Daily Reports




Villa Rica City Council discussion regarding possible termination/ suspension of City Manager Tom Barber (transcribed)

(un-cut audio from post-executive session during Tuesday’s mayor/ city council meeting is transcribed by AI)

WARD 3 CITY COUNCILWOMAN,  STEPHANIE WARMOTH: I would like to make a motion to terminate Tom Barber as city manager. 


MAYOR, LESLIE MCPHERSON: Uh, we will open for discussion of this. Yes.

WARMOTH : The motion to dismiss Tom Barber as city manager is not one that I take lightly.  After much discussion with constituents, staff, and department heads, I have come to realize that our city manager is not what is best for Villa Rica.  I have become more familiar with our city charter and the employee handbook in the four months since becoming a councilwoman.

While the question still lingers among legal counsel as to the verbiage of our city charter in regards to hiring of the former mayor as deputy city manager, it was unanimously agreed upon by the council to rescind the approval of this hire based on concerns brought forth, which were associated with the city’s personnel procedure.

Even after this action was taken by council, Mr. Barber has yet to remove former Mayor Gil McDougal as an employee.  Mr McDougal is simply on paid administrative leave.  This hire is a bold statement to citizens that Mr. Barber does not care about what they want.  His refusal to act upon council’s vote to rescind the approval of his recommendation shows that he does not care about the will of the council plain and simple Mr.Barber is going to do what Mr Barber wants to do without any concern of what is best for Villa Rica. It is my belief as well as the belief of citizens That this is not the first situation where the city manager has violated our city’s personnel procedures And or policies. His infamous letter that he himself confirms was authentic, meets numerous violations in itself under the Code of Conduct… principles that include quality, loyalty, integrity, ethical conduct and use of equipment and property of the city.

In this letter, Mr Barber stated that if Mrs McPherson wins next month’s election, a runoff. I’ll have to look for a job. I simply have no interest in working with someone who lies their way into office and who will be ineffective due to the many damaged relationships she has created among our staff and elected officials.

When I originally approved moving forward with Mr Barber’s employment, I expected that he would rectify this previous statement appropriately with an apology as equally public as the letter he sent out. It is unfortunate that Mr Barber has shown no intent in responding to the many citizens who has spoken out against this particular situation.

At the very least, citizens deserved an apology and reassurance that Mr Barber was willing to work with Mayor McPherson for the betterment of Villa Rica. Mr. Barber brings a great deal of knowledge to our city. I will not deny that. But he is not the only option for city manager as previously suggested. There are always options.

What makes Villa Rica great are the people who are willing to step in and help when it’s needed. 

I have been contacted by multiple qualified people who are willing to step in as interim city manager until we can find a more permanent solution.  As with any change, there will be a transition period, but Villa Rica will not fail.

This change will boost the overall morale of our city so that we can move forward in a more positive direction. In the words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr…  The time is always right to do what is right. Today is the time to do what is right for the city of Villa Rica.

MCPHERSON: Any other comments… discussion? Yes, councilwoman.

WARD 4 COUNCILWOMAN, ANNA MCCOY: I don’t have a nice little prepared statement like Miss Warmoth. So obviously she was expecting this but I sit out here and I look at y’all in the audience and I will say I worked for the government. I am partial to the employees and I know what they go through and I know when there’s political change – stuff changes and it’s not necessarily an easy life. I also know that we’ve, we’ve sat here on, um, multiple occasions over the last three months and we have made decisions based on stuff we should have tabled based on emotions and based on, um, our emotions and just how we’re feeling at the time and that’s not necessarily right either. And I and I sit here and people can talk about me and they can say all kinds of bad things about me and that’s perfectly fine because by God I’ve heard it enough from my ex-husband I can take it from y’all; and I can and I can sit here and I can look at a lot of y’all that I’m Facebook friends with and that I know your lives and your families and I could be, I could throw glass houses… I could throw a stone in a glass house, but I choose not to. But y’all have the free will to come up here and talk about any one of us. And this is the burden we bear when we run for office and we sit with this. But I’m saying this tonight. Um, there’s a lot of stuff that, uh, that Miss Warmoth says that I agree with but also one thing I think it was Mr.

