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Midway city manager fired

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Move comes amid complaints of unpaid subcontractors, lack of communication

By Alice Du Pont

Midway’s City Manager, Auburn Ford Jr., was terminated Jan. 3 during the regular monthly meeting of the city council. Ford became permanent city manager Oct. 4, 2011, after Agatha Muse Salters was terminated.

Ford said he was disappointed in the action taken and he thought the city was moving forward quickly.
Councilwoman Allean Robinson made the motion to fire Ford after she expressed concerns about his leadership skills and said she had received a complaint from subcontractors (doing work on the fire station currently under contraction) who were not paid.

The 4-3 vote split this way: Council members Delores Madison, Robinson, Chuck Willis and Mayor Ella Barber voted to fire Ford and Council members Jerrod Holton, Charlie Smith and David Knight, voted to keep him.

“I have heard him say he runs the city the way he wants to; this is his business. I have documentation that we had subcontractors coming up here making threats because they were not getting paid,” Robinson said.

But with Ford’s termination and the day-to-day operations left in the inexperienced hands of Roosevelt Morris, assistant city manager, City Attorney Henry Hunter expressed some reservations about the timing of the action.

“There is a lot of stuff pending out there,” Hunter said, referring to projects Ford was working on, such as:
* The city is expecting representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to visit Midway on Jan. 15 and present a $285,000 check to build a senior citizens center.

* The Midway Charter School, expected to open in August 2014, may be set back because Ford, on behalf of the city, has been working with the school district to get pertinent paperwork submitted to move forward with construction and curriculum.

* A new Internet consultant needs to be hired because the city has been without Internet access since December 2012.

* A fire station in Midway is 50 percent complete; Ford was monitoring the construction as well as monitoring and executing quick-claim deeds that needed to be converted into warranty deeds.

* Another issue on the table is the status of Police Chief Terron Lindsey, who was placed on administrative leave in mid-December. There is no acting chief running the department; instead two officers are dividing the day-today operations of the department, while another is handling officers’ duties.  

Ford’s termination, Robinson said, should take effect immediately.

“There are a lot of things going on in the city that are hidden; there are lots of things going on in the city that the city manager doesn’t want you to know, like favoritism in this place and workers under contract coming to the city hall demanding money and things are not being built the way they should be built. If you want to sit here with a person doing wrong just because he’s doing something for you, then it’s your sin,” Robinson said.

It was the second time that night that Ford’s future with the city came under scrutiny.

Councilman Chuck Willis, earlier in the evening, had also made a motion to fire Ford, but that motion died for the lack of a second.

Willis cited a list of problems he had with Ford, including failure to include council members’ items on the agendas.

“There is all of this wild spending; we don’t know what’s in the bank and why do we use Excel instead of Quickbooks and what about this check for a Christmas party for police and firemen? The mayor told you to stay out of the charter school; there is misinformation or not enough information given,” Willis said, directing his comments to Ford but not waiting for an answer.

He said Ford takes too long to respond to requests for information from council members and citizens, and Ford should be in the office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Willis also criticized Ford’s lack of enforcement of a dress code for office staff.

“They shouldn’t be walking around with slides on; you got to have on heels and be professional. We’re the only city where staff walks around in slides and tennis shoes; it’s embarrassing,” he said.

He said in the 13 years he has been a member of the city council, this is the worst council he has ever served on.
“We’re a laughingstock. We have to stop taking in rejects. The news media knows more about what’s going on in Midway than me. I don’t know nothing about city government, but I can take some of the people out here in the audience and run this city effectively. We don’t even have a five-year strategic plan,” Willis said.