Fulton county manager says he was fired over comments

The merry-go-round atop Fulton County government continued to spin this week when the Board of Commissioners fired the interim county manager.

On Wednesday commissioners voted 6-0 to terminate Patrick O’Connor, who had served as acting county manager since commissioners fired his predecessor, Dwight Ferrell, in October. County Commission Chairman John Eaves declined to comment, saying the decision is a personnel matter. The action means Fulton County now has its fifth county manager in a little more than two years.

On Friday O’Connor attributed his dismissal to comments he made at a meeting with South Fulton Community Improvement District officials recently. An audio recording of the comments obtained by Channel 2 Action News indicates O’Connor vented about commissioners and his predecessor during the meeting.

“This county hasn’t had serious leadership in years and years and years,” O’Connor says on the recording. He complained commissioners did not properly vet Ferrell and said some commissioners treated Ferrell like “a puppet.”

“He was a disaster,” O’Connor said in the CID meeting. “He was here six weeks and everybody knew he would be fired.”

O’Connor also accused County Commission Chairman John Eaves of trying to hire another “puppet” as as county manager. But he told the CID officials that the next manager would have to be someone qualified, “because everybody’s watching.”

On Friday O’Connor said Eaves and Commissioner Liz Hausmann recently informed him he was suspended. He said Hausmann cited the comments he’d made at the CID meeting. This week commissioners voted to terminate him.

O’Connor said the comments he made to the CID officials were not inappropriate.

“This has been taken so out of context it’s beyond belief,” he said.

“While the Board of Commissioners has made the difficult decision to terminate Mr. O’Connor’s employment, our primary focus at this time is the future and growth of Fulton County,” Eaves said in a prepared statement.

Hausmann could not be reached for comment Friday.

Commissioner Lee Morris abstained from Wednesday’s vote to fire O’Connor. He said he found O’Connor “professional and competent” and had “no first-hand knowledge” of any reasons to fire him.

Also on Wednesday, commissioners voted to name Sharon Whitmore acting county manager. Whitmore had been serving as acting finance director.

Zachary Williams left the post in December 2012 for a job in DeKalb County. County Attorney David Ware held the post for nine months until commissioners hired Ferrell.

Commissioners fired Ferrell amid complaints from employee union representatives that he was deaf to their concerns.

The parade of managers may soon come to an end. On Monday commissioners announced a single finalist to become the next county manager: Richard “Dick” Anderson, former executive director of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority.

“This week we identified a finalist for the position of county manager and look forward to having a permanent leader in that role in the near future,” Eaves said.