Tuesday’s decision by Columbus Council to uphold the firing of Muscogee County Prison Lt. Little Lynn was more than just a win for Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, though it was unmistakably that.
It was a win, if a belated one, for the whole city. It reaffirmed the principle that governments and the people who represent them are accountable to the law, to the rules they are supposed to play by, and to the people who pay their salaries.
Tomlinson fired Lynn last Nov. 18, after then-Warden Bill Adamson came to the mayor with reports of factionalism, cronyism, abusive treatment of both employees and prisoners, and a workplace climate that was unstable and even unsafe. Lynn, Tomlinson said Tuesday, was “one of the kingpins.”
A state investigation of conditions at the prison revealed a work environment that was obviously abysmal -- a culture of abuse and intimidation, and one in which a sexual relationship between Lynn and a subordinate is believed to have led to thousands of dollars worth of overtime. That relationship alone, which both Lynn and Correctional Officer Angela Askew admitted, is grounds for firing under city employee regulations.
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Yet just two months after Lynn’s firing, the city’s Personnel Review Board reinstated him, at which time new Warden Dwight Hamrick immediately -- and appropriately, as is now clear -- suspended him with pay pending resolution of the issue. Tomlinson, meanwhile, was pushing for council to overturn the board’s decision.
The mayor was diplomatically gracious with regard to the Personnel Review Board after Tuesday’s victory. She pointed out that its members are private citizens who volunteer their time, that the details of the state investigation had not been released when Lynn appealed his firing, and that some of the testimony they heard was perjured.
All of which are indeed legitimate mitigating circumstances, and none of which explains why the board overturned an employee’s firing for flagrant violation of a firing offense.
We are gratified, as was the mayor, that council’s decision was unanimous. But even a high-profile shakeup of the prison’s top management isn’t enough if there’s not some lasting object lesson for all concerned about how and how not to conduct the public’s business -- including the tough but necessary job of running a prison.
It seems government-mandated health coverage for contraception has been the law in Georgia for more than a decade now.
Only when the name “Obama” gets attached to the issue does it suddenly become a problem.
Government might not be transparent enough, but it’s never hard to see right through pure politics.