You may recall that last month a resident filed a complaint against Mayor Mathews for ethics violations. Immediately following the filing, Mayor Mathews promptly reached out to the person filing the complaint asking for a private meeting to discuss the details of the complaint. Within just a few hours, David Ermutlu received a text message to his private cell phone from Mayor Mathews’ city cell phone, asking for a private meeting to discuss the charges against him. When no response was received, Mayor Mathews’ tried again, sending another text to Mr. Ermutlu, calling him out “man to man face to face” almost demanding that he hear the facts.
Is there anything wrong with this? You bet there is! This is intimidation 101. Although the complainant was obviously not deterred by the Mayor, he did feel that this was an attempt at intimidation. These actions beg the question: who else has the Mayor been texting? Has he been contacting members of the Ethics Board? What about the comments we have been reading about text messaging going back and forth between Councilmember Killingsworth and the Mayor during the meetings when he is supposed to be recused from all action and conversation? It appears that the Mayor either, is not taking these charges seriously or, feels that he is above all of this and cannot be touched.
Well, we applaud Mr. Ermutlu. Last night, he stood in front of the council, residents and anyone else who was present and he read the text messages that he received. He explained why it was an improper procedure for Mayor Mathews to try and have private conversations with him while an investigation is in progress. He also went a step further and called for the Mayor’s resignation. Does this seem extreme? Not at all. In light of the fact that these types of strong armed tactics have been going on in the city for years, this is completely reasonable. It happens to the residents and employees alike.
This type of behavior may very well be why the city of Kennesaw does not and cannot grow. Bad city leadership will always stifle development and growth regardless of how hard those below it work. There may be some peaks and valleys but in the end, bad management will prevail until someone comes along and has the guts to gather evidence, stand tall, refuse to be intimidated and fight.
Although this may have started off as an issue regarding two ambulance providers, the real problem goes much, much deeper. Mr. Ermutlu has pierced the veil of what lies inside city hall. He has shown just a few of the tactics that are being used by the current city manager, some of the council and Mayor. Let’s examine a few of the things that we have observed from public meetings or have been provided in documentation, shall we?
Mayor Mathews has a past filled with questionable tactics when things did not go his way. He has made threatening comments to previous council members such as Holly Martin and Bob Baker, during council work sessions. He made promises in private that he did not keep, simply to get things to go his way. While much of this is the “politician” in him, being untruthful is simply not necessary to be a good leader. Furthermore, Mayor Mathews seems to have a need to want information constantly to hold over people. This probably explains Councilman Tim Killingsworth’s sudden abandonment of his friend, Leonard Church for the current Mayor. Surely Mr. Killingsworth would not just leave a very close friend of many, many years, having nothing more to do with him just to ride on the Mayor’s coat tails? After all, it’s a council’s job to support the city, not the Mayor, right?
It’s the city manager’s job to run the day to day operations for the city. It is not his job to set policy; it is his job to enforce what has been decided and “set” by the Mayor and Council. He serves at the pleasure of the Mayor and Council. A good city manager should have a working relationship with each of the council members and the Mayor but have no preference with one over the other. He (or she) should be open to discussions with all of the employees and welcome creativity and difference of opinions. A good leader and manager should be honest, forthright and truthful, standing up for what is just and right rather than constantly thinking of his own needs. According to input from citizens and employees, this is not Steve Kennedy.
Mr. Kennedy is often worried only about himself and aligns himself with whom he perceives to be the greater power in the city. It has been witnessed that he will throw anyone under the bus to save himself, in spite of the fact that he may have been the one responsible for the entire situation. He bends the policy to suit himself, yet he holds others stringently to those same policies. He has also been known to twist the policy to suit his own needs. He and the Mayor are both “do as I say, not as I do” type of leaders.
We recently received an email from a reader that asked, “why are there so many lawsuits and problems these last few years?” That’s an excellent question. Indeed, the Mayor’s entire term in office has been nothing but one controversy after another. We originally wrote an article asking whether our readers thought perhaps that the Mayor had a regime? However, some of our readers felt that the problem was more of a city manager issue and since he runs the daily operations, that we were laying blame on the wrong person.
In reality, the fault belongs to all of them. It belongs to the Mayor for pulling the intimidation tactics and overpowering others around him rather than working with them. There’s really no respect in that type of behavior. It belongs to the council for watching the city manager form such a steadfast alliance with the Mayor and doing nothing about it. An allegiance like that, where one is favored and trusted above all of the others, is an unbalanced thing and will do nothing but cause strife and issues. The EMS decision is a prime example of this. And finally, the fault belongs with the city manager, who, as the head of an organization as an non-elected leader, should be looking after the city and his staff rather than just protecting his own interests. He should not be trying to gather information to protect himself or to protect his friends. He should not be out golfing on the citizens’ dime; he should be attending to city business.
So, after witnessing one controversy after another, what can the citizens of Kennesaw do? Well, we can attend the meetings and continue to demand that things change.* We can call our elected officials and ask that our voices be heard. Here is the page on the Kennesaw web site for their information. The next time the Mayor has a town hall meeting, everyone needs to show up in force and talk about the issues we have on our minds; not just his agenda. To his credit, he has offered to listen and we need to speak up. Write, call and speak up. It all works!
Most of all, stay involved! We CAN make a difference!
*UPDATE: We originally created a petition at the request of a number of citizens, however the Watch does not take a side on this issue one way or another regarding the EMS provider – we only report what we have obtained in documentation. We have removed the petition. If the citizens would like to create the petition regarding either the EMS or removal of the city manager, they may do so can post here in a comment as others have done.