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Clarkston Councilmember Susan Hood resigns, giving city manager job security

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Clarkston Councilmember Susan Hood resigns, giving city manager job security

Councilmember Susan Hoods speaks during the Clarkston City Council work session on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. Photo by Dean Hesse.

This story has been updated.

Clarkston, GA — Clarkston City Manager Shawanna Qawiy, who has faced allegations of creating a toxic work environment and questions about how the city has awarded contracts, may keep her job through January, if not longer.

City Councilmember Susan Hood, who was one of three votes in favor of taking action against Qawiy, abruptly resigned during a July 27 she called to discuss the community’s concerns about the city manager.

But after she announced her resignation, there were reports by attendees that she’d changed her mind. Mayor Beverly Burks promised to follow up. Hood confirmed her resignation in a phone call with Decaturish after the meeting.

“Yes, I did resign,” Hood said. “I wouldn’t have done it if I was going to change my mind.”

Supporters of Qawiy showed up in force to the meeting.

“The only thing that should matter is competence and accountability,” Hood said, according to a tweet from a The Champion reporter. “So I leave to y’all. I’ve got better things to do with my time.”

When Hood made her announcement, Councilmembers Laura Hopkins and Jamie Carroll were in the process of planning a closed-door meeting, known as an executive session, to discuss what to do about Qawiy. In addition to Hood, Hopkins, and Carroll favored taking action. According to Hopkins, Councilmembers Awet Eyasu, YT Bell and Vice Mayor Debra Johnson favored doing nothing.

In a 3-3 tie, Mayor Beverly Burks could’ve voted. While Hopkins said Burks favored keeping Qawiy, Burks has said she hasn’t taken a position on the matter. But that’s irrelevant now, assuming Hopkins is correct. That would mean the council is 3-2 in favor of doing nothing regarding the allegations against the city manager, meaning Burks’ vote is not necessary.

The only caveat is if Johnson has to recuse herself. On July 21, Finance Director Dan Defnall emailed the council regarding payment requests he received from Qawiy.

Defnall attached the following documents to his email: a quote for security cameras at city hall and two documents pertaining to Johnson.

One document is a request to reimburse Johnson’s spouse for attending the Georgia Municipal Association Convention, and another document is an invoice that was billed to Johnson instead of Qawiy or the city of Clarkston. Defnall’s email cited a section of the city code that says, “Neither the mayor nor any member of the city council shall personally order any goods or services for the city. All purchases shall be made by the city manager, with approval by the city council as a body where appropriate.”

City Attorney Stephen Quinn has not weighed in on whether Johnson would have to recuse herself.

It’s unclear whether a replacement for Hood will be appointed to the city council, or if her council seat will remain vacant until the November elections. Her resignation now means four seats will be on the ballot. The other candidates up for reelection are Johnson, Eyasu and Hopkins.

Decaturish reporter Sara Amis and photographer Dean Hesse are at the meeting and will provide a full story later this evening.

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