Midway fires city manager again

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By Alice Du Pont

 The Midway City Council, by a vote of 4-3, fired city manager Agatha Muse-Salters -- again -- during the July 7 regular monthly meeting of the council. In addition to Councilman Jerrod Holton, others who wanted Muse-Salters out were council members Charlie Smith, Allean Robinson and Mayor Ella Barber. Council members Chuck Willis, David Knight and Delores Madison voted to keep her.
       The meeting, which lasted well into Friday morning, left the city in a precarious situation after the crucial vote.
    In making his motion to get rid of Muse-Salters, Holton cited malfeasence, saying that she did not hire Police Chief Marcus Williams according to the published job description.
    "I do not believe that Mrs. Salters is a good fit for the City of Midway. We did not know the fiscal impact before the Midway Police Department was set up." Holton said.
    Before the vote was taken, Muse-Salters requested that Councilwoman Robinson abstain from voting because, she said, Robinson had asked her "what she planned to do about her husband." But Robinson refused to abstain saying she never made any statements to Muse-Salters about her husband, the former volunteer Midway Fire Chief.
    "I have never brought up anything between Miss Agatha and Mr. Robinson. I look at what going on here tonight but you blew it when you came after me," Robinson told Muse-Salters.
    Muse-Salters said citizens told her staff earlier in the day that there was a plan to fire her during the meeting. And, according to her contract, if she was terminated before the end of the year, she was entitled to a year's pay, sick leave, vacation pay and other incidentals that added up to $115,145.56. After the city pays her, Muse-Salters said, they will have a little more than $78,000 with which to operate the city.
    "I have already notified my attorney and I want it all direct deposit. I will take you to court," she vowed, already on the telephone with her attorney before she left her seat.
    "There are those of you who came here tonight with your minds made up. She was not evaluated. At least give her the opportunity for an evaluation. Are we going back to court? For all of you who want to go to court, we only have $78,000 in our bank account and how's the city going to operate?  Seems like we're putting the city in financial jeopardy. Who going to pull out their checkbook?" asked Madison.
    Knight agreed with Madison.
    "We did not evaluate the city manager, what are we terminating her for?" he asked.
    "She hired him (the chief) and she should be fired. This is a bad situation. This is no joke, keep this mess up with inexperienced officers and somebody's going to get killed. (They) went over to Leon County with sirens and emergency lights on to pick up two runaway girls who were already in custody," Robinson said.
    Chuck Willis placed the blame on the shoulders of the council for the police department problems that appeared to be the reason some council members wanted Muse-Salters terminated.
    "You could say the council dropped the ball and the police department grew overnight. We are going to have some differences and some ups and downs. Complaints about his should go through the city manager but there is a process. That's why you have a manager. You have to give a person a chance to do their job, we have to work together," Willis said.
    With Muse-Salters gone, the job of running the city fell to the man who was interim city manager when Muse-Salters was terminated in September of 2010, Roosevelt Morris. Auburn Ford, Jr.'s name was place in the hat as interim manager too. Mayor Ella Barber said she had talked with both men and had an idea how much each would ask for in compensation. The council then voted to name Morris interim city manager.
    After the meeting was adjourned, Rosilyn Copeland, assistant to the city manager tendered her resignation.
    The next day Director of Community Services, Reginald Cunningham was told that his job was in jeopardy. About 9:30 p.m., he said, Morris called him at home and told him his position was eliminated. When he reported to work Monday, July 11, Morris gave him a formal letter of termination and said he was recommending  the elimination of Cunningham's position "for the betterment of the city."
      Back in September 2010, Muse-Salters was fired by the same margin. Mayor Quintealia Cato, who was too ill to attend the meeting but participated via telephone, made the motion to "terminate" the manager immediately, which drew a quick second from councilman Jerrod Holton, Councilmen Charles Willis and Charlie Smith joined Cato and Holton to oust Muse-Salters. Council members Ella Barber, Delores Madison and David Knight wanted to keep Muse-Salters and tried in vain to persuade the others that Midway was at a critical point and needed Muse-Salters expertise and knowledge.
      But with the New Year Muse-Salters was back as Midway's city manager following a controversial special council meeting.