Conyers CONYERS — The friction between Rockdale Water Resources and the Rockdale Water and Sewerage Authority intensified through two separate actions Thursday. In one, the Authority recommended that the contract for RWR’s director not be renewed; in the other, the deputy director of RWR asked that an Authority member be removed.
Following a closed door session at the Authority board meeting, Chairman Elaine Nash said the Authority voted to ask the Rockdale Board of Commissioners not to renew Dwight Wicks’ contract as director of RWR. Nash said Wicks’ contract expires at the end of December.
In a separate action, Terrell Gibbs, deputy director of RWR, said he distributed a memorandum to the board outlining a number of grievances against board member Garvin Haynes and concluding that “anything short of his dismissal from the RWSA at this point will be unacceptable and deemed as a move to marginalize the impact of his actions to RWR staff as a sitting Authority member.”
The Authority’s vote to recommend that Wicks’ contract not be renewed came at the conclusion of a meeting that Wicks did not attend due to a disagreement over an item he wanted to include on the agenda.
Wicks could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Authority member Bill Murrain said he believed Wicks’ absence was a form of protest “because we don’t allow him to speak as he chooses.”
“On its face I am insulted by this,” Murrain said.
Murrain added that meeting without Wicks’ input on RWR’s operations is a waste of his time and said he would consider resigning if they could not reach an understanding.
“Bill, your resignation is not the one we need,” said Haynes.
To which Murrain responded, “Don’t focus on that at this point.”
Nash said following the meeting that Wicks had wanted to include the county’s settlement with PoyntSource Solutions, the utility that provides water and sewer service to Lakeview Estates, on the agenda, but Nash said that issue had already been covered and the agenda was already lengthy.
“I prepare the agenda,” Nash said. “Dwight sometimes seems to think that we work for him, and we don’t.”
Nash said she told Wicks that the item would not be included for discussion.
“I told him if you persist in bringing it up and talking about it, I will call you out of order,” Nash said.
Gibbs’ memorandum, which he said he handed out to board members following the closed session, addressed complaints that he lodged against Haynes on March 19 and April 5 that he said had not been addressed by the Authority. Gibbs pointed out that the Authority’s bylaws state that it will address a written complaint from a citizen within 90 days.
Because the Authority had not acted, Gibbs wrote that he is “holding the RWSA individually and holistically responsible for the actions of Garvin Haynes and anyone else who displays similar antics that potentially place my family’s well-being and quality of life and my personal and professional reputation at risk. On a more official note of this action, I have submitted an EEOC claim relative to the actions of Garvin Haynes and the inaction of the RWSA.”
Gibbs outlined the following grievances against Haynes:
• Illicit after-hours phone calls to staff in which he was seemingly under the influence;
• Discriminatory comments being directed to staff;
• Improperly using his position as a sitting Authority member to push forward a venture in which he may have a personal interest;
• Misrepresenting the county in an unauthorized capacity;
• Obstructing department progress;
• Being divisive;
• Purposely lying in an attempt to intimidate and ruin the personal and professional reputation of staff in order to push his own agenda.
Gibbs also pointed to the fact that he and Wicks are the first blacks to hold the positions of deputy director and director with RWR and implied that Haynes had not treated previous employees in those positions as he has them.
“Garvin Haynes is a huge reason why the relationship between the RWSA and RWR has deteriorated …” wrote Gibbs.
Exactly what that relationship is remains at the crux of the dissension between the two entities. Gibbs said Thursday afternoon that he believes it is fair to say that each entity thinks the other has overstepped the bounds of its roles and responsibilities.
Gibbs said employees of RWR have been hired by the county to run the water system and plan for its future operation.
“We report directly to the BOC,” he said.
Nash said the relationship is more complicated than that. RWR leases the system’s assets from the Authority, she said, and is the operational arm of the water system.
“The lease actually sets out some of the responsibilities,” Nash said. “The county is the operating entity … we are the owner of the debt and assets; we have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure that RWR and the assets are maintained in a good fashion so that the bond holders and ratepayers are protected.”
For years the Authority was considered a “rubber stamp” for incurring debt on the system, Nash said, but that is not the Authority’s sole role.
“We are not just a funding mechanism; if you read the lease you will see that,” she said.
As for Gibbs’ request that Haynes be removed from the board, Nash said that is not within the purview of the Authority board.
“We don’t have any power to remove him, not with our bylaws the way they are,” she said. “Our bylaws say there are five reasons that we can remove an Authority member, and those five reasons deal with conflict of interest.”
Nash said Gibbs’ complaints filed on March 19 and April 5 were referred to Authority attorney David Strickland. On the advice of Strickland the board voted Thursday to refer the complaints to Board of Commissioners Chairman Richard Oden.