns regarding procedures, city employees, notifications regarding fees and billing and infrastructure.

Among those who registered to speak was former South Fulton Police Officer Cody Tatum, who resigned his position to pursue another job opportunity, addressing Mayor David Lamb and Commissioners Cody Caksackkar, Tommy Pruett, Beatrice Wilcox and Billy Williams.

Tatum first stated his comments to the officials involved the city manager’s recent exit from his position with the City of South Fulton. As Tatum began to speak, South Fulton Police Officer Jason Pearcey distributed documents to each Commissioner, the Mayor, and The Current.

Tatum, who stated he is the brother-in-law of South Fulton Police Officer Taylor Rodgers, expressed his disappointment and concerns regarding the explanation provided to local media about the reasons behind the notice to retire submitted by former City Manager Johnny Bacon, effectively immediately, on Aug. 13.

Tatum asked the Mayor and Commissioners to refer to the information he had provided to them in the documents, which included a letter dated Aug. 10 from Officer Rodgers, a screen shot of a cell phone text message from Bacon to Rodgers on July 15, and news media publications from The Current and WCMT Radio station regarding Bacon’s retirement and the city’s search for a new city manager.

Tatum said he and his family were shocked to see that reportedly the city had chosen to allow Bacon to choose to retire, rather than terminate his employment, as he believed would have been done if alleged incidents involving Bacon would have taken place involving any other city employee.

In the letter signed by Rodgers, she stated that on July 15, she had received inappropriate text messages from Bacon, the South Fulton City Manager. Rodgers said in the letter she “responded out of discomfort by trying to play it off as respectfully declining his invitation. I felt as if, by Mr. Bacon being one of my superiors, I had to respond in some sort of manner. The text messages made me very uncomfortable to be around Mr. Bacon.”

The Current was provided with a copy of the text message sent from Bacon to Rodgers.

“I have felt discomfort, degraded and ashamed to speak out since this incident” her letter went on to state.

Rodgers also referenced an incident prior to the text messaging, when Bacon met with seven South Fulton Police Officers after Chief Andy Crocker was terminated by Bacon. She stated comments made by Bacon during the meeting were derogatory, she was “embarrassed” and other officers who heard the comments had “shocked” expressions on their faces.

Officer Rodgers’ mother, Misty Tibbs also addressed the Mayor and Commission during the time designated for comments from citizens.

“I am a teacher. Parents trust me with their children five days a week...they trust me not to be immoral....I expect the same for my daughter,” she said, adding the way the issue was handled was not how she and her family thought it should have been, and asked the officials to develop a better policy and process.

Following the adjournment of the commission meeting, Rodgers was asked what measures she initially took to report what she referred to in her letter as “sexual harassment.”

She stated she first took her concerns and complaint to Interim South Fulton Police Chief Rusty Singleton. She said Chief Singleton, because the complaint involved the city manager, then took the information to Mayor David Lamb.

Rodgers said subsequently she had been told that Bacon was no longer city manager as of Aug. 13, and that she had assumed he had been terminated, until she was made aware of the media reports that he had given his notice to retire.

In a special called meeting notice, received by The Current on Aug. 13 at 4:06 p.m., for the South Fulton City Commission to be held Aug. 16 at 4:30 p.m., three items were listed on the meeting’s agenda: appointment of a new city commissioner to fill the unexpired term of the late Terry Taylor; consider the acceptance of a letter of notice to retire from City Manager Johnny Bacon; discussion of appointment of an Interim City Manager.

Following the special called meeting Aug. 16, City Attorney Kirk Moore was asked by The Current if he had been made aware of any sexual harassment complaint filed against Bacon. His response was that he was the attorney for the City Commission and had no comment, and The Current would have to consult the city commission.

The Current asked Commissioners Beatrice Wilcox, Tommy Pruett and Billy Williams, after the meeting’s adjournment, if they had been made aware of any sexual harassment complaint made against Bacon. Each of them responded “no comment”, with Williams, adding he did not have enough information to comment.
The Current also contacted Mayor David Lamb and Commissioner Cody Caksackkar via text messaging to ask whether they had been made aware of any charges of sexual harassment made against Bacon. Both Mayor Lamb and Commissioner Caksackkar responded with “no comment.”

Bacon was contacted by The Current and offered the opportunity to respond. He stated he was moving forward with his retirement and planned to now be able to spend more time with his family, with no further comment.

Also speaking during the Aug. 19 meeting was Sharye Hendrix, who reminded the Commission about the Aug. 21 Proclamation signing to take place honoring local senior citizens for National Senior Citizens Day. She invited the commission to the signing, as well as a reception to be held at the Harvey Vick Room of the South Fulton Municipal Complex.

James Pierce asked for action to be taken at his property on Wild Cherry Lane, where sewer rehab work had been conducted. He said he had requested repair to his property multiple times to Mayor Lamb, City Manager Johnny Bacon and Public Works co-director Nicole Berner, and nothing had been done. Mayor Lamb said he had asked for the work to be performed in the past, each time Pierce had made him aware of the problem. He said he would take care of making sure the repairs were completed.

Kathye Stem addressed the commission to provide them with information about a charity online auction to take place in September, with proceeds to go toward needs at the Fulton Dog Pound, which is overseen by Darcy Linn. She said Linn assists the City of South Fulton with animal control needs and donations are needed on an ongoing basis to provide for the animals there.

Kent Greer questioned the Mayor and Commission regarding state funds available for street repair and re-paving. He said it appeared no streets had been paved or repaired within the city in approximately nine years, and he was aware customarily the city receives funds earmarked for street repair each year. Greer said he knew at one time, the city would designate five miles per year for paving, and he wondered where the usual yearly allotment for street paving funds had been placed. Prior to Greer’s conclusion of his time at the podium, he urged the city officials to meet openly for any city business.

Felicia Lightner voiced her concerns over the lack of maintenance for creek overgrowth in the area of College Street. She said it appeared the lack of control of the weeds were a factor in creek overflow and flooding which occurs after heavy rains. Mayor Lamb said he would contact the County Jail to inquire as to the availability of inmate labor, for mowing and cleaning out the creek.

Gene Dunning also asked the commission to clarify why after decades of living on Pamela Circle, and having a separate water meter in his yard, to be used only for lawn and garden watering, he would now be required to pay a flat fee for water at that meter, the same as for the charges he incurs at his home, which is separate.

He said he had never been notified of the change in billing or fees for the separate water source on his property.

Joyce Gray, who was appointed as Interim City Manager during the meeting, and had been previously hired as the City’s Bookkeeper, told Dunning that it would be illegal not to go by the city’s current ordinance on the books, and that past billing practices had not been correct.

“You should have been notified,” Commissioner Tommy Pruett said.

Dunning said years ago, the city had annexed his neighborhood on Pamela Circle, and at that time, he had felt the residents on Pamela Circle had no choice in the matter, however, he did not intend to remain silent on the lack of notification regarding the “new” billing requirement, nor about the poor street conditions on Connell Drive, leading to Pamela Circle, as well as on the Circle itself.

“It’s like an obstacle course,” Dunning said, referring to motorists having to dodge numerous pot holes, as well as avoid the edges of the roadways which are crumbling. He said when the city chose to annex the neighborhood, that action should have equated to maintaining the area as well.