Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary has announced that he plans to take medical leave to undergo treatment for cancer. Mayor pro tem George Turner will oversee the City Council meetings likely until the end of the year, said Lary, who has started pre-radiation treatment.
Lary said the council’s heated and lengthy debate at the Sept. 17 City Council meeting over the management of the city’s SPLOST program was the tipping point that led him to make the announcement.
Councilwoman Jazzmin Cobble made a motion, which was seconded and approved by the council, to remove all of the items from the City Council’s agenda concerning the SPLOST management program. Cobble said she wanted the items removed because the city is still in negotiations with Grice Consulting, Inc., who has been working since May to regain work with the city. Cobble’s action blocked the council from discussing and/or voting on the items.
Lary, weary and upset, came to the podium, faced the packed audience and said:
“I have been taking cancer treatments for a couple of months now. I have been coming here in pain. I have been coming here trying to work. I have been ignoring my family and ignoring what my wife asked me to do and I have to ask myself this evening, for what? I am going to take some time. I need time to get healthy. I need time to take the treatment and I need to do that without being extremely aggravated. I have been pounding the pavement for five years making sure we got to where we were supposed to go. But now, I need a moment. You’re in good hands with Mayor Pro Tem George Turner. I will still do the duties that you all elected me to do but I can’t make these council meetings right now. Thank you for your prayers,” Mayor Lary said.
After his statement, the mayor left the council chambers. Turner then presided over the meeting, which lasted three hours and 58 minutes. The council had met for one hour in work session before the meeting, bringing the total meeting time to nearly five hours.
The City Council meeting agenda contained three items: a proposed digital pavement analysis for the city’s roads; a request for qualifications or a request for proposals for the city’s SPLOST management; and a request for proposals for the comprehensive transportation plan.
Councilmember Cobble said the council requested information from Grice that would allow them to review everything that has transpired with the negotiations. According to Cobble, only a portion of the information has been provided so she suggested a deferral to also give Grice more time.
The mayor said that a council member was at the table during the Grice negotiations, giving them the ability to know the status of the meetings. He also said that the city management team was prepared to report their findings on the negotiations that have been on-going for more than three months. “We need to move on these items and stop stalling waiting on someone to get their act together,” the mayor said.
During the work session prior to the council meeting, Cobble suggested changes to the agenda, including moving the SPLOST items to be discussed last. Time ran out during the hour-long meeting to discuss the SPLOST items. Instead of discussing SPLOST, the council discussed a budget amendment, the establishment of a youth council, and time limit requirements in public hearings.
On May 21, 2018, the city council voted 4-to-2 in favor of entering negotiations with Grice Consulting Group for SPLOST management. Lary and Councilman Jimmy Clanton cast the dissenting votes. The motion carried, though the original agenda item was a resolution for the issuance of a request for qualifications for SPLOST project management. In May, the mayor spoke in favor of putting the SPLOST management out for bid. He also talked about being overbilled and receiving unsatisfactory work from Grice during the pre-SPLOST phase.
“For the record, I am dead against this. It’s shady, sideways and criminal,” Lary said.
The meeting contained the same sentiment from the mayor after three and a half months of negotiations between city managers, attorneys, and Grice.
“The negotiations have been going on for three months with a vendor who we shouldn’t even be talking to,” Lary said. “We are doing this out of order. We are negotiating with a vendor with no regard for our purchasing policy. We should be taking a vote on issuing an RFQ or an RFP for almost $4 million.”
The agenda items were changed to discussion items and were not voted on, despite the mayor’s single opposing vote.
“There is no place on the planet where you can go get a $3.8 million contract without an RFQ and that is the bottom line to this. I’ll go back to our oath. We are to take care of this city without fear or favor. This is favor and it’s keeping us from examining other competent vendors. It’s wrong. I don’t care how you cut it,” the mayor said.