Avondale’s sole finalist for City Manager job fired from his previous job without cause
This story has been updated.
Avondale Estates has named a finalist to replace former City Manager Clai Brown, and the candidate’s exit from his previous job was just as contentious as Brown’s exit from Avondale Estates.
The city says Patrick Bryant, the former City Manager of Talladega, Ala., is the sole finalist to replace Brown. Bryant was fired from his job in Talladega in June without cause, meaning the firing stemmed from a disagreement with his former employer and was not performance related. He received a severance, according to The Daily Home newspaper.
The Avondale Estates City Commission cannot legally act on hiring Bryant until Aug. 14.
“The City of Avondale Estates Board of Mayor and Commissioners (BOMC) noted that Bryant is a highly qualified professional and puts forth a ‘get-it-done’ attitude with a passion for delivering exceptional customer service,” the press release from the city says. “Additionally, Bryant also has a real commitment to enhancing the experience of living in smaller communities. The BOMC has emphasized its confidence in Bryant’s selection as sole finalist for the Avondale Estates City Manager position which included a thorough background review by The Mercer Group firm.”
Bryant worked in Santa Clarita, Cali. for seven years as an Administrative Analyst for the City Manager’s Office and Transit Services Department before moving to Talladega. He’s a native of Birmingham, Ala. and got his start in government with an internship in Mountain Brook, Ala. He holds a Master of Public Administration and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in communication and political science from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
In an editorial, The Daily Home explained the circumstances that led up to Bryant’s termination, which occurred in a 3-1 vote.
According to The Daily Home, Bryant spent three years in Talladega and spearheaded a re-branding effort for the city. He created a new salary schedule and raised wages for city employees. He also instituted a three-day Christmas on the Square festival that became a popular event, the Daily Home reported.
“However, in recent weeks, the council had become more and more disenchanted with Bryant following an incident involving the Water Department in which employees had been underpaid since 2010,” the Daily Home editorial board wrote. “At the prompting of the U.S. Labor Department, the city had to reimburse those workers $68,000 in back pay, plus $30,000 in legal fees, and Bryant fired the responsible employee. Days later, Bryant reversed his decision and reinstated the employee, reasoning that the problem was correctible, that, though the actions were intentional, they were not for personal gain, and because he feared for his own job.”
The council ordered Bryant to apologize, but he refused, the Daily Home reported. There were also vague complaints by some city employees who said they were mistreated. The council first tried to fire Bryant over a year ago, the Daily Home reported.
To read the full editorial (subscription required) click here.
Avondale Estates Mayor Jonathan Elmore said Bryant had good references and all the qualities the city was looking for in a city manager. He said Bryant’s termination from Talladega wasn’t his fault.
“He’s more than happy to explain his side of the story,” Elmore said. “Patrick told us what happened. The recruiter confirmed that. He is a good guy. He did the right thing and got canned for it. There’s some crazy crap in Tallaedga, just like there is in Waycross, Ga.”
Bryant spoke to Decaturish and said he had to make a tough call while working in Talladega.
“I had to make a personnel decision that wasn’t popular with the council, I stand by that decision,” Bryant said. “The council felt it best for the organization to go in another direction.”
He said Avondale is “a perfect fit for me.”
“I’m most comfortable in a suburban environment of a major metropolitan area,” Bryant said. “It’s how I grew up, the culture I know, the people I know. Avondale has a lot of opportunity ahead of it. The board and I share a very common philosophy.”
Being a city manager by its very nature can be a contentious and tenuous position to hold. The Avondale Estates City Commission voted to part ways with City Manager Brown after he announced in December his intention to resign effective Feb. 16 of this year, only to rescind that resignation a month later after the city commission refused to pay him a severance that amounted to more than $300,000 (it was exactly $317,408.17, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution). The severance would’ve been a year’s salary – Brown made about $180,000 per year – plus accrued vacation and sick leave.
A severance for resigning is unheard of in the public sector. The City Commission and Brown eventually came to an agreement that paid Brown a $45,000 severance payment and approximately $32,000 in accrued leave. In exchange, Brown agreed not to sue the city.
Elmore said Bryant is the right person for the job. He said Bryant will likely be unable to start until mid-September.
“He checked all the boxes: nice guy, communicates well, clearly very bright, open,” Elmore said. “We’ve been missing and needing an effective city manager and we’re going to get it.”