The Injustice of This Moment Is Not an ‘Aberration’

February 2020

From mass incarceration to mass deportation, our nation remains in deep denial.

Protesters in Baltimore in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death in 2015. Mr. Gray suffered a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody.Credit…Yunghi Kim/Contact Press Images

Michelle Alexander

AMERICUS, Ga. (WALB) – The Americus City Manager was suspended with pay pending an investigation, according to city officials.

No criminal allegations involved in the suspension of Americus’ City Manager, according to Mayor Barry Blount.

Charles Coney was suspended until Feb. 21, following the completion of a personnel investigation.

Blount said the city council voted to suspend Coney after a closed session at a Thursday meeting.

“This is just an investigation that we feel like we need to do a thorough investigation from an outside third party and just see where the facts take us and go from there. Hopefully, we’ll have all those facts and we’ll be able then to make a determination about the future of Mr. Coney with the City of Americus,” said Blount.

We reached out to Coney for comment but have yet to hear back at this time.

In July 2019, Coney was censured for violating one of the International City/County Management Association’s (ICMA) code of ethics.

The censure was for Coney being an elected official in Fitzgerald at the same time he was a city manager in Hampton, which is outside of Atlanta.

ICMA said that filling both leadership roles at the same time is a conflict of interest. The censure was also for Coney failing to fix the situation in a timely manner.

Previously, Coney was the assistant county manager in Macon-Bib County and Hampton city manager.

Coney was fired from his city manager post by the Hampton City Council in November 2018, according to the Henry Herald. Coney was hired as city manager in February 2019.

Americus Sumter Observer: Our local NAACP is currently assisting Black City worker, Joe Bridges, who was terminated by City Manager Charles Coney. We have referred the case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 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 is a 20-year city street superintendent and grounds maintenance supervisor. He 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 said, “If you are terminating me, I will resign; but if you are not terminating me, then I’ll go back to work.

The local NAACP views the 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. Rev. Wright told the Observer team that Bridges rights were violated because he was not insubordinate to Mr. Coney or anybody supervising him. City Councilman Dowdell is not Bridges’ supervisor.

Bridges is 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.

Since the termination, Coney hired another Black man who has no experience dealing with street and ground maintenance.

Given the suspension of City Manager Coney, the NAACP will appeal to the City Council on behalf of Mr. Bridges.