'Little things' led to LaFayette, Ga., city manager's departure

'Little things' led to LaFayette, Ga., city manager's departure

March 30th, 2013 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

Franklin Etheridge

Franklin Etheridge

Photo by Andy Johns /Times Free Press.

Document: Etheridge Resignation

More details came to light this week in the resignation Monday of LaFayette, Ga., City Manager Frank Etheridge.

"Came out of the blue," is how longtime Mayor Neal Florence described Etheridge's departure.

Events started unfolding at the end of a special called City Council meeting Monday night for a one-item agenda: hearing and accepting the audit report for the 2012 fiscal year.

When that was over, City Councilwoman Judy Meeks asked council members to go into executive session. The mayor said the council can go into executive session without putting prior notice on the agenda.

After about two hours' discussion behind closed doors, "the direction I was given was to ask for his resignation," Florence said.

Etheridge said he was surprised to be asked to resign, which he agreed to do after a meeting with the mayor and Councilman Andy Arnold.

"I did not know it was coming," Etheridge said. "Nobody had said anything."

Etheridge responded Wednesday with a letter to the city's elected officials in which he "reluctantly" tendered his resignation and addressed concerns that council members raised.

"You have stated that I am a micro-manager," Etheridge wrote. "I believe this has been necessary given that when I began employment with the city in October 2011, there was a deficit of over $650,000. Under my leadership, the city ended the budget year by being slightly in the black."

Etheridge wrote that he heard thirdhand that Meeks felt he hadn't disclosed the full amount that Electric Cities of Georgia charged to help the city prepare new rate sheets for the power it sells. He also cited Public Works Director Mark White being upset at not being able to break a contract for uniform services with Aramark and switch to Clean-A-Matic in Rossville, Ga.

"I just think there were a lot of little things," Etheridge said.

The mayor said he would recommend another city hire Etheridge.

"Yes," Florence said. "I would, because he did what I wanted to see done with a city manager, and that was run the city."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.