By Larry Stanford and Ashley Biles
April 17, 2014
“Under the direction of the Board of Commissioners of Upson County, I have been directed to contact Miss Martha Anne McCarty. She has agreed to continue to be the EMA Director here at Upson County. There will be no status change. Everything will remain the same as it was a week ago.”
Six days after Upson County Commission Chairman Rusty Blackston called Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Martha Anne McCarty into his office and told her she was being relieved of her duties as of May 1, Blackston issued the above statement Thursday afternoon stating that McCarty will remain as EMA Director.
The uproar began last Friday when Blackston called McCarty in and told her she was being relieved. In an interview with The Thomaston Times Wednesday night, Blackston said there was no issue with the job McCarty had done in the 17 months since she was appointed EMA Director following the retirement of Billy Mitchell. The issue was with McCarty having taken a job in Atlanta and the chance of her not always being available when needed.
McCarty had informed County Manager Jim Wheeless of her new job in January, but said she and the EMA staff were prepared for any instance that she could not be on hand.
“I told him I don’t want to give up the job, I wanted to keep it,” said McCarty. “I’ve got too much going on as far as grants that we’ve got in progress and projects going on that I want to see come to fruition. I told him I have two deputy directors and that is what they are there for, in case I am not around and something needs to be handled. They can do it. Plus with a SouthernLINC radio and telephone, you can reach me anytime.”
However, she also told Wheeless if the terms of her new schedule were not considered acceptable, then she would leave it up to them to decide if she could continue on as director or not. Blackston stated he and Wheeless were willing to give the new schedule a chance and see how things would work. Things went well until the ice storm hit in February and they realized it would not be conducive to have an EMA Director not in town to handle matters during a storm or a disaster. Yet, McCarty maintained she was available throughout the entire storm and continued to provide updates by phone, radio and on the internet as well as completing the forms that had to be turned into GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Association).
Blackston stated he and the board discussed the matter recently during an executive session and came to the consensus that it would work better for the community to have an EMA Director who was in town full time. He stated there was no vote was taken, but the board unanimously agreed on the matter.
McCarty noted as far as she knew everything seemed fine after her meeting with Wheeless in January and she had heard nothing from the board to think otherwise, that is until Blackston called her in for a meeting last week.
At that time, McCarty said Blackston told her “I’m going to make this short and sweet. May 1, Barry Hopper will be the new EMA director and we are going to tell everybody that you decided to resign the position because of conflicts with your new job in Atlanta.” However, she maintained she had not resigned from any position. Blackston stated he then told her they would tell everyone ‘no comment’ then when they asked about the matter.
Although they may have discussed the possibility of changing directors in closed session, McCarty said the other commissioners have told her they had no clue what was going to go down Friday morning.
“I have come to find out that even though they discussed this, none of the other commissioners knew he was going to ‘pull the trigger’,” she said.
In response to that statement, Blackston said the board knew it would be coming at some point, but admitted that they did not know it was going to happen last Friday.
But as Blackston said in his statement at the beginning of this article, the board apparently had a change of heart and instructed him to request McCarty to remain in her position.
“Everything has been withdrawn,” Blackston said. “Everything is back like it was a week ago, as if nothing happened.”