Avondale Commission tables plan to end city manager’s severance, enters executive session

Posted by Decaturish.com January 22, 2018

Avondale Estates City Manger Clai Brown looks on as a parade passes by. File photo by Travis Hudgons

This story has been updated. 

By Anne Clarke, contributor 

The Avondale Estates City Commission on Monday night tabled a resolution that would remove a severance agreement that was quietly added to the city manager’s contract in 2015.

That severance, which the City Commission is refusing to pay, would have paid him a full year’s severance if he resigned. His salary, plus accrued vacation and sick leave, would’ve resulted in a more than $300,000 payout to City Manager Clai Brown. Last month, Brown announced he would resign but he later changed his mind when the City Commission wouldn’t not pay the severance.

At the end of the meeting, the City Commissioners went into a closed-door executive session to discuss the matter and said there would be no action or comment afterward.

Mayor Jonathan Elmore told the audience that until a month ago he did not know the amendment to severance provision of Brown’s contract existed but said he would not comment further. Elmore and the other current members of the City Commission were not on the board when the severance provision was added to Brown’s contract.

City Manager Clai Brown during the Jan. 23 City Commission meeting. Photo by Anne Clarke

The resolution on the City Commission’s Jan. 22 meeting agenda tabled by the commission says the contract amendment wasn’t properly approved in a public meeting and said it may conflict with state law because of the financial burden it placed on the city.

The scene Monday night was different from one last month when many residents showed up in support of Brown after he announced his resignation. 

During the meeting Monday night, residents asked pointed questions about how this contract amendment was approved in the first place.

Resident Doug Harmon asked Brown, “Have you ever heard of a deal like yours?”

Brown said no.

Harmon then asked, “How did your deal come to light?”

Commissioner Brian Fisher answered that the meeting was not the appropriate forum  to ask questions about the contract.

“For right now we are just taking citizen comments,” Fisher said.

Brown was noticeably quiet during the citizen comments.

Josh Norris, a local attorney, wanted to know, “What did the city attorney [Bob Wilson] know and what did he tell the board?’

Norris complained about the lack of transparency, noting the amendment to the contract was not voted on in a public meeting.

“Nobody knew about this deal; from what I can gather Clai knew about it, the city attorney and Terry Giager knew about it,” he said. “That is unacceptable. You’ve been hosed here folks.”

This garnered applause from the audience.

After the meeting, City Attorney Wilson said he didn’t create the amendment but he did review it. During the meeting, it was revealed by Commissioner Adela Yelton that Brown’s attorney created it. Brown would not reveal the name of his attorney.

City Attorney Bob Wilson. Photo by Anne Clarke

Yelton said she found nothing in the city’s financial report that would’ve shown the existence of a severance in Brown’s contract.

Commissioner Lisa Shortell agreed that she did not see any evidence in the contingency section of the financial reports.

Mayor Elmore ended the public meeting explaining that there would be a private executive session and that no actions would be taken following their closed-door session.

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