John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.
The Madison City Commission gathered for an appeal hearing on Tuesday, May 29 for a former City of Madison employee who was terminated.
On Wednesday, April 18, Edward Lee Baker, a four-year heavy machine operator who was seeking a termination appeal, advised his supervisor, David Floyd, that he was going to Valdosta to pick up a part on Thursday, April 19, for previous City of Madison Purchasing Agent Darrell Graham, who no longer works for the City. According to a statement by Baker, he stated that Floyd said: "Darrell can go get his own d*** part."
On the morning on Thursday, April 19, between the time of 8 a.m. to 8:15 a.m., Floyd instructed Baker to install new street signs at SW Pete Mobley Ave., in Madison. According to City Manager Sarah Anderson, Madison County Dispatch had requested this to be done by 12 p.m. that day as they were in the process of changing maps and communicating the change. If signs were not up, it was feared it would cause confusion. Baker later stated that he was not informed that the signs were to be put up by 12 p.m. He also later stated that if he had the help he needed, the request would have been done.
By approximately 8:40 a.m., Baker called Floyd stating that an order of water was ready for pickup from Nestle Waters, in Lee. Floyd instructed Baker to return to finish installing street signs after getting the water.
Shortly after the decision to get water, according to Anderson, Graham contacted Baker to go to Valdosta and pick the part up. According to a written statement by Baker, he replied, "Why not?" and proceeded to travel to Valdosta, disregarding Floyd's disapproval from the previous day. Graham wrote in a letter that he, in fact, did not ask Baker to get the part. After Baker's return, Floyd showed up at the City Barn and observed Baker holding a part in his hand. It was at this time Floyd discovered that Baker had disregarded his instructions and had gone to Valdosta for the part and not installed the street signs.
According to Baker, he asked Floyd for one extra employee for safety reasons after Floyd advised him to go put up the street signs. Baker then stated that Floyd had used profanity and stated: "You can put the d*** signs up yourself." Baker then stated that Floyd sent him home.
The following day, on Friday, April 20, Baker, Floyd, and City Clerk Lee Anne Hall met. At that time, Baker's employment was terminated. Baker requested an appeal hearing later that day, which was scheduled and held on Wednesday, April 25. After hearing the facts, Anderson upheld Baker's termination.
During the appeal hearing, Baker's brother, Rev. George Williams, approached the podium. Williams, who told the Commission that his brother is a hard worker, stated that he was "uniquely disturbed" by two things. One of them was due to the fact that Baker was requested to do a job which could have been harmful if he completed the job with no help. Williams also stated that on the morning of Monday, April 30, at the gazebo in Four Freedoms Park, between the hours from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., there were two city employees working together to change a light bulb. "I hate to do this, but the truth is the truth," said Williams, "[The employees] were two Caucasians. I didn't go looking for that, but that's what happened."
Floyd iterated to the commission that there was, in fact, a complaint that morning about a problem with the light in Four Freedoms Park. Floyd also stated that one of the employees was a new employee. Anderson confirmed that there was, in fact, a new employee job shadowing an experienced employee in a later interview.
Following further discussion, Commissioner Rayne Cooks expressed that termination was a harsh punishment. Townsend asked Anderson about open positions within the city but the position that once belonged to Baker was the only full-time position open. In case the Commission was worried about retaliation, "I'm not a monster," said Floyd. He also stated that he has no animosity against black people and would take Baker back today.
Williams again approached the podium, informing the commission that they have the right to adopt safety and profanity rules. Williams also suggested back pay for Baker's time out of work if the Commission decided to hire him back. "He wants his job back and wants to be free from undue harassment," said Williams.
Cooks made a motion to bring Baker back to work with back pay less one week. Johnson seconded and the motion prevailed, 5-0. Baker returned to work on Wednesday, May 30.