On April 15, Lary announced he would take an indefinite leave to battle recurring cancer. He made that announcement at a news conference where he refuted the findings of a bombshell investigative report, which alleged the city’s federal coronavirus relief fund program was mismanaged. Lary is among those implicated in the report that found $6.2 million was misused, leading several city employees to be fired and replaced.
Mayor Pro Tem George Turner took over mayoral duties, but those duties have officially reverted back to Lary, Jackson confirmed. Due to a recent charter change, Turner will still preside over city meetings.
When Lary began his leave, there was no official leave policy on the books in Stonecrest. In June, the City Council adopted a policy that allows for indefinite paid leave as long as the city clerk was notified.
Aside from collecting their salary, an elected official can’t conduct city business or authorize the use of city funds while on leave. The annual salary for the mayor is $20,000; it’s $15,000 for each councilmember.
For Doraville Councilwoman Stephe Koontz, it raised alarm bells when she spotted Lary at a Georgia Municipal Association convention this past weekend in Savannah. In a Facebook post, she questioned why the mayor was able to attend while on leave — she told the AJC she wasn’t aware at the time that Lary’s leave had ended, since it had not been publicly announced by the city.
Jackson confirmed that Lary ended his medical leave before attending the conference, meaning the city was able to pay for him to attend without violating the city’s leave policy.
Lary battled cancer twice since being elected as Stonecrest’s first mayor in 2017. He did not take any time off during his first bout, but he was given an excused absence for three months to battle lymphoma at the end of 2020.
The city charter says an elected official would forfeit their seat if they miss one-third of regularly scheduled City Council meetings within a three-month period without being excused. Any missed meetings while out on leave will not count toward that requirement.