City manager to remain in Porterdale

PORTERDALE - City Manager Tom Fox rescinded his letter of resignation to the mayor and City Council on Wednesday, a little over a week after he notified them of his intent to resign.

Fox said he asked to remain as city manager at the urging of numerous people in the town who asked him to stay on the job.

"My renewed effort and hope is to work in and encourage a professional environment for the benefit of the community," Fox said Thursday.

The council had not yet acted on Fox's letter of resignation and no vote was taken Wednesday night when Mayor Bobby Hamby and the four remaining council members - Linda Finger, Mike Harper, Arline Chapman and Robert Foxworth - met in closed session to discuss the Fox personnel issue. One seat on the council is vacant due to the October resignation of Post 5 Councilwoman Kay Piper.

Hamby said the council was ultimately unable to take action one way or another due to lack of a quorum that came about during the hour-plus closed session.

"Tom had given me a letter rescinding his resignation," Hamby said. "But while we were in closed session, Councilwoman Finger got up and left. Once she went out the door, we were basically adjourned, so there was no action taken. From the best I can tell, (Fox) has just rescinded his resignation, so he'll continue to work."

Finger said Thursday she left the meeting because she was unhappy with the way the discussion was progressing.

"I wanted no part of it," Finger said. "With me leaving, they wouldn't have a quorum to vote. It was very unorganized, and I wasn't happy with the way it was going."

At the time he tendered his resignation, Fox said he "respectfully" disagreed with some decisions made by the City Council and that he could no longer work in the "toxic environment" created by the elected officials. Fox also said that he would consider remaining in his post if he were given an employment contract, which would require an amendment to the city charter.

In a written statement last week, Chapman said Fox worked in a difficult political climate.

"Due to the current makeup of the council," Chapman wrote, "it has been almost impossible for the city manager to do his job due to constant interference and the threat of losing his job if he opposes the will of those who hold the majority vote."

Chapman said Thursday she is pleased with the outcome of the meeting.

"I'm certainly happy to see Tom stay," she said. "I have no complaints about Tom. He has always responded to my requests and concerns, certainly not five minutes after I asked him, but within a reasonable time."

Finger said she believes Fox should have stood behind his resignation.

"I don't have any problem with Tom personally, and I won't have problems working with Tom," Finger said. "However, I feel strongly that when someone deliberates over something like this and makes a move like making a resignation, then they should stand behind it."

Fox said he still would like to be able to work under contract with the city.

"I think the council will see the need for that, and I would hope that that would be forthcoming," he said.

Councilmembers Chapman and Foxworth said last week they would agree to a contract agreement for the city manager. Finger said, however, that she would not agree to amending the charter to allow the city manager to work under contract.

"He took the job and just like us he agreed to work within the realm of that charter," she said. "Just because something comes up and you are unhappy with the rules doesn't mean you can change them."

Fox also said he doesn't anticipate the issue of his employment coming up again and hopes to focus on getting the financially troubled town back on solid fiscal ground.

Porterdale faces a $200,000 budget shortfall for the coming budget year.

"We are going to sell the (reserve sewage treatment) capacity back to the Water Authority, which will help the '09 and '10 budgets," Fox said, "and (the council) did approve a preliminary plat (Wednesday) night for that apartment complex on (Ga.) Highway 81 South. If that goes through, there will be water and sewer tap fees and development fees. So I think the city will bounce back."