New Albany aldermen uphold Capaning termination

During its Monday, Nov. 17 public meeting, the New Albany board of  aldermen announced that it decided to uphold its earlier termination of former New Albany Parks and Recreation Director Edgar Capaning.

Monday’s meeting had been set during the board’s Nov. 4 meeting due to many citizens’ concerns and questions regarding the manner in which Capaning was terminated.  At that time, the board stated that they could not release full details regarding their decision, due to the fact that it is a personnel matter.  However, Attorney Thad Mueller, sitting in for New Albany City Attorney Bobby Carter, stated that the board could release the information if Capaning signed a release form.

As of Monday’s board meeting, however, Mueller stated that Capaning had not signed such a form.

“We had scheduled a meeting at 4 p.m. to meet with Mr. Capaning and either the board as a whole or the personnel committee [ a representative of] the Delkin Group to come up to meet with Edgar,” Mueller said.  “I talked to Edgar today at 11:30 a.m. and he said he couldn’t make it.  So, this was going to be a meeting, not public, with Edgar to discuss the Delkin reports, but he couldn’t make the meeting, so that didn’t happen.  As ya’ll recall from the last meeting, I said before the board can discuss this personnel matter, which is something the board typically does not discuss in public, before that would happen, he would have to sign a release.  I provided him that release.  I talked with Edgar about that today, he wanted to make a change to it.  I made that change and emailed it to him.  We haven’t gotten that release, so the board really cannot discuss the personnel matter in a public meeting absent that release.  That’s where we stand.

New Albany Mayor Tim Kent followed Mueller’s statement, saying that the board upheld its earlier decision.

“The board has further considered and they have decided to uphold their decision on Edgar, so that’s about all they can say,” Kent said.

Following its decision to terminate Capaning, the board released an official statement that it made its decision based in part on reports developed by a Jackson-based human resources company, the Delkin Group, that was retained by the city in 2006 to audit all city departments, as well as to update its employee handbook and job descriptions.

The Delkin Group is currently being retained by the city at a cost of $1,200 a month.

The reports submitted by the Delkin Group, part of Capaning’s personnel files and therefore confidential, are allegedly based upon interviews with full-time employees, including with Capaning, as well as meetings in which Capaning was advised of his performance.  The board’s official statement goes on to read that Capaning was offered management training courses in order to improve his performance.

Capaning’s wife, Nina Beth Capaning, asked the board to explain the manner by which the decision to terminate her husband was made.

“We don’t have to deal with what is inside the Delkin report, we can discuss the manner by which it was handled,” Nina Beth Capaning said.  “It’s very confusing how it was handled.  It just seems like the public needs to know why it was handled the way it was.”

Mueller responded by again stating the board could not discuss personnel matters without Capaning’s signed release.

“The purpose of the meeting today was for him to say what he wanted to say to the board and to discuss this with the Delkin Group,” Mueller said..  “That meeting never took place.  We have no basis from which to change the board’s position.”

Christy Mitchell, a parent of children who have participated in programs at the New Albany Sportsplex, asked the board how the decision was made, in terms of who on the board voted in favor of firing Capaning.

“From my understanding, ya’ll went into the personnel committee first to discuss this matter and then brought it out to everyone for a vote, or did you go into executive [session]?” Mitchell asked. “Who voted to terminate him?”

Kent explained that it was a unanimous decision to terminate Capaning.  While Ward Three Aldermen Tommie Beasley did not vote for or against, Kent said by not voting, according to state law, it was automatically counted with the majority.

Beasley went on to explain his reason for not voting.

“I didn’t abstain, I didn’t say nay or yay because I really didn’t have information in my hand that I could review to say Edgar needs to go or stay,” Beasley said.

“I don’t go to the park, I don’t have any children down there,” Beasley continued.  “Any information I get is maybe what one or two aldermen bring back.  These men, I respect them and when they give me their opinion, I feel like they know what they’re talking about.”

Alderman-At-Large Dan Skinner also said he trusted the members of the personnel committee – Kent, Ward Four Alderman Bill Tucker and City Attorney Carter – and the decision they made.

“I read over the information that they went by and I fully trust their decision,” Skinner said.  “Edgar’s got us handcuffed.  To use a tennis term, the ball’s in his court whether he wants the information released or not.”