The city of Hampton on Tuesday ousted its city manager, Charles Coney, because of issues surrounding the Henry County community’s 2019 budget, according to Coney, whose rocky seven-month service to the city had become so toxic that his attorney had accompanied him to recent council meetings.
After meeting in a closed-door session to discuss Coney’s fate, the six-member Hampton City Council split evenly on whether to fire him after the group hired him in April to manage the day-to-day operations of the city. Hampton Mayor Steve Hutchison broke the tie with a vote to terminate.
“All I can say is the council chose after the executive session to terminate the city manager,” the mayor said.
Hutchison said he was precluded from further comment, including citing specific reasons for Coney’s firing, because of pending litigation over the dismissal.
Among the issues leaders in the town of 7,800 residents had with the dismissed city manager was the failure to help craft a budget, Coney said he was told. Hampton, which sits in the southwest corner of Henry County, near the Atlanta Motor Speedway, operates on a fiscal year that begins. Oct. 1. But because it was unable to agree on an annual budget this fall, the city, which had budget last year of $9.1 million, is now running on a month-to-month schedule.
Albany attorney Maurice Luther King, who Coney has hired to represent him in a breach of contract lawsuit against Hampton, said he believes his client was let go because he was exposing alleged irregularities in the city’s ordinances. He alleges that the city violated Coney’s contract in several ways, including failure to notify him 48 hours in advance of any dismissal proceedings.
“I don’t think they wanted a real budget,” said King, who was at Tuesday’s meeting and had accompanied Coney to a meeting last month. “That was just a pretext for getting rid of Mr. Coney.”
Coney came to Hampton after serving as assistant county manager for the Macon-Bibb County Consolidated Government between 2014 and 2017, and interim county manager of operations for the same body from 2017 until earlier this year. He also has served as chief administrative officer for the Ben Hill County Board of Education in south Georgia.
Hampton has had high turnover in city managers, according to a report from the Henry Herald. Since 2004, the city has had at least seven individuals filling the job, some of whom lasted less than a year, the newspaper reported.
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