READ | Fairburn mayor loses council support over treatment of city workers
Davis said she understands the building will be sanitized, but she laid issues with the city’s approach to the virus at the feet of Carr-Hurst.
“We’re legislative and we try to stay in our lanes and everything, and that does not say or mean we don’t care about our employees. But the mayor’s the CEO and she handles all the administrative things,” Davis said.
Councilman Pat Pallend said the city has to do a better job protecting its workers and citizens.
“Health and safety must remain our highest priority, and we need to act immediately to address this situation,” he said.
City Hall has been closed to the public since March 18, but the mayor has required employees to come in. Some employees have reported to the AJC their concerns about the situation, but Carr-Hurst has denied any tension exists and has said employees don’t have to come in if they’re uncomfortable.
According to acity employee who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, the woman who tested positive had been out sick since June 30 and was admitted to the hospital Monday. But there was no official communication from the mayor’s office until Friday morning.
“At this point it’s been eight days, the exposure for our families is already there,” the source said. “This cannot be another Cheryl thing.”
Cheryl Catron, a clerk with the Fairburn Police Department, died April 3 of complications of COVID-19 and diabetic ketoacidosis. Catron and many other city workers had been coming to work on their regular schedules even as other municipalities allowed employees to work remotely. Much larger cities, like South Fulton (home to 100,000 residents) and Alpharetta (population 67,000), have had a much smaller share of staff come in.
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In a statement issued through a spokesman, Carr-Hurst said the COVID-19-positive employee was not running a fever on her last day at work and showed no signs of illness. Carr-Hurst wrote that the other 12 employees at City Hall had been tested and the building will remain closed until results come back after the weekend.
Carr-Hurst had rejected pleas from workers and her own city administrator to make work-at-home accommodations for the pandemic.
“The city has no ‘telework’ policy,” she said in a March 16 email to Administrator Dennis Stroud. “Systems must be in place in order for telework to be done efficiently.”
Stroud, who had a difficult relationship with the mayor, resigned two weeks later. He is the third city administrator to resign since Carr-Hurst took office in January 2018.
The AJC reported in late April that the city was developing a telework policy.
In Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Carr-Hurst said the city still has no policy allowing employees to work remotely, but one is under development.
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“I hope to have a policy within the next month of two that we can live with,” she said. However, she added that some city workers must come into the office.
“I’m not going to put the city’s finances and some other issues at stake by allowing them to log into a computer from their home — especially our finances,” she said.
While the city has been slow to allow employees to work from home, Carr-Hurst has been quicker to counter criticism about the city's response to the virus. Last month, she cast the tie-breaking vote to hire a $30,000 image consultant, following an AJC investigation.
Later on in the Wednesday meeting, Fairburn joined a growing number of cities requiring people to wear masks in businesses — including grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurants — to slow the spread of the virus.
A number of doctors are becoming worried about the spike in COVID-19 cases.