Lang said in the last meeting in his public comment that we all love Villa Rica and we all want what’s best for Villa Rica and over the and over the last few months as we’ve sat here and we’ve we’ve voted to keep or voted to keep support, not necessarily keep. And we voted for the, um, voted for the deputy city manager. And we sat here and we’ve done this and, um, and we have done all this. We – we need some time to calm down. We – if we get a new city manager, we want a good one. And if people come and watch our last three council meetings, nobody good is going to want to come. And that is my stance on it. And then the other thing I would like to say is that this has been a very hellacious political season last year. There was bad and good on both sides. I threw my ring.. I threw my hat in the ring because I felt my integrity was challenged in a mailer that went to the whole city – granted the mayor has said it was a typo – And I have no reason not to believe her and I have no reason not to work with her because we have common issues that we want but there are going to be some things that I’m not going to agree with.

And I’ve sat here in meetings and have had my name drug through the mud… and I’ve had, I believe it was – Marshall, who sat up in the last meeting and pointed me out and I have no right and no recourse to respond back. But now I’m responding back. And now I’m saying is that we’re not going to agree on everything. Leslie is not the only one who is attacked. I sit here and meetings and feel attacked too. And that’s your personal right. It’s freedom of speech. I’ve sat in that point too. I’ve sat in that point too. But with that being said, is that we all want what’s best for the city; and if you disagree, that’s perfectly fine. But no, I can only speak for myself, but no one’s taking any bribes because that’s a rumor and rumors run rampant around this area.

And I wish I was taking bribes because I have a whole lot more money than I have now, but I don’t. You can look at my bank records. So with that being said.  That is my stance on this. Crucify me, hate me, whatever you want, but that is my stance on this. I want Villa Rica to be a good place. I want a, I want a good city manager to come, but if we go over the last three months of these meetings, no one good’s gonna come, so.

I invite everybody to come speak and speak your mind and share your and um, I’m so sorry I wrote it down, but I forgot your name. She’s in the back the nice lady who says she will be here every time until Tom is gone. You have that right you get up to that whether you agree with me or not. You get up to that podium and you speak and you – you raise you raise your voice and that is why this is The United States.

That’s why we have that right. But we also need to keep in mind. We have the right to disagree with each other.  So that’s my stance.

CARTER: I’m glad you didn’t have that written down.  I’m glad you didn’t have that written down. You did real good without a writing it down.

WARD 2 COUNCILMAN MATTHEW MOMTAHAN: So my first point is that coming out of the executive session, I feel like every single meeting we’ve come out of executive session and we’ve made a decision… that I told, as I told the rest of the council tonight, that was probably pretty rash, pretty quick.  And those decisions we’ve had to modify. So I again don’t want, based upon information that we learned tonight in executive session that was presented by Miss Councilwoman Warmoth… I don’t want to make a quick rash decision.  Um, As I explained to Councilwoman Warmoth and the rest of the council, I’m not at a point where I believe that Tom Barber needs to be fired.  I don’t believe that would be the best thing for the city. Mr. Barber tonight gave a city manager report that went through as he described a 20 years of projects that we’re going to have to deal with.

It’s my understanding… I wasn’t on the council back in 2017, but it’s my understanding that it took about six months, six to nine months to hire a new city manager. And it’ll take another six or so months to bring that city manager up to speed.  We have a, something like a 1. 8 million dollar grant that we have to, we have to, uh, basically satisfy by this June, um, in order to receive that money.

We’ve got this storm water utility thing. We’ve got the TAD. We’ve got various development projects. We’ve got various water projects on North Avenue and other issues. I mean, the laundry list, as Mr. Barber gave it out this evening, is long.  So what I am entirely open to is learning more information about what was exposed in executive session and what was discussed.

If there are employees out there or for a constituent to have concerns, I’ve always said since I got elected that I’m an open book, you just need to come and talk to me about it.  But when I’m hearing stuff for the first time tonight that I cannot independently verify…  I cannot make a decision –The same decision that I made in December.

I cannot make the same decision that I made back in February. I guess it was when we hired the deputy city manager.  I can’t do that this evening. So my first question to Councilwoman Warmoth is that would she be willing to table her motion until April?

WARMOTH: No, I’m not. Okay.

MOMTAHAN : Then that being the case, then I cannot support at this time terminating Tom Barber.

MCPHERSON: Excuse me. There are some things that might be new tonight, but for some of us, there’s information that has been known for a very long time.  Um, some of it might be as simple as how citizens are treated.  Some of it might be a little more complicated with employees that feel Like they’re floundering like there’s a lack of management that decisions aren’t made. With others it’s losing employees that we shouldn’t have left – lost and that we have departments that really struggle when we talk about it’s important to have retention and The great team we have and yet we were losing our deputy city manager and others back in the fall, I know some of these people that we’ve lost.

