Toward the end of the night’s agenda meeting, the council and Mayor Gene Hobgood went into executive session to discuss personnel and litigation. About 20 minutes later, the council returned without discussion and voted 5-0 to keep Wood on as city manager. Councilman Jack Goodwin was absent.
“I’m certainly grateful for the support of the majority of the city council,” Wood told the Cherokee Tribune after the meeting. “I will continue to do the best job I can representing the administrative interests and responsibilities of the city of Canton.”
Councilman John Beresford — who had been one of Woods’ fiercest critics — made the motion to end the probationary period for the embattled city manager. He also asked that the council “scrub” Wood’s personnel file of the matter.
But City Attorney Bobby Dyer clarified that the record of Wood being placed on probation cannot be expunged, though it will be noted that the probationary period was terminated.
“Whatever happened, happened,” Dyer told the council. “It’s in the file.”
In April, Wood was placed on a six-month probation in a 5-1 vote by the council, with Beresford in the minority. The vote stemmed from the resignation of Canton police Officer Daniel Henley after a video surfaced of him pulling over the city manager for speeding after a council meeting on March 15.
Wood faced accusations that he had used his position to be let off easily by the police officer. Wood denied the charge. He was also questioned by council members about a subsequent conversation he had with Cherokee Sheriff Roger Garrison, which interim Canton Police Chief Todd Vande Zande overheard when Wood inadvertently called him.
In the end, Wood managed to repair his relationship with the council over the past six months. The majority of council members wrote glowing performance evaluations that praised the city manager’s work and professionalism.
Wood said he believed that he had been given a clean slate after the first vote in April.
“I think this is just a ratification of the efforts that we’ve all put together to try to make things better,” he said.
In other business, Wood updated the council on the general obligation bond the city is considering to fund improvements to fire services, including construction of three fire stations, a training station and purchase of new vehicles. Wood said a city-wide referendum to approve such a bond would need to take place on March 19.
He said costs associated with funding the project, including debt service, would need to be resolved in January to include on the ballot, while additional operating costs could be decided later. The cost for the city to conduct the referendum is estimated at between $15,000 and $17,000, Wood said.
In a related matter, the council voted 4-1 to revise wording in the city’s Fire District Ordinance that states: “The city council may levy and collect within such a district such fees, assessments or taxes as may be established by the city council.”
Councilman Glen Cummins voted against the measure that changed the word “shall” to “may.”
Because the council has already tentatively decided to fund improvements to fire services by a bond referendum instead of a fee, tax or assessment, changing the fire district ordinance is seen as a formality in case a problem arises with the referendum.
The Canton City Council also:
Approved 5-0 the purchase of $51,000 in movie equipment for the Canton Theatre;
Approved 5-0 $30,000 in new holiday lights to replace old lights;
Approved 5-0 the city check signers;
Approved 5-0 the city manager’s designation for acting city manager;
Decided to continue examining the occupational license tax structure;
Was informed that the Etowah River and Killian parks projects should be completed by February 2014;
Approved 5-0 a $934,700 SCADA system contract for the Hickory Log Reservoir Dam to Suwanee-based Lanier Contracting Co. The Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority board is expected to vote Monday on the contract;
Decided to continue discussions to Nov. 1 of revising Canton Code Section 2-22 concerning the mayor’s right to vote as an ex officio member on committees and clarifying the city charter.