Americus City Manager Coney Terminates 20 Year Black City Worker on Daryl Dowdell’s Accusations

September 2019

Joe Bridges
He was over two departments for the City of
Americus, street superintendent and grounds and
maintenance supervisor

Charles Coney
Americus City Manager who violated Joe
Bridges’ rights by terminating him.

Daryl Dowdell
Lied to Charles Coney about Joe Bridges.

Staff Reports

Americus City Manager Charles Coney fired Joe Bridges because of a dispute with District 6 City Councilman Daryl Dowdell over a speed bump supposedly placed incorrectly on Freida Lane. Bridges, a 20-year city street
superintendent and grounds and maintenance supervisor, was fired after Coney directed his Human Resources (HR) to investigate a phone call between Bridges and Dowdell. In spite of inconsistencies reported in HR findings and conclusion, Coney still terminated Bridges. Bridges told Coney, “If you are terminating me, I will resign. But if you are not terminating me, then I’ll go back to work.”

The Americus City Council voted to allow the city manager to deal with any personnel problems. In the past, Mr. Bridges could have taken his concerns to the Council. City Manager Charles Coney made the decision in this case. Bridges said Dowdell lied when Dowdell accused him of using profanity during their phone conversation; Coney believed Dowdell.

The local NAACP views Bridges’ termination as unfair and it shows a lack of professional judgment on Coney’s part. The NAACP president Reverend Matt Wright asked the city manager to reinstate Bridges. The Observer team spoke with Reverend Wright, reviewed the case and his findings are that Mr. Bridges’ rights were violated. Bridges was not insubordinate to Mr. Coney or anybody supervising him. According to Rev. Wright, Mr. Dowdell is not his supervisor, He spoke with Mr. Coney and suggested to put Mr. Bridges back to work so that we don’t have to file a complaint. As of this writing, Rev. Wright has not heard back from Coney.

Mr. Bridges, a 20-year veteran in the Navy and left with an Honorable Discharge. During his 20 years with the city, he had never been written up and has received nothing but good reports. He is a graduate of the old Sumter County High school in 1970. His brother, the late Moses Bridges, was the first black police chief in Americus, GA.

“Coney hired a Black man who has no experience dealing with street and ground maintenance. The man who was under me was named George Young, a White man who has 25 years experience dealing with street and ground maintenance. I think, Human Resources Director Dee Jones is a friend of the Black man. Coney didn’t want to
replace me with a White guy because it would seem racial,” said Mr. Bridges which he learned since being terminated.

Currently the city does not have a Public Works director. Larry Riner, the last director, retired. City Manager Coney is the acting director. The city’s public works director is over water and sewer, streets and
grounds and maintenance. Coney is allegedly not qualified to manage all these responsibilities. With Coney terminating Bridges, HR hiring a replacement with absolutely no experience and no public works director, the city manager and the HR director have revealed a lack of sound managerial judgment. “There is no logical reason for this unjust fiasco to have happened to Mr. Bridges,” said Rev. Wright.

Dr. John Marshall, the publisher of the Americus Sumter Observer, has been embroiled in conflicts with Councilpersons Daryl Dowdell, Juanita Wilson, and Kelvin Pless. Dr. Marshall said he observed how easily
Dowdell would allegedly push for Mr. Bridges’ termination, but he is terrified of suggesting the City Attorney Jimmy Skipper’s removal. “Skipper has a reputation of deceiving Black elected officials on the Sumter County school board when he was their attorney. In more than two years Dowdell and the Black City Council majority have decided not to find a competent and trustworthy city attorney to replace Skipper,”
said Dr. Marshall.

“Dowdell has spoken to me in a very insulting manner whenever we spoke. I have concluded that Dowdell fears and respects White people. Yet, Bridges, a veteran Black employee, and I, a Black civil rights advocate, are being mistreated and disrespected by Dowdell. Even as Dowdell campaigns for reelection in November, allegedly he told his White challenger to have a successful campaign. Again, he is so gracious when it comes to White people, even to someone who is opposing him for his city council seat. Then, the question begs an answer: Will he serve his Black voters?” Marshall concludes.