Mayor discusses personnel decisions

Mayor Debe Hollingsworth on Friday addressed her actions regarding a promotion of one city employee and the hiring of another authorized by her predecessor, Carl A. Redus Jr., in late December, less than a week before the end of his second four-year term.

Redus promoted Larry Matthews to director of the community development department. Hollingsworth negated that appointment, but has since named Matthews interim director. Matthews was previously the department’s public works coordinator. The director position opened when long-time department head Donald Sampson retired in September 2012.

“I don’t think there was a need to rush as far as the appointment of a permanent director is concerned,” Hollingsworth said. “I’m in a process of looking at the department and considering some issues, and at some point I’m sure we’ll be ready to name a permanent director.

“I’m comfortable that Mr. Matthews will likely be among the top candidates for the permanent job,” she said. “My decision shouldn’t be interpreted in any way as a negative toward him.”

Matthews’ annual salary has increased but not to the level of a permanent director, said Human Resources Director Vickie Conaway.

Hollingsworth said that on Dec. 28, Redus endorsed the hiring of Chandra Griffin to the newly established position of special projects coordinator. Griffin had been a part-time worker in the city’s “floater pool” of substitutes for absent full-time employees. In her new role, Griffin was to have worked primarily with the mayor’s office.

“Things didn’t work out,” Hollingsworth said, “and the decision was made to discharge her.”

A copy of Griffin’s termination letter, dated Jan. 15 and signed by Conaway, states, “As an at-will employee, the city or the employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time for any reason, with or without notice.”

Hollingsworth was originally questioned about the job actions in February, but declined to comment at that time beyond saying, “I’m not sure how or if I need to make any statements on these personnel matters.”

The Commercial obtained preliminary information from Conaway’s office after filing a Freedom of Information Act request.