CONYERS -- The Rockdale County Water and Sewerage Authority voted Thursday morning to amend an earlier recommendation that the county's contract with Rockdale Water Resources Director Dwight Wicks not be renewed when it expires in December.
The Authority agreed to remove the recommendation that the contract not be renewed but retain its recommendation that the director's contract be advertised at the end of the year. The amended recommendation was approved 4-1, with member Garvin Haynes opposed. Authority members Tom Fox and Chip Hatcher were absent from the meeting.
The initial recommendation was approved June 7 and sent to the Board of Commissioners, which approved the measure by a vote of 2-1, with Chairman Richard Oden dissenting. The amended recommendation will also be sent to the BOC.
The Authority discussed the motion in a closed session at a called meeting Thursday prior to the vote.
Following the meeting Authority Chairman Elaine Nash said the Authority retracted part of the motion at the suggestion of member William Murrain, who felt that the Authority had overstepped its bounds.
In the time that intervened between the first recommendation and the amended recommendation, Nash said the Authority and Wicks have been able to communicate more on their differences.
"We have talked with Dwight and we have outlined the issues that created a loss of confidence, and we are now both trying to work on those," Nash said.
Wicks said be believes the Authority's action was "a positive one and that it was a step that was necessary for the Water Authority and Rockdale Water Resources to get back on a common basis."
Nash and Wicks both pointed to improvements achieved in the water department in the past several years that were realized through cooperation between RWR and the Authority.
"Neither one could have done it without the other," Nash said. "We wanted to get back to that."
She said improved communication between the Authority and the director are the ultimate goal.
"I really did feel like we got to the point that Dwight wasn't paying attention to us. We had some concerns and they weren't being listened to; there were certainly communication issues."
Nash said she believes that Wicks, who answers to the BOC -- not the Authority, is more amenable to listening to the Authority's concerns.
"Actions will show if it's going to work or not," Nash said. "But I think it will and I hope it will."
Prior to the closed session the Authority heard public comments of support for Wicks from several of his fellow church members.
Several speakers expressed concern that Wicks' contract was called into question by the Authority and asked for an explanation for the initial recommendation.
Nash explained that the discussion of Wicks' contract was conducted in an earlier closed session and would not be disclosed to the public. Nash said that the Authority has no employees and that the BOC, to which Wicks answers, will determine what happens with Wicks' contract.
"The recommendation you made is a public recommendation, so why can't you discuss it?" asked the Rev. Frank Freeman.
Authority attorney David Strickland said that although Wicks is a contract employee and does not answer to the Authority, he believes it is still appropriate for the Authority to discuss his job performance in closed session.
"If you have no employees, how can you make a recommendation that the contract be cleared off the books?" asked Freeman.
Richard Johnson said he is concerned that the Authority is not Wicks' employer but is making a decision regarding his employment.
Johnson pointed to a recent report from Wicks highlighting progress made by Rockdale Water Resources under Wicks' direction.
"When I look at this report I don't see anything broke," said Johnson. "But we are trying to fix it."
Johnson said the county should work on retaining successful department heads and improving communication rather than acting on personal agendas.
I'm not here standing for Mr. Wicks; I'm here for a process ... something is not right," said Johnson.
The Rev. Daniel Smith, pastor of Miller's Chapel Baptist Church, where Wicks is a member, said the congregation is seeking clarity on what has happened to Wicks and what will happen.
"I'm asking you to revisit it and make it clear, if you will," he told the board. "Right now, from the outside looking in, it doesn't appear to be fair."