After a 45 minute closed session, the Columbus City Council voted to fire Civic Center Director Jon Dorman. While the Council did not discuss the reasons, News 3 was able to obtain letters between City Manager Isaiah Hugley and Dorman this week that show Hugley has accused Dorman of allowing a key manager to have dual employment.
In a letter from Dorman to Hugley and Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin, Dorman details an incident from the beginning of the year concerning former Events Services Manager Art Thomason.
The letter states that a recruitment firm working for the Rocky Mount Events Center in North Carolina had contacted Dorman to see if he was interested in accepting a position as General Manager.
While Dorman admitted to reviewing the facility and position during discussions with the company, he “quickly informed all parties that I was not interested in the position, but there was an employee at the Civic Center that may be a good fit.”
He then put the recruitment firm in contact with Art Thomason, who “began discussions with the recruiter” in February.
Dorman’s letter says that by March 31, the Rocky Mount Telegram had written an article about Thomason becoming the facility’s “New Event Center Manager,” and featured a photo of him in front of the Columbus Civic Center.
Another article was published on April 11 featuring Thomason speaking with chief operations officer for Sports Facilities Management, the company that oversees the Event Center.
Dorman then reportedly asked Thomason if it was official and urged him to file his resignation from the Columbus Civic Center, but Thomason expressed “second thoughts about actually taking the job in N.C.”
According to Dorman, Thomason began to submit more time off requests and took sick leave, and he had still not submitted a letter of resignation. By the end of April, Dorman requested Thomason’s resignation, and for him to leave by the end of May.
On May 6, Dorman writes, “Deputy City Manager Goodwin called me regarding concerns that Art was actually working in N.C. while still being employed here at the Civic Center.”
The next day, Dorman directed Thomason to hand in his resignation, which he received the following day and announced he would be leaving “at the end of the month to start a new job in N.C. in June.”
That same day, Dorman was asked to meet with Hugley on May 8.
During this meeting, it came to light that Thomason “had potentially not been completely upfront with me in regards to his status at the facility in NC and per anonymous calls he had in fact been working in both places,” according to Dorman’s letter.
Dorman was then directed to take off three days of work and report to the City Manager’s office when he returned for “further discussions.”
On May 13, Hugley had a letter delivered to Dorman informing him of his “intention to recommend your removal from the position as Director of the Columbus Civic Center with the advice and consent of the City Council.”
When Dorman contacted SFM to confirm Thomason’s employment status with the company, he received a notice that they “would not comment on the situation due to ‘wanting to respect Art’s confidentiality related to his relationship with SFM.'”
“A recent investigation has revealed that you have not faithfully or impartially fulfilled the duties of your office,” Hugley wrote, “It is apparent that you have facilitated and authorized dual employment of a key manager of the Columbus Civic Center with the advice against my explicit instructions.
Further, you have not been forthright in your ocmmunications to me, as the evidence indicates you have approved the submission of sick leave records that were known to be inaccurate.”
Hugley informed him that the repercussions of the investigation “may also have criminal implications.”
From the letter that Dorman submitted detailing his account of the events leading up to the May 12 correspondence, Dorman was under the impression that Thomason “was still conflicted as to if he would actually take the job or not,” but continued to encourage his resignation and move to the new job in N.C.