And then you hear word from people who currently work for the city that bring things that are very concerning to you.  And then you talk to business people, and chamber people, and people from two different counties that inform you of the lack of information they get from your manager or from Villa Rica, they don’t know what to do or they got told one thing and a different thing was done and they feel like they can’t trust us anymore.

That is very significant.  Being divided like this is not enjoyable. I’m sure I’m not the only one who at days you can hardly eat because you’ve got butterflies in your stomach or you’re stressing over getting something else done or you know you’re going to have to walk into another tough meeting, you don’t know what’s going to occur.

But I will tell you there is one thing that’s in common in these last months and it involves two people.  On why we can’t move on and why we can’t unify when somebody can look straight at you and know that they’re going to make the most divisive decision when you’re saying we need unity. We need unity. And the person is able to tell you and-and you try to talk to them separately and it doesn’t register with them. It doesn’t matter to them. And it’s a real concern for me in trying to take care of constituents if the person shows no concern for their, their concerns. Which might be as simple as a dangerous– you know, whatever it might be.

But there’s, there’s two people that have kept us from moving forward. And when we get to this point and we still have the most divisive person – hired by the city manager and we’re paying for that person to sit at home because he still has not felt the need to get rid of that person. That’s a real problem when your council voted unanimous that we have removed our ‘okay’ with the, I shouldn’t say our, the council has voted to rescind that approval. And the manager in charge does not think enough of his council to act on it and just leaves us out here hanging and the citizens too.  I take no pleasure in any of this. All I want, I want us to work together. These are the people that were elected. We have citizens that want to see good things happen in this city.

They want to do things downtown. When you have seven people vying for one seat on your DDA, seven people trying to get — that has not happened since I’ve been on council. And you have three new people showing up to get on Main Street. These people want to see us move forward. And that’s all I got to say out of the stuff I didn’t write down.

WARD 1 COUNCILWOMAN, SHIRLEY MARCHMAN: Well, I wasn’t going to say anything. Y’all know I don’t usually talk. But, I talk in executive session. But, as Ms. McPherson was saying, I have missed some sleep.  Don’t go to sleep at night. Do it. Go to sleep. And then I wake up in the morning. Can’t go back to sleep. This has been bothering me. But you know, we sweep some stuff under the rug… pat him on the hand and say, okay, we’re gonna pass this. We’re gonna leave this. Then somebody come along and do something else. And then we want to throw the book at him that that bothers me.  I have, like they said, I have not had enough information to say that I’m gonna vote for Tom to be gone.  I don’t — I’m not worried about the people. I’m concerned about my constituents. But and this might sound vague to some people. But I do trust in the Lord. And when I pray and I can go to sleep at night because I feel like I did the right thing, then that’s all I can go. I put it in God’s hand and I say you have your will be done and his will is gonna be done.  It might go in the favor of Tom. It might go in the favor of us. It might go in the favor of what Miss Warmoth said. It could go either way. But I trust in him that the truth is going to come out and we’re going to make a good decision.  So, I’m not in favor of firing Tom either.  Yeah, Gil, that’s, we got to work on that.  But. Don’t expect for me to say that I’m going to vote for Tom to be gone. That’s my take on it.

MCCOY:  And I want to say this.  Tom Barber sat in that seat tonight and — name one thing wedidn’t all agree on. We all agreed that the rezoning didn’t need to happen. And we all agreed that a decision. Three meetings – y’all have come and talked to us and we agree that a decision needed to be made there. We have agreed on a decision.  Everything. So regardless of who sits in that chair, we’re the ones agreeing. We’re the ones approving. We, we agreed on the special exception for the 2 shops. We agreed on, um, we didn’t have much tonight. That was on the agenda. Unlike other nights. So that’s why I don’t know why I’m drawing a blank, but name now — Miss Marchman when we do alcohol, she’s not going to agree. But. For the most part, and we all know that and love her for it. But for the most part, we agree tonight and we worked as a council and it doesn’t matter. And as long as we work in a council, as long as we work together, it doesn’t matter who sits in that seat.

WARMOTH: And I just want to add just because we disagree doesn’t mean that we cannot work together as a council.

