The Silver Lining Playbook: Under New Management
The open session of Savannah's infamous city council moved behind closed doors-- again-- yesterday in order to discuss fees being paid for outside legal counsel pertaining to the Whitaker Street garage lawsuit and its $17 million cost overruns, now into its seventh record-breaking year. The problem is not helped when your City Attorney has a conflict of interest because of his past employment with one of the firms representing the other side. The problem becomes farcical when a member of council moves for an executive session to discuss the case, including the embarrassing admission against council's interests that all requests for information about how much has been spent on the case have not been answered.
"The only alternative," said Alderman Tony Thomas, "is to file an open-records request against my own government that I'm a member of."
Earlier this year, a similar request of City Manager Stephanie Cutter's office for a detailed report on legal compensation was answered with a rundown of payments made over the past two years, omitting the prior five. Not that the memo was embarrassing enough in its disclosure that $246,000 had been paid to an outside attorney under terms no one at the City Manager's office was aware of.
It has become painfully obvious to everyone-- with the possible exception of council-- that the root cause of every single problem currently facing the day-to-day management of this city is the ineptitude of the city manager. There comes a point during every session of council where staff is unprepared to answer questions that should not require research. Clearly, Stephanie Cutter and her staff are overwhelmed at every turn and yet no one on council wants to say it. To the contrary, she has solid support from the majority of council, and I'll leave it to you to wonder why. It would be almost impossible for Savannah's first African-American Mayor who terminated Savannah's first African-American Woman City Manager to terminate the second without having to admit the flawed process that put both managers in place to begin with. Rather than fix the problem by holding an open, honest nationwide search for the best talent available to take the city's most powerful position, our council allows Stephanie Cutter to remain on a job that is clearly out of her depth.
As Savannah's next mayor, I pledge to hold the first open, honest nationwide search for a new city manager in the past five years at the start of my new administration.
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