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Godwin's attorney accuses Scales Harris of violating city charter

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File photo of former Murfreesboro Human Resources Director Glen Godwin

A letter by the attorney for former Murfreesboro Human Resources Director Glen Godwin accuses of City Councilwoman Madelyn Scales Harris of trying to intervene in employee pay, a possibly violation of the city charter.

Obtained through an open records request, the letter by local attorney Jay Jackson, who is representing Godwin in negotiations regarding his departure from City Hall, says only after Scales interjected herself into city administration did Murfreesboro request an outside law firm to interview Human Resources Department employees in May. Jackson sent the letter to City Attorney Craig Tindall last Friday, the day Godwin left city employment.

Jackson's letter contends the law firm's report from those interviews failed to identify problems that led to Godwin's exit from city employment and, instead, was "hurried, sloppy and an obvious effort to accomplish a specific task which appears to be the termination of Mr. Godwin in an effort to gloss over the manner in which Ms. Scales has tried to manipulate and interfere with the process of giving city employees she favors raises and attempts to appease employees who appear to have the unconditional support of Ms. Scales."

The letter by Jackson contends Scales Harris contacted Godwin two times to try to "demand he take action to favor these employees. In my opinion, her actions could be a violation of the city charter."

Only after "unrest" by the employees seeking pay raises amid a city pay and benefits study, in addition to a complaint made by HR Assistant Director Pam Russell and Scales Harris' efforts did city officials seek an interview of HR employees, the letter says.

"This was an unprecedented move by the city," Jackson's letter states. "There are many, many more specifics that I will forgo detailing at this point still hoping some resolution can be reached without litigation."

After a Wednesday evening meeting on the city's pay and benefits study, Scales Harris said she was caught off guard by the allegations within Jackson's letter and had not been told about them.

"That's incorrect information," she said, calling the email "news" to her. "That's all I can say."

Tindall said Godwin's claims about Scales Harris' inquiries regarding employees have no merit.

Godwin took leave from his post June 21 and was released from the job two days later. According to Jackson's letter, he and Godwin are discussing the city's unwillingness to give him more than three months of severance pay.

Jackson's letter says Godwin will need to wait until closer to a July 11 deadline to respond and notes his client is on Family Medical Leave until September.

In response, City Attorney Tindall sent Jackson a letter stating there should have been no confusion about Godwin's employment status after a meeting with City Manager Rob Lyons on June 15 when it was "terminated."

Tindall pointed out he sent Jackson an email letting him know Godwin's information and technology and building access was ended and that he was to make arrangements to pick up personal items. He also sent Godwin a draft severance agreement that "expressly" stated Godwin would be "separated" from the city after June 15. Tindall said Thursday there is no separation agreement with Godwin.

Tindall's letter says it is "inconceivable" Godwin felt it OK to tell others he was still a city employee.

"The only remaining question is whether Mr. Godwin chooses to be fired or be allowed to resign in lieu of termination by accepting a severance package in return for a full release of any claims," Tindall's letter states. "I feel I should also be clear here to preclude further gamesmanship; the city does not believe that Mr. Godwin has any legitimate claims whatsoever."

Furthermore, Tindall says Godwin was not approved for an FMLA absence and that it would be "impossible" for him to receive it since he's no longer employed.

Lyons has declined to comment on the reason for Godwin's departure. The city manager also said Wednesday after the pay and benefits study meeting he had not seen the letter from Jackson.

Mayor Shane McFarland has said it had to do with management, not with any illegal action or attempted manipulation of the pay and benefits study by Godwin. He has declined comment otherwise.

Tindall's letter does not address the accusations about Scales Harris.

The council hired Gallagher Benefit Services to make the study after Godwin brought a proposal last year from Management Advisory Group, which did the previous pay and benefits study adopted in 2015, in part because of disagreement about how it played out over two years.

Pay and benefits have been a point of contention since the 2015 schedule took effect.

A review of emails between Godwin and Lyons over the last several months shows at least one HR staff member, Assistant Director Russell, questioned why the number of years required for her position was to be shortened in the pay study, a situation that could cause her to lose pay.

A letter by Russell points out that because of city growth and additional responsibilities for HR assistant director, she thought the experience requirements would be increased, reflecting a higher pay rate, instead of a position two grades lower than the current one.

In contrast, Russell's letter points out the experience for HR director was to be increased to 10 years, which would raise the pay for that position. Godwin took the job seven years ago with a salary of nearly $75,000. Before that, he served a short stint as assistant city treasurer/personnel director, after working in HR with RSC Equipment Rental in Brentwood and with Food Lion in North Carolina.

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Members Opinions:
July 02, 2017 at 7:47am
Someone is on thin ice depending on the existence of the alleged e-mails. The allegations pivot around them. If Atty. Jay Jackson cannot produce copies of the e-mails his comments come across as merely bluffing.
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