CONYERS -- In a 2-1 vote, the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners voted not to extend Rockdale Water Resources Director Dwight Wicks' contract beyond Dec. 31.
Commissioner JaNice Van Ness made a motion to amend the agenda at Tuesday's BOC meeting to include a resolution from the Rockdale County Water and Sewerage Authority not to renew Wicks' contract.
Commission Chairman Richard Oden voted against adding the resolution to the amendment, but the action was added anyway with the votes of Van Ness and Commissioner Oz Nesbitt.
When the measure came for a vote, Oden asked for time to read the resolution, saying this was the first he had seen it.
Nesbitt and Van Ness voted to accept the resolution not to extend Wicks' contract, and Oden voted against the measure.
After the vote, Nesbitt pointed out that while the commissioners decided to not automatically renew Wicks' contract when it expires at the end of the year, Wicks and anyone else who believes he or she may be qualified is free to apply.
"This doesn't mean anything will happen between now and Dec. 31," Nesbitt said. "The job description is going to be put on the open market."
Van Ness backed up Nesbitt's statement.
"It is in the county's best interest and the ratepayers' best interest that we have the best candidate on staff," she said.
Oden disagreed, pointing out that RWR has received statewide acclaim, including a presentation that morning by the Georgia Association of Water Professionals of five Gold and one Platinum awards for the water and wastewater treatment plants.
"We saw outstanding performance of RWR today that said the leadership of Dwight Wicks is admirable," Oden said.
Tensions have grown recently between Rockdale Water Resources and members of the Rockdale Water and Sewerage Authority that culminated last week in representatives from both groups asking for the resignation of members from each entity.
After a closed-door session Thursday, the Authority voted to recommend that Wicks' contract not be renewed. In a separate action, Terrell Gibbs, deputy director of RWR, distributed a memorandum to the board outlining a number of grievances against Authority 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 next day, Water and Sewerage Authority Chairwoman Elaine Nash and Authority member Phyllis Turner met with Oden and Chief of Staff Greg Pridgeon in an effort to ease the dissension between RWR and the Authority.
While information released by the county indicated that the meeting was "positive overall," the BOC moved forward Tuesday on not extending Wicks' contract.
When reached for comment Tuesday afternoon, Wicks said he believes the actions of both the BOC and the Water Authority are politically motivated.
"There is no justification for these actions other than political," he said during a phone interview from Dallas, Texas, where he is attending a conference of the American Water Works Association.
"I find the actions of both the board and the Water and Sewerage Authority unusual. My contract is not due to be up for six months. There is no reason to bring it up now. Otherwise, why else was this brought up during times when I was not available for comment because I am out of town?"
Wicks said he believes the BOC and the Water Authority are acting under political pressure from Haynes.
"This absolutely has to do with Garvin," Wicks said.
He said he had made a proposal to the Water Authority on May 2 to either dismiss Haynes outright from the Water Authority; to recommend to the Board of Commissioners that Haynes be dismissed from the Authority; or to censure him. While Wicks' complaints about Haynes were similar to Gibbs' complaints, Wicks said the two made their petitions independently.
Despite the BOC's action Tuesday, Wicks said he reports directly to Oden.
"I report directly to the chairman and not the BOC -- the chairman is my boss," Wicks said. "The chairman has given no indication that he is unhappy or dissatisfied with my performance."
He said he is scheduled to review his performance with Oden in the coming weeks and looks forward to letting the public decide what the proper step forward should be.
Wicks was hired as director of Rockdale Water Resources in 2009, soon after Oden was elected BOC chairman. Wicks had previously served as RWR director from 2005 until 2007 when he was terminated over a disagreement with the then-Board of Commissioners.
Citizen Editor Alice Queen contributed to this article.