Esto Council votes to terminate Billy Martin from public works director position

Due to reported issues with his job performance and a restructuring of the position and its responsibilities, the Esto Town Council voted to terminate Billy Martin from his position as public works director during a meeting on April 16.

Council Member Josh Davenport, who has been filling in for some public works matters and other duties while Martin had been on workers’ compensation due to an injury, brought up the matter.

“I have done some HR stuff since we had the issue with Billy being injured,” Davenport said. “Since I’ve been here checking up on things, I’ve found a lot of stuff missing. I’ve found some stuff that really made me uncomfortable. That was stuff like the roads not being taken care of, the generator logs not being filled out, things I’ve asked for over and over again to be taken care of.”

“The water logs not being taken care of,” Davenport continued. “I’ve found our employee is spending a lot of time over at someone else’s house while he’s clocked in. While he’s being paid, he’s spending serious time over at someone else’s house.”

Martin submitted his return to work, based on a doctor’s note, the day of the meeting. Martin was in the audience during the meeting but left before Davenport’s remarks. When he was employed as public works director, Martin usually sat at the Town Council dais during meetings at a specified public works director seat–by the Town Council. 

Martin declined to comment when contacted by Holmes County Advertiser the day after the meeting. 

“I’m confused because we have one person working in public works right now and more things are getting done than when there were two of them,” Davenport said.

Concurrently, the Town Council also decided to meld the public works director position with a town administrator role in a new hybrid position. Responsibilities for the new position include HR matters, such as hiring and firing of people, as well as payroll and representing Esto at Holmes County Board of County Commissioners meetings and other public events. 

Esto officials and staff are working out the exact details and could be advertising for the position once the role’s parameters are fully set. A post on the official Esto Facebook page after the meeting said details about applying “will be released soon.”

Town Council members said having an administrative staff member handle hiring and firing is preferable since, under the way their municipal government is set up now, the Town Council has to handle HR matters in a public manner. 

In the interim, current public works employee Tony Manis will continue fulfilling public works duties, as will Davenport on a volunteer basis. Davenport had been doing so while Martin was out injured. 

Davenport is also serving as interim town manager until someone permanent is hired. Davenport stepped down from the Town Council to do so. 

Council Member Garet Skipper nominated Davenport for the manager position, which was approved by the rest of the Town Council. Davenport can be reappointed to the Town Council when a more permanent decision is made. 

“I’m uncomfortable with continuing this relationship with (Martin) as a Town,” Davenport said. “The performance before the accident, that’s not excusable. Before that, there were so many things that fell behind. We had citizens come up and complain and complain.”

Davenport made the motion to terminate Martin, which was supported by the other Town Council members.

“Yeah, can’t have that,” Skipper said after Davenport’s remarks and several seconds of silence.

Davenport said he wouldn’t let the matter continue without action.

“We cannot have that risk on our town,” he said.

Following the approval of Martin’s termination, Davenport said the issue was “unfortunate.”

“I’m sorry, guys. It hurts me. It makes me feel uncomfortable,” Davenport said. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Later in the meeting, Davenport said he preferred Martin’s termination be described as a layoff due to the restructuring of the public works director role.

“The position doesn’t really exist the same way anymore,” Davenport said. 

Should Martin take legal action against the Town, the Town’s insurance will handle that, Town Attorney Michelle Jordan said.

“You have to do what’s best for the town,” Jordan said.

In other Esto news, vendor applications have now opened for the Two-Toed Tom Festival, which will occur in September. 

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