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Clarkston city council parts ways with city manager, raises budget for police salaries

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Clarkston city council parts ways with city manager, raises budget for police salaries

Clarkston City Hall and Police Department. Photo by Dean Hesse

Clarkston, GA — In a special called meeting Aug. 7 lasting less than five minutes including the roll call, the Clarkston city council voted unanimously to accept the resignation of City Manager Shawanna Qawiy, and to raise the budget for police salaries by $188,472.

These swift decisions came after months of wrangling. The votes taken on Aug. 7 were based on discussions held at the city council meeting Aug. 3, including an executive session. Another executive session was on the agenda for Aug. 7, but was dropped, presumably because the city council and Qawiy were able to come to an agreement ahead of the meeting. 

Mayor Beverly Burks said that the interim city manager would be the person already designated by Qawiy per the city’s charter, but that the council would consult City Attorney Stephen Quinn and announce who it is Aug. 8.

“This is in the best interests of everyone, and we plan to move forward,” Burks said.

Burks mentioned Qawiy’s service as planning director, interim city manager, and city manager.

“This is in our best interests, so we can conduct the business of the city,” Burks said. 

Qawiy’s separation agreement includes two months notice and six months severance pay, which Councilmember Jamie Carroll said was part of her employment contract. However, Qawiy was placed on administrative leave Aug. 4, will no longer enter city hall or supervise employees, and will create a transition document including passwords and other important information. Her severance pay is $67,500, and she also agreed not to sue the city.

In the aftermath of Qawiy’s resignation, her controversial hire of John Pearson as Director of Police Services is now even more in question. No contract or salary for Pearson was ever produced by the city in response to inquiries from Decaturish. Mayor Burks along with council members Carroll, Laura Hopkins, and Susan Hood all said that they had not seen a contract for Pearson themselves when asked at a town hall meeting July 27.

Carroll said that whether Pearson actually is or would remain an employee of the city was a question for the new city manager. 

The budget amendment will allow the city to raise starting salaries for police officers to $60,000, and give commensurate raises to current officers.

Police Chief Christine Hudson said that in light of new developments, two police officers who had planned to leave were staying, and the city was sending offer letters to two more.

Hudson said that at least one of the officers who recently resigned was interested in returning. 

“We’ll be in good shape,” Hudson said.

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