The Fort Oglethorpe City Council has upheld the March 22 firings of former Public Works Director Jeff Long and Chief of Police David Eubanks.
Those firings immediately followed City Manager Ron Goulart’s resignation and the appointment of Harold Silcox to serve as interim manager.
Within minutes of assuming his post at 3:55 p.m., Mr. Silcox called each of the long time employees into Mayor Lynn Long’s office to tell them their employment with the city had come to an end and that neither would receive severance.
The public works director and police chief filed appeals to their termination, and Tuesday evening the mayor presided over a tribunal consisting of the city council members to either uphold or reverse the firings.
Mayor Long cast a tie-breaking vote, joining Louis Hamm and Johnnie Smith in upholding Mr. Long’s firing while Earl Gray and Clay Kissner voted to overturn his termination.
Mr. Eubanks’ dismissal was upheld 3-1 with Mr. Gray casting the sole vote to reinstate the police chief.
Stuart James and McCracken Poston, attorneys for the former employees, said the results of the tribunal were a foregone conclusion.
“I was surprised by Kissner’s vote,” said Mr. James, concerning Mr. Long’s appeal. The rest showed what a kangaroo court this proved to be. The mayor was coaching Mr. Silcox on his answers — the city of Fort Oglethorpe can do a lot better than this.”
Both Mr. James and Mr. Poston pointed out that Mr. Silcox admitted, under oath, that he was hired to fire Mr. Long and Mr. Eubanks.
It was also noted that Mr. Goulart’s letter of resignation clearly stated that his resignation became effective on March 25, the Monday following the firings under appeal.
“It was no surprise,” Mr. Poston said after his clients’ firings were confirmed.
Before questioning began, every member of the council was served with a copy of a Superior Court lawsuit calling for the reinstatement of both Mr. Long and Mr. Eubanks and their being awarded damages.
The complaint states, among other things, that Mr. Silcox firings were premature, that the city’s policy regarding disciplinary action toward employees had not been adhered to and that the mayor, council and interim manager had acted illegally.
Mr. Poston said it was necessary that the appeals hearings be concluded before the lawsuit could move forward.
“We expected this and now will let a jury decide what happens. It is clear that Harold Silcox did not have the authority for three days to do anything. The grounds are set for a lawsuit.
“This was a preamble to the bigger story,” Mr. James said.
When asked to express his opinion about the appeals hearing, Mayor Long’s response was, “No comment.”