Another Board disappointment

For the observers who have paid close attention, it was not a surprise to learn that the New Albany Board of Aldermen decided to uphold their earlier decision to terminate the employment of former New Albany Parks and Recreation Director Edgar Capaning. Many of those observers who attended the Board meeting Monday night expressed their displeasure with not only all the members of the Board, including the Mayor, but with the manner by which this whole termination process has been handled.

The Monday night meeting was scheduled and publicized by the Board to be one during which they would entertain the possibility of reinstatement of Capaning in response to the large turnout of citizens expressing protests about his termination and the methods allegedly used in the process.

Attorney Thad Mueller, law partner of New Albany City Attorney Bobby Carter, who was filling in for the absent Carter, stated to the near over-flow crowd that the Board  had scheduled a private meeting with Mr. Capaning prior to the Monday night Board meeting to discuss the need for Capaning to sign a release form, absolving the City of New Albany, the Board of Aldermen and, reportedly, the DelKen Group, Inc., the city’s personnel consultants, from any wrongdoing before they would let him see the details of the reasons for his dismissal or discuss them in a public forum..

Capaning reportedly did not attend that meeting, nor did he sign the requested waiver to sign away his right to protest or take legal steps in his own defense for reasons not the least of which, was that his attorney was not available and he would have had to attend the meeting unrepresented,.

The report in question was prepared by the DelKey Group, Inc., human resource consultants out of Ridgeland, Mississippi. It reportedly contains the reasons for which the termination decision was made by the Board of Aldermen with a unanimous vote.

So, because Capaning did not sign away his rights, the Board ceased any consideration of reinstatement (if there was any real intent for such consideration in the first place).

The DelKen Group, Inc., is a personnel administration consulting company owned by Ken Barlow and his wife Delores. Mr. Barlow is also the Executive Director of the newly formed Mississippi Automotive Manufacturers Association. As of this date and to my immediate knowledge, no automobile manufacturers in the State of Mississippi who are members of the association.

Back on December 1, 2003, in a statement appearing in an article in The Mississippi Business Journal of that date, Mr. Barlow stated, “Employers should have control of their ability to terminate at-will, but with that control goes the responsibility to act in a professional manner when disciplining and terminating employees.”

He went on to say, “Most employers support a due process in terms of disciplinary action toward at-will employment and do not abuse it.”

It would seem, after reading what the president of this human resources firm has said, that his clients would subscribe to his sentiments. Ironically, it is the manner of disciplining or lack thereof, and manner of termination that is the subject of citizen outrage and dissatisfaction.

In all fairness to the Board of Aldermen, personnel issues are not to be discussed in public without the employee’s permission. In giving that permission, no employee should be asked to absolve any employer of liability for their actions.  I would guess that all who are interested in fair treatment of Mr. Capaning would not disagree with Mr. Barlow’s statement that employers have a responsibility to act in a professional manner in their dealing with their employees.

It would seem, under the circumstances, either that good advice was not given to the Board or they were so arrogant they didn’t take it. I’m putting my money on the latter.