Brookhaven councilman resigns after manager-pay squabble

A Brookhaven city councilman abruptly resigned Tuesday night following a controversy over what Georgia’s newest city is paying its city manager.

Councilman Jim Eyre did not cite the salary for manager Marie Garrett in his brief statement read at Tuesday night’s meeting or again in interviews Wednesday.

But he had been critical of recent revelations that city taxpayers paid Garrett both a salary and consultant’s fee for more than a year.

“I always said I would do this job as long as I could effectively represent District 2, and I don’t think I’m there anymore,” Eyre said Wednesday. “I think most folks understand the reason behind it, and many have offered their support.”

Garrett came on as an interim manager for the north-central DeKalb city about a week before it officially became a city in December 2012. The city agreed to pay Garrett, who also served in an interim role when Johns Creek was launched, $200 an hour for the job.

The City Council voted in February 2013 to make Garrett permanent manager after a nationwide search failed to yield a better candidate. At the time, officials announced she would earn $170,000 a year.

Missing from the public disclosure was the arrangement allowing Garrett to work four ten-hour days weekly, and bill the city $200 per hour for any work done on Fridays.

Garrett billed the city for 123.5 hours as a consultant over a six-month period, making an additional $24,700 beyond her base pay.

Eyre had been critical of the arrangement when it was revealed last week.

But Mayor J. Max Davis said Wednesday that Eyre was aware of the compensation package, discussed in closed-door meetings. The council voted Tuesday to release attorney’s notes of those meetings that indicate Eyre was in the room for one of the sessions.

A summary of the meetings, dated Tuesday, also indicates that Eyre’s calls to Garrett on Fridays were the reason she began billing the city for work on those days.

“He was absolutely aware of our arrangement,” Davis said. “He was actually the impetus for her charging Brookhaven on her days off.”

The arrangement that allowed Garrett to act as a consultant ended last month, when the City Council voted to give her a raise. She now earns $214,000 annually to oversee operations in the city of about 49,000.

By comparison, the city manager in Sandy Springs, with 99,000 residents, earns about $191,000.

Other councilmembers defended Garrett’s salary, saying it was one way they persuaded her to stay on permanently when she was uncertain about taking on a full-time role.

The council and Davis have pledged to move on with city business, including a midyear budget adjustment slated for June, in Eyre’s absence. The council needs only the mayor and two of the remaining four members for a quorum.

The city plans a special election in November to fill Eyre’s seat. A call for candidates will be issued this summer.

Eyre said expects to return to a civic role, though not likely an elected post, in the new city at some point. In the meantime, he said he hopes the disruption “will lead to full transparency” in how Brookhaven spends taxpayer dollars.

Tuesday, after Eyre left the meeting, the remaining members adopted a resolution to post all city workers’ salaries on the city’s website. No date has been set for that.