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Headley sole finalist for manager position
Marked ineligible for rehire following last years departure
A-County Manager Headley mug

A year ago, the Dawson County manager thought so little of the work being done by Public Works Director David Headley that he was forced to resign and his personnel file marked to indicate that he was not eligible for rehire by the county.

Last week, county commissioners announced that Headley is the sole candidate under consideration to be the next county manager.

If appointed as expected, Headley will be the 11th person to have filled the position since 2005.

Headley has served as the city manager of Dawsonville since December 2015. Prior to that, he spent 10 years working for Dawson County.

Headley, 62, resigned from his position as director of public works on Sept. 18, 2015, after then-County Manager Cindy Campbell informed him in a letter that he would be fired because he had failed to perform his duties properly on two separate occasions.

In her letter to Headley, Campbell said that when asked to estimate the cost of road repairs within the county following ice storms, he "provided initial estimates that were vastly lower than subsequent estimates" and that "the information [he] provided caused inaccurate information to be provided to the Board of Commissioners."

In an October 2015 appeal letter to the Georgia Department of Labor, Headley countered their denial of his request for unemployment benefits, and in response to Campbell's statements about his low estimates for road repairs, Headley stated that the initial estimate of $23,000 was only for 19 roads that were damaged by the storm.

After further assessment, and once an announcement by the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared that Dawson County could be reimbursed for repairs and clean up for the entire county, the cost grew to $675,000, Headley said.

He stated that Campbell claimed she was unaware of the hike in the cost and berated him in front of the commission, though he said he provided her with updates as needed. After this event, Headley was reprimanded and asked to take an estimating course, which he completed according to his personnel records.

Campbell also wrote that Headley later "significantly changed the scope of [his] review of site plans for commercial developments for several months without authorization for a change in procedure and without discussing with [his] supervisor or peers."

In his letter, Headley addressed these instances, stating that he had initially estimated the repair of one road to be approximately $1,000 to fix pot holes. Headley said that chairman Mike Berg later decided to repair the road entirely, the cost of which was then increased to $48,000.

In the final instance, Headley wrote that he was asked how much it might cost to pave a county gravel road, and that he estimated $50,000 off the top of his head. Later, when presented with the information that the road would have two commercial shopping centers on either side of it, the estimate grew to $514,000.

Headley stated that he felt after being presented with the plans, that "Dawson County would be entering into a private public partnership with two developers and this was illegal and against the development regulations." Headley stated that it was three weeks after this instance that he was given notice that he was to be terminated.

In the termination paperwork, Campbell wrote that Headley's failure to do work to an acceptable level of competence resulted in a loss of confidence in his ability to perform his job functions. She also wrote that his behavior violated Dawson County's Work Standard, "Your employer and fellow employees expect you to be responsive and to cooperate with others in a spirit of teamwork," records show.

Headley stated in his letter that he was forced to resign because "[Campbell's] deliberate attempt to slander [his] performance record led to continual harassment and a hostile working environment, making it impossible for [him] to perform [his] regular duties."

Despite Headley's history with the county and his status as ineligible for re-hire, there is nothing to prohibit commissioners from rehiring him if they choose to do so. Because the commissioners are elected officials, they can choose to hire Headley regardless of the status of his previous employment.

Headley said Tuesday afternoon that he was not made aware that he was marked ineligible for rehire in his records, and that it wasn't brought up by commissioners during his interview.

"To my knowledge [the commissioners] didn't know anything about it," he said.

Headley said that upon assuming the position, he intends to look to the future and not the past.

"These differences have been cleared up and I look forward to putting that behind us and am looking forward to the future," Headley said. "I'm excited to go back to the county. My main objective is to bring the city and county together."

Several commissioners could not be reached for comment, and District 2 Commissioner James Swafford declined to comment due to his absence during the Sept. 1 voting session.

District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby, who made the motion to approve Headley's candidacy, said there is a mandatory 14 day waiting period before the commissioners can vote to officially hire him.

The waiting period exists so that the public can have access to all documents concerning the new hire before the decision is final, in accordance with open records laws.

Chairman Mike Berg said the commission likely will vote at the Sept. 15 meeting, and that Headley has received a contract from the county.

Bill Tanner, a retired park superintendent with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, has held the post of interim county manager since July 28.

He replaced Vicki Neikirk, who had filled the position temporarily on July 21 following the sudden resignation of Randy Dowling, who had accepted the position in February, following the departure of Campbell.

The county manager is responsible for overseeing eight department heads and reports directly to the board of commissioners, as well as assisting in budget planning.