MOMTAHAN: Stephanie, that’s exactly right. And I, and I think I’m, I’m always, it doesn’t matter just because we disagree on one issue doesn’t mean the next issue we’re not working together on.  I just, I do want to address the Gil question though, because it’s my understanding that Tom did not receive, he was out of town last week. He did not receive any direction as his, to his options with Gil until today.  So, uh, You know, some folks may say, well,  instantaneously, but if you’re in an executive position, if you’re in a business owner, you don’t just get the information and oftentimes make a decision right there. Do I expect a decision to be made in the very near future? I mean, do I expect a decision to be made by honestly the end of the week, if not sooner than that? That would be my expectation. And if we’re coming back up here again, and that has not been done. Then I’m, I’m going to reconsider my, my position. I mean, that’s, I mean, that’s where I’m at. So…

WARMOTH: I can make mention of this because it happened. Uh, or the discussion was — took place in Tom’s office.  Tom has no intention of Gil McDougal not working for the city of Villa Rica. He made it very clear that if – If Gil McDougal was not his deputy city manager that he would – that’s what it would take to keep him in Villa Rica. He has no intention of getting rid of Gil.

MOMTAHAN: (interrupting) We will make him put his money where his mouth is then…

WARMOTH: …  and then once again threatened to quit — If it didn’t go his way.

MCPHERSON: All in favor of the removal of Tom Barber as the city manager… (CARTER and WARMOTH raised hands). All opposed (MOMTAHAN, MARCHMAN, and MCCOY raised hands).

MOMTAHAN: Mayor I make a motion to suspend Tom Barber without pay for five days effective You Monday, March 18th.

CARTER: Second. 

MCPHERSON: I have a motion and a second. Discussion, um, on why, I think probably people would want to know why that was proposed.

MOMTAHAN: I would say for the same reasons that I set forth earlier. I’m not yet at the point where I believe that Tom should be terminated. However, our personnel handbook does provide for a progressive discipline policy.  Um, I think it’s appropriate in this case considering the things that he did, that we know he did, and the things that we can possibly learn tonight once we can verify.  So at the end of the day, I don’t believe that firing Tom is the best for the city, but I do believe that some adverse employment action should be taken.

MCPHERSON: Any other discussion? Yes, Councilwoman.

MCCOY: I don’t remember what I was going to say. Um, These are getting late. This was supposed to be short. Um, um, I agree. I agree with Mr. Momtahan. Um, that I do think adverse action needs to be taken. I don’t know if we need to go that, go the step yet until we do some independent, independent verifying on our own. And then the other thing too, as I believe Mr. Momtahan said, um, While, um, to us, this is important, but being in a CEO type position, when you come back from a two-week vacation overseas, and you’re probably a little jet lagged, this may not have been on his top priority, and if we just, and if he was telling the truth, and he just found out tonight, then, he does need time.

He does need time to get back to us. And we need an answer from Tom. Not here. So I don’t I don’t want to make a decision based on hearsay and conjecture. 

CARTER: Okay.  Now, I think the reason that he should be suspended is the letter he sent out put him in the middle of a political campaign. He chose sides and that is strictly against our employee policy. That’s the reason I would support Suspending them for at least a week. So he’ll know that he did the wrong thing when he did that.

MCPHERSON: I may – I may not get to vote in this situation, but I do get to comment including I have a vote when we hire city managers. I’m involved with that and looking at the applications and everything else. Aside from the letter – There is no way that the city manager did not know that every protocol that is used to hire a deputy city manager or a department head was thrown out the window. The fact that people weren’t interviewed, the fact that screenings weren’t done, background that you can turn an application the day before. We were not privy to the information on the applications. I don’t know what happened in HR, but there is absolutely no way that he was not aware that none of those things occurred – and had an employee been responsible for any of this, whether it was a letter. I imagine there’s a number of employees that would have wondered what would have happened to them had they decided on their own to get involved in a political campaign or on their own, and we have yet to find out, decided that they would ignore all the protocols they used previously in the hiring practices in Villa Rica.

MOMTAHAN: Mayor.  I would like to amend my motion to also add direction to Mr. Barber that he needs to make a decision on Gil Dougal by this Friday — by 5 p. m. Friday. 

WARMOTH:  But if he doesn’t, what are the repercussions for that?

MOMTAHAN: Well, then when he comes back from his suspension, we’ll reconsider whether or not we terminate him.

WARMOTH: So if he does not remove… okay.

MOMTAHAN: I mean, I’m not saying he has to remove him. I’m saying that the city attorney gave him three options. He needs to take one of those three options by 5 p. m. Friday. That’s what I’m saying.

MCPHERSON: Would you restate that for the clerk clearly how you’re amending that motion?

MOMTAHAN: Okay, so my original motion was to suspend Tom Barber without pay for five days effective Monday, March 18th. And I’m asking to amend the motion to add direction. That tom barber has to make A decision on one of the three options presented to him by the city attorney by 5 p. m. On Friday…  This Friday that would be… counting backwards the 15th. 

MCPHERSON: Okay, then, uh, all in favor of the suspension?  every council member raises a hand in favor).


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