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Hobgood: No Pressure for Wood to Resign

Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood said former City Manager Scott Wood was not forced to step down from the post he'd held for nearly five years.

Credit: Patch
Credit: Patch
While the city of Canton will soon have to scramble to find someone to fill the post of city manager, its leaders say they are more than ready for that challenge. 

Mayor Gene Hobgood and some city council members on Friday discussed Wood's decision to resign the post of city manager, and what characteristics they'd like to see in the next person who subsequently is appointed to that position. 

When asked if Wood was given the choice to resign or face a vote of termination by the city council, Hobgood on Friday said he did not want "to get into the details" of Wood's resignation as it's a personnel matter.

The mayor went on to say it was a "mutual agreement" for Wood to also be compensated for six months after his departure per his contract. 

"That’s what he asked (for) and it was his decision to submit his resignation," the mayor added.  

Wood submitted his resignation letter moments before Thursday's council meeting, and the council voted 5-1, with Hooky Huffman dissenting, to accept the letter.

Chief Financial Officer Nathan Ingram is currently acting as city manager, and will do so over the next two weeks per the city's charter. Hobgood appointed new council members Bill Grant, Sandy McGrew and John Rust to head up a search committee to find an interim city manager once Ingram's short tenure is fulfilled.

The committee will meet at 4 p.m. Monday at Canton City Hall to embark on that task. 

The mayor said he hopes an interim will be named by Jan. 16. When asked who could be named to the position, Hobgood said it could be a council member or another city employee, but "it certainly won't be the mayor."

When asked what qualities he'd like to see in the next person who is appointed into the role, Hobgood said he'd obviously like to see someone with experience running a government and someone who is also "dedicated" to making sure the city gives residents a positive customer service experience. 

"I'm not saying we haven’t done a fair job, but we can do a lot better than what we’ve done in the past," he said. 

Since he was hired in 2009, Wood also had his share of controversy. In 2010, emails surfaced in which he made a snarky comment about resident Joyce Cain. In early 2012, Wood was pulled over by a Canton police officer for speeding and kept quiet about the incident until the video of the traffic stop was released to local media. 

Despite all that, Grant added Wood has always been "professional and courteous" and that was reflected in his resignation letter.

"I look forward to moving (the city) forward and creating a very cooperative and productive environment," he added of the city's next steps. 

Councilman Jack Goodwin added he was surprised by Wood's decision, and said he'd "hate to see him go because he was a good city manager as well as a good friend of mine." Goodwin said he'd like to see Wood's successor be someone who would not micromanage city employees, someone who is resourceful and someone who can pick up where Wood left off in moving the city forward.

Councilman Glen Cummins, who presented Wood's resignation letter during Thursday's meeting, added he'd like to see someone who is "hands-on" when it comes to navigating the city's longstanding issues.

While he said it would be premature to muse on what qualities he'd like to see in a city manager, Rust said he does not want to see a relationship between the mayor and council and the city manager become one in which nothing gets accomplished. Rust said his observations over the last few years led him to believe that was the state of Wood's relationship with the mayor and council. 

"I'm not sure where you place the blame," he added. "I just know what I've observed and that's one thing I don't want to have happen again." 

Some of the council members also addressed comments Huffman made to Patch Thursday evening, which he said Wood's resignation was a "political move" by Hobgood, Cummins and the new council members. 

Cummins said Huffman is "disappointed" in November's election results, and was a "strong supporter" of the former city manager.

"I think he’s just bitter that we are moving forward and we are going into a different direction," he added. 

Rust said he, Grant and McGrew are all "independent thinkers" who are interested in what's best for the city.

Goodwin, who said he'd remain "neutral" on Huffman's allegations, added he will take Wood's decision at face value.

Grant said Huffman was entitled to his opinion, but added he sees Wood's resignation as a chance to usher in a "fresh start." 

He also said he'd like to have a city manager who "demonstrates ability to collaborate and work with others in a very cooperative and productive manner."

Hobgood stated the change in management could also bring forth an opportunity to take Canton into a new direction.

"The recent fall election indicated the public really wanted to change directions and to change the way we do business," he added. "I think this is something probably that’s an opportunity to do so."

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Shipp Cain January 03, 2014 at 08:09 PM
I personally would favor the new City Manager search committee first look at the need for a $150,000+ a year position and perform a time study on his duties
Joe Johnson January 03, 2014 at 10:30 PM
Amusing to hear all the guilty dogs barking. Canton always has been and always will be nothing more than a backroom dealing good ole boys club. Welcome to the past!
Clark Yaggy January 06, 2014 at 02:35 PM
I was curious to know if Ms. Dixon's sub-headline above (Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood said former City Manager Scott Wood was not forced to step down from the post he'd held for nearly five years.) was a direct quote from the Mayor or whether she may have inferred that from other comments the mayor had made to her. So I asked them both. Mr. Hobgood wrote "I don't believe that discussing the details of a personnel matter is appropriate" when I asked if he had been quoted directly, thus dodging the question of what he said to Ms. Dixon. So I asked her, and she responded "Yes, that is what he told me." The fact is that Mayor Hobgood met with Mr. Wood prior to Thursday's council meeting and told him he, the Mayor, had the necessary four votes necessary to fire him, Wood, at the meeting. However, because the discussion about Wood's firing would likely be uncomfortable and unpleasant, the Mayor told Wood that if would preferred to resign, that would be acceptable. So you can draw your own conclusions. Mine are (a) that this is an unacceptable way to treat any employee, regardless of how one feels about his performance, (b) if this is not forcing someone to step down, I don't know what is, and (c) the Mayor was less than truthful with the press, and thus with the public (the Mayor denies this, telling me, "I have not lied to anyone."). In a court of law, this would be perjury. Here, it's just more mayoral sleaze.
hope January 06, 2014 at 05:17 PM
Mayor Gene Hobgood...the man who drives around with a "I Support My City and Mayor Hobgood" sticker on his truck. Shocking, not shocking.

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