THOMASVILLE — With one nay vote, Thomasville City Council approved Monday employing an interim general utilities superintendent.
On a motion by Mayor pro tem Terry Scott and a second by Council member David Hufstetler, the council approved hiring the Marietta consulting firm of ESP, LLC. The firm's sole member is Keith Bass, who the council proposed for the position, also in a 4-1 vote, on Feb. 26.
The hiring agreement approved Monday says Bass will be employed for six months in an arrangement in which his employment can be extended on a month-by-month basis, said Tim Sanders, city attorney.
Bass will be paid an amount not to exceed $13,500 a month, Sanders said after the Monday council meeting.
Bass is scheduled to begin the position Monday.
The add-on agenda item to hire Bass came after a closed session during a council workshop prior to the regular council meeting. The decision to hire Bass was done during the regular meeting.
Council member Jay Flowers, who cast the sole opposing vote, said his vote was consistent with the no vote he cast in February when Bass' employment was proposed.
Flowers said he believes Chris White, current assistant utilities superintendent, and the utilities team "are completely competent and can continue to deliver the great levels of service our customers expect."
"While (Mr.) Bass may be a MEAG (Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia) veteran, I am not convinced he will bring much value in the next six months," Flowers added.
Pointing out the sum projected to be paid to Bass' consulting company for a six-month minimum, Flowers said the city will pay Bass a minimum of $81,000 for someone who still has not been vetted through traditional city hiring channels.
Questions arose in February about whether the employment proposal to Bass was in violation of Georgia's Open Records Act.
Prior to the Monday meeting, Sanders said that while the position of general superintendent of utilities, interim or otherwise, fits within the definition of “executive head of an agency,” he is not certain the Open Records Act is necessarily applicable to the city council's February action.
Sanders said that even if the law is applicable, he has advised the council he does not believe action taken at the February meeting concerning Bass rose to the level of “final action” as is contemplated in the act, and that there was not a violation of the law.
"The action taken by the city council in this (February) meeting did not specify any particulars of (Mr.) Bass’ employment, such as his salary," Sanders said, "and I have advised the council that a subsequent vote should be taken to formally set (Mr.) Bass' salary, for example, and any other necessary terms of his employment. I believe that a subsequent vote that sets salary and any other terms of employment would be a 'final action' concerning (Mr.) Bass, assuming he accepts those terms."
After the Monday meeting, Sanders told the Times-Enterprise, "If he accepts the terms, I think this would be final action."
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820