Canton weathers storm without public works head
by Joshua Sharpe
February 13, 2014 04:00 AM | 3880 views | 7 7 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — As metro Atlanta was preparing for a week of potential winter storms ahead, Canton did things a bit differently: It dismissed the man who oversaw much of the city’s infrastructure.

Public Works Director David Cangemi was relieved of his duties last Friday, after more than a decade with the city, by Councilman Glen Cummins, who is acting city manager while Canton looks for a replacement for Scott Wood.

Cummins, who is in his third year in office, said he wants to change the way the public works depart-ment operates and he didn’t think Cangemi was a good fit anymore.

“There’s a change in direction that I’m taking in public works and I need a different skill set,” Cummins said Wednesday. “It’s not necessarily (that there were) issues. It’s just that I see the department being managed and operated differently than it has in the past. And I’m going to change it.”

Cum-mins said he is looking for a new public works head who has more profi-ciency with computers, planning and scheduling and using a work order system.

Attempts to reach Cangemi for response on his qualifications weren’t successful Wednesday.

When asked why the longtime employee was let go just before this week’s snowstorm, which some are billing as the biggest in some time, Cummins said that wasn’t something he thought about, because forecasts weren’t as developed Friday.

“I didn’t know (the snow) was coming through, did I?” he said. “That was not a consideration and it has no impact whatsoever, his being here, on what we’re doing. It has absolutely zero effect.”

Cummins said the public works department has about 20 employees and the two of those have a wealth of experience are essentially taking charge of the department for the time being, as the city is advertising for a new head. As of Wednesday morning, Cummins said the weather wasn’t hurting the city much, partly because residents seemed to have taken the tip to stay off the roads.

Mayor Gene Hobgood said he also didn’t believe Cangemi’s absence during the weather was an issue.

“I don’t think it’s having any effect,” Hobgood said Wednesday. “A lot of these guys have been there a long time and they pretty much know what their priorities are.”

Asked how he felt about Cummins’ decision to let the public works head go, the mayor said he didn’t think it was his place to comment on Cummins’ decisions.

“My take is the council gave Mr. Cummins full authority,” he said. “That’s all I can tell you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t (my decision) to make.”

The council voted in mid-January to make Cummins acting city manager as a search was ramping up for a replacement for Wood, who resigned minutes before the first meeting of the year. A clarification was then made during last Thursday’s council meeting to make it clear Cummins had full authority.

Councilman Hooky Huffman said, considering the weather, the timing of the move to get rid of Cangemi could have been better.

“Obviously, the timing of it, with what we’re experiencing, might not have been appropriate,” Huffman said Wednesday.

Huffman said he was also surprised Cummins seemingly didn’t discuss the move with his fellow council members, though Huffman could really only speak for what discussion he had with Cummins before Cangemi was let go.

“He sure didn’t discuss it with me,” he said. “Mr. Cummins called on that Friday afternoon. ... I was in total shock.”

Through the years, Huffman said Cangemi had been a good employee.

“Cangemi has done a lot of great things for the city,” he said. “He’ll go out of his way to help any citizen. He does go out of his way to please our citizens.”

But Huffman said the public works head’s tenure with the city has at times been checkered.

“I have heard some stories that were not real pleasing,” he said.

One story that wasn’t favorable came out in March 2012 when a man spoke at a council meeting urging the council to take action after Cangemi allegedly sexually harassed the man, who had been doing court-ordered community service with the city.

An open records request by the Tribune later showed that the city manager had written a letter reprimanding Cangemi and noting that the public works head admitted to referring to the man in a derogatory manner and to making a comment about an employee’s sexuality. The employee had tapped Cangemi on the backside before the comment, records showed.

“That was unfortunate and kind of a black mark on him,” Huffman said. “I don’t know of any other events.”

When asked if there were any particular incidents that led up to Cangemi getting let go, Cummins said no.

“There’s no (negative) remarks put in his file,” Cummins said. “I just didn’t feel that he could adapt to the significant changes. I’ll be very honest: it’s a hard decision. I don’t like to let anybody go.”

Cummins wanted to be clear that Cangemi wasn’t fired, but instead was laid off. Had there been another job available for Cangemi to move into, he would have, Cummins said.

