The Brookhaven City Council will enter into mediation next week with its suspended city manager after discussing her termination Wednesday in a three-hour executive session.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, employment lawyer for the city of Brookhaven who participated in the Wednesday executive session, said mediation between the city and City Manager Marie Garrett is the best option at this point to try to avoid a lawsuit.
“There are a couple advantages to mediation. It can provide a quicker solution, it can also allow the parties to craft a solution rather than have one imposed on them by a judge,” Fitzpatrick said. “It is worth a play to do this because protracted litigation is expensive.”
Mediation involves bringing in a third party experienced in the field of employment law meeting with both sides and their attorneys for one day to try to hammer out an agreement all can agree to. Discussions during mediation are private.
Mayor John Ernst read a handwritten statement after the council came out of its closed session.
“The city seeks, at all times, to honor its obligations, also the council believes in watching the taxpayers money. In an effort to reach an understanding and amicable resolution with City Manager Marie Garrett, we have agreed to participate in mediation next week. Final action by council will be deferred until after mediation,” he added.
The council voted unanimously to suspend Garrett as its city manager on Tuesday after contract negotiations became “mired in conflict” and to “protect the integrity of the city,” Ernst said.
Garrett’s annual salary is $214,000. Her employment contract appears to give her a severance package totaling nine months salary.