GUYTON — The City of Guyton’s revolving personnel door continues to spin.
In a 3-1 vote Monday night, the Guyton City Council overturned Mayor Jeff Lariscy’s decision to terminate City Manager Daniel Hofman on July 29. The ruling was made after a four-hour hearing and 40 minutes of deliberations.
It marked the second time in six weeks that the council voted 3-1 to reject a personnel decision by the mayor. In August, the council overturned Lariscy’s demotion of Joseph Coppola, interim chief of the Guyton Police Department.
Four times in recent weeks, the council rejected the mayor’s recommendation to name Richard Zapal, formerly of the Savannah Police Department, chief of the Guyton Police Department. Two council members, Joseph Lee and Michael Johnson, voiced their disapproval of the selection process, which, per city code, permits the mayor to pick three finalists for the police chief job.
Lariscy cited several reasons for removing Hofman. These included ignoring orders and violating his authority. Hired in April, Hofman was still in his probationary period at the time of his termination.
“City council members, Mr. Hofman made mistake after mistake after mistake after mistake after mistake after mistake,” said Marcol Harvey, Lariscy’s attorney.
Hofman’s attorney, Ellen Schoolar, countered that her client never received any verbal or written warnings about his job performance.
During his testimony, Hofman asked to be reinstated. He also requested that the City of Guyton pay him back wages of 12,835.32 and attorney fees of $8,491.90.
“I’ve been out of work for three months,” he said. “I want to return to work. I want to come back.
“There are a lot of things that we need to do in Guyton.”
Schoolar asked Hofman if he could work with Lariscy, the council and City of Guyton employees.
“Absolutely,” he said.
Early in his testimony, the mayor said Hofman sold three lift-station pumps without city council approval for $312. Harvey entered into evidence a 2012 invoice that said one of the pumps was worth more than $10,000.
Hofman questioned the validity of the invoice and added that he was told by public works employees that the pumps were useless.
Lariscy also criticized Hofman’s use of a collection agency that resulted in 80 water customers receiving errant demands for late payments. In addition, the mayor said Hofman performed payroll duties during City Clerk Alison Bruton’s vacation, resulting in at least four employees not having insurance deductions withheld from their check.
The mayor said Hofman ignored his request to keep him and Steve Collins, a council member, apprised of any activity at the wastewater treatment plant. Shortly before his termination, Hofman diverted thousands of gallons of wastewater at the wastewater treatment plant in an attempt to fix a floating curtain. Hofman said he received engineering advice before the move.
Lariscy also mentioned Hofman’s decision to deny the use a vacation day by Bruton during a family emergency. The mayor overrode Hofman’s call.
The mayor also said Hofman erroneously denied sewer taps to potential customers without authorization to do so.. Hofman countered that he was told the wastewater treatment plant is operating at capacity.