Stonecrest mayor silent in 1st council meeting since state reduced his powers

This is a screenshot from Wednesday's special called meeting in Stonecrest.

Credit: City of Stonecrest

Credit: City of Stonecrest

This is a screenshot from Wednesday's special called meeting in Stonecrest.

On the heels of a drastic legislative change to the mayor’s seat, Stonecrest is undergoing a leadership upheaval which is also taking place amid a state lawmaker’s calls for the FBI to investigate potentially misspent COVID-19 relief funds.

The five-person City Council voted Wednesday to appoint a new acting city manager, who gained a larger role as a result of the city’s revised charter, which Gov. Brian Kemp signed last week. Mayor Jason Lary, whose voting powers were stripped as part of the changes, was present but silent during the special called meeting.

Janice Allen Jackson, who previously held government roles in Albany and Augusta, will fill the city manager position that’s been vacant for years. In addition, the City Council appointed Gia Scruggs, the city’s current procurement officer, as the city finance director.

The City Council also approved reassignments from Jacobs Engineering, a private company from Dallas, Texas, that manages the city’s administration. The City Council and the mayor are the only city employees who are not contracted employees of Jacobs, Councilwoman Jazzmin Cobble previously told The Atlanta Journal Constitution. According to the new charter, Jackson should join that short list of city employees.

The staffing changes from Jacobs were not made public, but at least one change was apparent during Wednesday’s meeting. Jim Nichols was referred to by city leaders as deputy city manager, apparently replacing Plez Joyner.

The city has not publicly announced Joyner’s reassignment or any other staffing changes made by Jacobs, but the City Council unanimously approved of some personnel reassignments from Jacobs at a March 26 special called meeting.

Jackson and Nichols said they will update the city’s website and staff contact information soon. The AJC has filed an open records request to find out more about the city’s staffing changes, and its updated contract with Jacobs.

All councilmembers voted to approve the new changes. It was the first city meeting where the mayor did not have a vote due to changes to the city’s charter, which only permits the mayor to vote in the event of a tie — a rare occurrence for a five-member council. The mayor pro tem also presides over city meetings and sets meeting agendas instead of the mayor.

The city manager is described in the new charter as the “full-time chief executive officer of the city” and will oversee all department heads who don’t report to the City Council. The mayor’s role is mostly relegated to being the “ceremonial head” of the city.

Lary vocally opposed the changes before they were enacted and accuses the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Emanuel Jones, and Cobble of having a vendetta against him.

After Kemp signed the bill last Thursday, Jones called for Lary to resign, claiming he misused $6.2 million worth of federal COVID-19 relief funds among other allegations. He also asked for the FBI and Department of Justice to open an investigation into the his allegations.

Both Lary and Councilman Jimmy Clanton, who Jones also called on to resign, denied Jones’ allegations.

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