The former head of the City of Georgetown’s Public Works Department Tim Chatman will know in less than 20 days if he will be reinstated to his former position after being demoted to a supervisor role. Chatman was demoted after an incident that took place at the Wooden Boat Show festival on Oct. 19.
On Dec. 2, a grievance committee of five people heard from Chatman and Georgetown City Administrator Sandra Yudice about the incident in question.
The demotion occurred after six public works employees were fired for allegedly stealing liquor from the Wooden Boat Show on Oct. 19. Chatman was not at the event.
The committee first heard from Yudice who gave a timeline of the events and reasons why Chatman was demoted. She said a festival organizer saw a public works employee put a box of Crown Royal liquor in a trash can and rolled it out of the sponsor’s tent.
“When the organizer asked the city employee that he wanted to look in the trash, the city employee refused to let him see inside the trashcan,” Yudice said. According to Yudice, she had a meeting Oct. 21 with Chatman. She said that he stated that there were Wooden Boat Show volunteers wearing green shirts the same color as city employees which the organizer could have confused the two.
“He (Chatman) also made a remark about the color of the skin of the city employees implying that this could be a racial situation,” Yudice said. Chatman later denied ever mentioning skin color in the context presented by her.
Yudice said that on Oct. 22 she received a phone call from Georgetown Police Chief Kelvin Waites who indicated there was a camera surveillance video from the Public Works complex of what happened during the Oct. 19 incident and asked her if she wanted to watch it. Yudice said she went to the law enforcement center and watched the video.
“The video showed one of the employees going on the passenger side of the garbage truck and carrying a box that he took from the garbage truck cabin of the passenger side to the employees’ breakroom,” Yudice said. According to Yudice, the video later shows an empty box being taken from the break room to the garbage truck.
Yudice said she called Chatman after watching the video and asked him if he saw the video. “His answer was he had not,” she said.
Yudice said the decision to fire the six workers was based on the evidence of the surveillance video. She said Chatman asked the six employees to cooperate with law enforcement during the investigation and quoted him as saying, “so we can all get back to work.”
“This comment perhaps implied that Mr. Chatman failed to recognize the severity of the situation, that he diminished the severity of the situation or that he did not know how to deal with it,” she said.
Yudice said Chief Waites asked Chatman if he had seen the video and that Chatman responded by saying that he watched it but there was nothing in the video. “There is a confusion as to which video that Mr. Chatman saw or which ones did I see,” she said.
“Tim is a good person but my assessment is that he lacks the managerial skills to manage people in complex situations,” Yudice said. “The Public Works Department needs a director that can lead, manage people and certainly deal with complex situations.”
Yudice later addressed the events during the evening of Oct. 19 when the alleged theft occurred. She said Chatman was informed of the incident when he received a call from Georgetown Police Capt. Nelson Brown at approximately 7:35 p.m. on Oct. 19.
“According to Mr. Chatman, he asked Capt. Nelson to send an officer to the Public Works site,” Yudice said. She stated that Brown told her Chatman never made that request and that said he sent the officers on his own.
She also said more than 30 minutes passed before she was contacted by Chatman about the incident.
“By the time he called me everything was done,” Yudice said. “The employees were released by the police department so there was nothing basically that I could do. In my mind, this could have been handled better and probably would have had a better outcome. Maybe one or two employees would have been terminated instead of six.”
Going back to the surveillance video, Yudice said Chatman stated that, “I have not trained or have ever been trained to remove or retrieve footage from the security cameras.”
Yudice said Chatman has been a department head for three-plus years and, “It’s concerning to me that during that time frame he had not requested any training.”
Chatman stated that he “responded properly and immediately given the uniqueness of the situation.” He aid there are no procedures in place on how to deal with issues like the one during the Wooden Boat Show.
“As a manager, I believe that it to be prudent to get all of the information about the situation prior to contacting my supervisor so that I could provide her with all the relevant information that she needed,” Chatman said.
Chatman said he requested Capt. Brown send an officer to Public Works. He said that he also contacted his assigned supervisor of the employees at the event but didn’t know at the time that the supervisor was one of the accused.
“I believed him to be trustworthy,” Chatman said.
Chatman said he feels the demotion is “an attack on my character, integrity and professionalism.” He said he does not feel the firing of the six was motivated by race: “There is no explanation to support that to be the case.”
“The Wooden Boat Show is one of the cities historical events and during my three and a half years, there’s never been such incident,” he said.
Regarding the video, Chatman said he explained to Chief Waites he did not know how to retrieve video from the cameras. Waites offered to send someone to obtain the video and Chatman agreed.
“It was at that time that all the surveillance videos were in the possession of law enforcement and not available for immediate viewing,” Chatman said. Chatman stated law enforcement and the city were able to view the videos before he could. Chatman said Yudice wrote in a memo on Oct. 31 the reasons for his demotion. They were failing to notify the administrator immediately, failing to manage the situation on Oct. 19 properly and failing to properly view the information surrounding the videos of the incident.
Chatman later quoted from the section of the city’s employee manual regarding disciplinary action. He said he did not violate any of the offenses listed.
“I have never had any negative written or verbal feedback from the city of Georgetown or been told that any area of my work ethics needs improvement,” Chatman said. “I have never had an unfavorable performance review or any disagreement with any of my supervisors or colleagues. My last three performance reports reflect that.”
Chatman later gave his version about the timeline of events. Chatman said on Oct. 19, he instructed the workers to wait at the public works building until police arrived and also stated said he called Yudice 33 minutes after he was told about the alleged theft. Chatman also said that on Oct. 21 that he was in a meeting with Yudice, Waites and others from the city. It was then he was informed that the six workers would be placed on administrative leave while an investigation was taking place. Chatman stated that on Oct. 22 he was contacted by Waites who asked him if the Public Works complex had security cameras installed and he told him yes.
Chatman said that he did not provide any conflicting information to Yudice or Waites. Chatman said that on Oct. 23 after a meeting the decision was made to fire the six workers. After they were informed of their dismissal, Yudice turned to Chatman and asked, “what am I going to do with you?” He said that she went on to say that that Mayor Brendon Barber felt that his current position was not the right one for him.
“She asked if there were any other positions or departments within the city that I might be better suited for,” Chatman said. He said that he would consider a position of supervisor but wanted to keep his rate of pay. Chatman said Yudice originally told him that his pay would not decrease but after a meeting with her, Barber and the city on Oct. 28, he was informed that there would be a pay decrease after his demotion. “Nothing was presented to me in writing during this meeting,” Chatman said.
Chatman said he has enjoyed his time as head of Public Works and was shocked to find his managerial skills are in question: “I have worked very hard to build meaningful relationships with all citizens of Georgetown and value the reputation that I have built for myself.” He concluded by saying he believes he took an active role in the investigation and did all he believed was correct. “I do believe that I am been treated unfairly and I have not been given the proper opportunity to correct any performance issues prior to the demotion and decrease in pay,” Chatman said.
The grievance committee chairman said that they will take up the matter and Yudice will be presented with a written decision and recommendations within 20 days. After that time, Yudice will inform Mayor Barber and the chairman said that it will then be up to her and Barber to decide if they will go forward with the committee’s recommendation.
During the hearing, it was not made known how Chatman will be notified about the decision and if the 20 days will be business days or calendar days.
After the hearing, the pastor of Georgetown Church of Christ, Dan Hager, gathered with others in the courtroom and led everyone in a circle of prayer.