By J.D. Sumner and Joel Hall
An ongoing investigation into Morrow City Councilman John Lampl's treatment of a city employee may have cost him a job as Albany's next downtown manager.
On Thursday morning, Albany City Manager Alfred Lott announced that Naples, Fla., native, Aaron Blair, was chosen over Lampl as the best-qualified candidate to become the city's next downtown manager.
Lott said that an unresolved "hostile work environment" claim by Morrow Finance Director Dan Defnall, against Lampl, played a role in the final decision.
"He's [Lampl is] qualified for the job," Lott said. "He's been the head of a DDA [Downtown Development Authority], he's been a city manager, so he seems to know what he's doing. But, at this point, we're going to focus on the other guy, begin negotiations and the like, and go down that road.
"People make accusations against public officials all the time ... those types of accusations are just a part of public life," he added. "But before I would hire him [Lampl], I would insist that that particular situation be cleared up and resolved," said Lott.
On Aug. 24, the Morrow City Council voted 3-0 to hire an Atlanta-based law firm to investigate a June 17 grievance filed against Lampl by Defnall. The city council gave the law firm a 30-day window to complete a factual investigation and report its findings to the mayor and council.
Lampl, who was elected to the Morrow City Council earlier this year, has served previous stints as a city councilman, the city manager, and the city's downtown development authority director.
According to Lampl, Albany's downtown manager will be tasked with redeveloping Albany's historic Riverfront district. He said he was considered for the position after a nationwide search was completed by the Mercer Group, Inc., an Atlanta-based management consulting firm.
"Two weeks ago is when the finalists were kind of looked at," Lampl said. "We spent all day in Albany, where we spoke to citizens and got to look at all their projects. They are looking for someone to move forward the 23-block historic Riverfront district.
"They [the City of Albany] have spent millions redeveloping it already, so they are well on their way," continued Lampl. "They just need somebody to keep it moving forward.
"As a city councilman at this point, I still have a private job," he continued. "If the right people come to you with the right offer, and show you a dynamic city that is moving forward, reasonable people will look into that," said Lampl. "If they do a nationwide search and you come out second, all I can say is that I was happy to be in the running. He [Blair] brought a different set of skills."
According to Albany officials, Blair previously worked for Living Word Family Church in Naples, where he served as a project manager for a $14.5 million expansion currently underway, according to the church web site. Prior to that position, Blair served as an urban design planner for Collier County, Fla., and was the director for the Collier County Community Reinvestment Agency.
Lampl said it was unfortunate that he was overlooked for the position due to the pending investigation, but said he would "live with" the decision.
"It's unfortunate that things outside of my control got in the way," he said. "Sometimes, that happens, but that is an experience that you have to live with. It's [Albany is] a great place, and I know that they are going to do well."
Morrow City Clerk Evyonne Browning said the city's investigation into Lampl was still ongoing as of Thursday.