Sunlight optional – Avondale info hard to find
The city of Avondale Estates is hard to figure out these days.
Even simple questions prove difficult to answer. This month the city cancelled the regular meeting and work session of the city commission. The next regular city commission meeting won’t occur until June 23.
City Manager Clai Brown didn’t respond when asked why the regular meeting was cancelled. Brown and Mayor Ed Rieker have been difficult to reach lately. Rieker hasn’t responded to multiple emails and phone messages since April 15. Brown has only issued short responses via emails. Communications Manager Kelly Brooks, who was recently hired and makes $55,000 a year according to city records, says she isn’t allowed to talk to the media, and that all comments must come from Rieker, who won’t return messages.
Decaturish.com has filed several records requests to obtain basic information regarding routine operations of the city’s government. One records request sought emails pertaining to the cancellation of the two meetings and any draft agendas that might exist. Another records request sought the name, job description and salary info of Avondale Estates employees. The city responded to both on May 15.
On May 2, Brown wrote to Mayor Rieker informing him that, “The Willis Park draft renderings will not be ready for the upcoming work session” and that there would be no agenda items for May 8. He said he would cancel the work session.
A draft of the work session agenda contains two items listed as, “North Woods Rain Garden RFP” and “City Branding.”
A few hours later on May 2, Rieker responded to Brown’s email about cancelling the work session.
“Yes, please cancel the meetings,” he wrote. “The work session and regular meeting for this month.”
On May 4, City Clerk Juliette-Sims Owens sent an email to the city commissioners informing them the May 8 meeting was cancelled “due to no agenda items.” On May 8, six days after Rieker suggested cancelling both meetings, she sent commissioners an email informing them the May 12 regular meeting was cancelled, but she didn’t give a reason. The draft agenda for the May 12 meeting shows “pending” listed under “New business.” The draft May 12 agenda also includes items for approving the prior meeting minutes, updates from Brown and city commissioners and an opportunity for public comments.
City attorney Stephen Quinn said there was no single document containing the name, job description and salary of each employee. Under the Georgia open records law, governments do not have to provide records that don’t exist.
“However,” Quinn said via email. “Names and payroll information for employees, as well as job descriptions, are available in separate documents.”
The city responded by providing a list with the names of all employees, without job titles, and their hourly wage, without salaries.
When asked for the rest of the information, Quinn says the city has no official list that includes all of its employees and their job titles.
“You asked for ‘job descriptions’ and received them,” Quinn said. “The term ‘job description’ refers to a position, not an individual. It sounds from your latest email that you really wanted to know the ‘job title’ for each individual. The city does not maintain a list of all employees with their job titles.”
He said the city doesn’t have any record showing the annual salary for each employee.
“The City does not maintain a record showing the annual salary for each employee,” he said. “In order to convert the hourly pay figures you were provided to annual salary, please multiply the hourly number by 40 (hours per week) and multiply the resulting number by 52 (weeks per year).” He said there were two exceptions: Judge Steve Nicholas and City Solicitor Josie Stevens are part time employees.
Based on Quinn’s response and information on the city’s website, here are the estimated annual salaries for each employee whose job title could be identified:
City Manager Clai Brown – $156,249
Finance Director Ken Turner – $90,000
City Clerk Juliette Sims-Owens – $46,155
City Planner and Community Development Officer Keri Stevens – $79,144
Communications Manager Kelly Brooks – $54,995
Municipal Court Clerk Marcella Shaw – $41,600
Administrative Assistant Karen Holmes – $41,017
Director of Public Works Bryan Armstead – $74,235
Code Enforcement Officer Caryl Albarran – $43,846
Parks and Recreation Supervisor Oscar Griffin – $42,536
Sanitation Supervisor Harold Anderson – $54,100
Police Chief Gary Broden – $81,286
Judge Steve Nicholas – $15,000 (Note: Hourly wage is the highest listed, at $104.17 per hour).
City Solicitor Josie Stevens – $9,600 (Note: Hourly wage is the second highest listed, at $66.67 per hour.)
Due to the lack of information from the city, Decaturish has filed additional records requests in an attempt to cover the city’s government. One request asked for electronic copies of the minutes for the city commission and the city’s Downtown Development Authority going back to Jan. 1, 2006. The city publishes electronic versions of the minutes of the city commission and the DDA on its website, but the records only go back to 2010 and the minutes aren’t available for all meetings.
Quinn said while the city does have electronic copies of the records, he said the cost to retrieve them would be $660.15.
“The electronic minutes are not maintained on the City’s server in a way that will be easy or quick to produce for you,” he said.
The attorney said Decaturish could inspect and review hard copies of the minutes at no charge.