“He was laid off because I didn’t have another job that matched his particular background,” Cummins said. “He wasn’t fired. The word’s not fired. He is eligible for unemployment and everything else. He was laid off.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
February 14, 2014
Shouldn't the new direction of the Public Works Department be a City Council decision?
February 13, 2014
"He was laid off because I didn’t have another job that matched his particular background,” Cummins said. “He wasn’t fired. The word’s not fired. He is eligible for unemployment and everything else. He was laid off.”

I wasn't the "fly on the wall" but since a politician is saying this I'm going with "Fired". We will never know what exactly happened but I'm sure it will happen again.
Joel Greene
February 13, 2014
I'm utterly amazed that Glen Cummins, a man with literally no experience whatsoever in running a city of any size, while operating only on an interim basis as the Canton City Manager, felt compelled to arbitrarily fire a long-term Employee because he had decided that he wants the Public Works Department to go in a different direction. That's absurd!

Glen, you're only supposed to be play acting in the role of City Manager on an interim basis - your really not a City Manager and you have no business setting any type of a direction for the City of Canton and its Citizens. You have no experience doing what you're doing and your decision to fire Dave Cangemi is well recognized by many people in the know to be nothing more than serving to enforce a personal vendetta on behalf of others.

Please Glen, I implore you, do nothing more to screw-up things for the City and the lives of others before your replacement is hired and you return for the last two years of your term in office to simply being an elected official who's there to serve the needs of your constituents. I know that the power must be heady to you, but do try to control your emotions; your foolishness is costing other people dearly.
Thinking Human
February 15, 2014
I have often wondered what motivates someone such as Mr. Greene or Ms. Sara B to post such comments.

What special knowledge of the facts do you have, Mr. Greene? You say that Mr. Cummins “arbitrarily fire[d]” Mr. Cangemi. Did you not read the article? First, the article makes clear that Mr. Cangemi was not “fired.” Second, the article indicates that Mr. Cangemi’s termination was far from “arbitrary.” Mr. Cummins said that he saw “the department being managed and operated differently than it has in the past.” The article states that Mr. Cummins is looking for a director who is more proficient “with computers, planning and scheduling[,] and using a work order system.” Mr. Greene, you may not agree with these reasons, but that does not mean Mr. Cangemi’s termination was arbitrary.

Mr. Greene, you say that Mr. Cummins is “only supposed to be play acting in the role of City Manager….” Perhaps that is all that you expect of someone in that role. What low expectations. According to the article, the elected City Council expects otherwise. Indeed, it clarified that Mr. Cummins has “full authority.” I suspect that the majority of Canton’s citizens feel likewise and would be upset if their City Manager—interim or permanent—viewed his or her job as “play acting.” I also suspect that if an article was published indicating that Mr. Cummins was quoted as saying he would be “play acting … the role of City Manager,” you would be among the first to post a comment expressing your outrage over that comment.

So, I return to the first question I posed: What special knowledge of the facts do you have, Mr. Greene? What do you know of the job that Mr. Cummins is doing? How are you able to say that Mr. Cummins is “enforc[ing] a personal vendetta on behalf of others” or is acting foolishly? Have you spoken to Mr. Cummins about his plans and the reasons for those plans? Have you taken the time to ask any city employees what they think? It appears to me that Mr. Cummins wants to make Canton run more effectively and more efficiently. Although many people, perhaps even you, Mr. Greene, have been lulled into the belief that government must be big and bureaucratic, it seems Mr. Cummins does not share that view. And he is doing precisely what good managers do—he is making decisions.

In the end, Mr. Greene, your comments do little more than evidence your personal dislike for Mr. Cummins. You are certainly free to feel that way. But, in expressing your dislike, you ought not embarrass yourself by trying to justify your feelings based on unsupported observations.

Laurel C
February 21, 2014
Could not agree more! I attended the Council meeting last night, and Cummins is drunk with power. Now his sidekick, Rust, seconds every motion brfore Cummins gets it out of his mouth. Aren't these the same guys who complained about previous councilmen meeting and making decisions outside of public? Funny how quickly power corrupts. Disappointed, especially in Rust who campaigned on a different course.
Sara B
February 13, 2014
Who died and made Glen Cummins the king of everything? His direction? How much more arrogant can this man become? Someone's on a power trip!
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