During the council’s March 28 meeting, Lewis cursed at Sam Lady, the city’s finance chief, who was sitting in the audience, as he passed him in the aisle.
In an April 23 memo to Lewis, City Manager Bill Bruton writes that his actions violate the city code section on “gross discourtesy to coworkers, supervisors, department heads or the public.”
Bruton goes on to write that when he questioned Lewis about the incident later, Lewis denied making the comment, although it was witnessed by a second employee.
By denying that he made the comment, Bruton writes that Lewis violates another part of the city code, which relates to “willfully giving false statements to supervisors, department heads or the public.”
As a result, Bruton suspended Lewis for three days without pay from April 26 to April 30.
Bruton concluded his memo with this statement: “Any future violation of the City of Marietta/BLW Personnel Rules and Regulations will result in disciplinary action up to and including recommendation for termination.”
Asked about the incident, Lewis expressed remorse.
“I would just say that I made a mistake, and I apologized to Sam Lady for it,” Lewis told MDJ on Tuesday. “I made a mistake. I was angry because of what had happened at the council meeting, and I made a mistake in making a comment to Sam that I shouldn’t have.”
Lady declined to comment.
Tensions have run high with the city’s utility as officials decide what to do with the excess power it owns. With the excess energy and the environmental regulations, Mayor Steve Tumlin has predicted a 4 percent electric rate increase every year for the next five years unless alternatives can be found.
Lewis said the second charge Bruton leveled at him came about because he initially didn’t think he said such comments to Lady.
“When he first asked me about the situation, he quoted what I supposedly said, and I didn’t think I had said that, so I came back to one of my coworkers, and I asked them if I said that and they said yes. So when I sat down with him, I told him that,” Lewis said.
As general manager of the city owned utility, Lewis is paid a salary of $127,504. A three-day suspension cost him $1,471.
Lewis, who oversees a staff of 202 people and a annual budget of $167.5 million, has been general manager of the BLW since 2004.
“You know, I’m not a bad guy,” Lewis said. “And I don’t cause these kinds of problems. This is the first time since I was in the tenth grade that I was suspended for anything. I think I was laying out of school playing pool at that point in time. Regardless of how mad I was and regardless of how upset I was, I shouldn’t have used that language at the City Council. So that was my bad.”
Councilman Anthony Coleman believes Lewis deserves greater punishment.
“He got off lightly,” Coleman said.
“I think Bill has numerous incidents that occurred with Bobby,” he said. “It’s time to get some fresh blood in that leadership position. If you’ve got somebody that don’t have respect for the mayor and the City Council and the city manager, it’s time for them to go.””