There is an old maxim that says, “My enemy’s, enemy is my friend.” The recent firing of Charles Thomas as director of the Monroe Civic Center was a twisted case of Thomas being fired because he spoke or acted fairly to persons Mayo perceives as enemies.
It was an injustice that should never have happened.
Last week the city officially fired Thomas for reasons so obviously biased that those responsible should be ashamed of themselves; especially Community Affairs Director Robert Johnson, who must be having trouble adjusting to his role as “hatchet man” for the mayor.
Thomas, one of Mayor Jamie Mayo’s staunchest supporters and defenders, found himself out of a job because of a slip of the tongue in which he told a civic center customer the truth; it was a truth that the mayor interpreted as being disloyal. It was also a truth that began a search for a reason to fire Thomas for the crime of disloyalty to the mayor.
Earlier this year, Thomas found himself in the middle of a spat between two local dance studio owners who are fierce competitors. Carolyn McClinton hosts a dance recital at the civic center for several days in June each year. She has the dates for her recitals reserved several years in advance. However the DeTiege family, owners of Dazzling Dance, her competitor, also wanted a civic center date McClinton had reserved.
The DeTieges, are also owners of the Monroe Dispatch which generally views the Mayo Administration favorably, appealed to the mayor who ordered Thomas to give McClinton’s reserved date to her competitor. When McClinton complained to Thomas he told her there was nothing he could do because the order came from over his head. “It’s political,” said Thomas. When that comment made it back to city hall, the mayor set the wheels in motion to fire Thomas.
Johnson got the hatchet order.
Thomas’ superior, Robert Johnson, went to work to find a reason to fire Thomas. He reviewed scores of contracts arranged by Thomas over the years, looking for wrongdoing. He didn’t find any wrongdoing, but he did find where Thomas had given a $100 credit to the African-American Heritage Drama to resolve a dispute over $1,500 of union charges.
Normally that would not be a problem except that drama is directed by Roosevelt Wright, Jr., Publisher of the Free Press, a frequent critic of the Mayo administration. Thomas was cited for giving the credit, even though it saved the city $1,400. What was Thomas’ crime? He corrected a city error than had a favorable impact on a group the mayor hates.
Further, Johnson cited Thomas for inefficiencies of several staff members assigned to new tasks. Ironically, the staff assignments were made on Johnson’s orders despite Thomas’ objections because the staffers had not been adequately trained for their new assignments. Realizing his error, Johnson wrote Thomas an email acknowledging his error, but despite his own email to the contrary, the deficient actions of the staff were cited as a reason for firing Thomas.
The city went through motions of giving Thomas a due process hearing. Since Mayo closed down its independent EEO office, Thomas had to appeal his firing by Johnson in a hearing where Johnson was the person bringing the charge, the only person to give testimony against Thomas and then Johnson switched hats and upheld his own decision to fire Thomas.
Following the steps necessary to get into a court of law, Thomas appealed Johnson’s decision to the mayor, who is supposed to be an “unbiased” hearer of fact.
Obviously, Thomas is being railroaded for doing his job. His mistake is that he got caught in the middle of Mayo’s Politics. Sadly, Johnson allowed himself to be used in a way that is so uncharacteristic of his nature.
Resolving disputes is what the civic center director does. For example, after Thomas was booted out as Civic Center Director, Johnson had to resolve a similar dispute involving theatrical union overcharges. Johnson, acting within the same authority that Thomas possessed, brokered a $932 refund to resolve a $1,200 dispute. The check was written and hand delivered, on Johnson’s instruction to the same group, the African-American Heritage Drama.
Thomas gave a $100 credit to resolve a dispute and was fired. Johnson gave $932 cash refund to the same group and was not fired. Since Thomas was a faithful supporter who became a victim of the mayor’s narcissistic paranoia, other loyal supporters should watch their backs. If the day ever comes that Johnson falls out of favor, he can be sure that the $932 refund he approved will be used as an excuse to fire him. That’s the way witch hunts are done.
Thomas’s dilemma was caused by a truthful slip of the tongue. The fact that the mayor would turn on his defenders on a whim, should be a warning to others close to the mayor. Every person around him should keep notes, record personal conversations, and document everything to privately prepare to defend themselves, should the occasion arise.
Thomas was as loyal as anyone can get. Other staff members would be naive if they believed that the same thing would not happen to them.
As for Thomas, any reasonable person can see he was unjustly fired. The courts will ultimately give him his job back.
It’s unfortunate that he had to fall victim to the narcissistic paranoia of his friend.