Esto town council meeting yields major resignations and controversy

The Esto Town Council held its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 18, addressing several important issues, including the controversial relocation of a veteran memorial statue and the hybrid Town Manager/Public Works Director position.
A community member voiced concerns about the removal of the town’s veteran memorial statue from its central location.
Councilman Greg Wells acknowledged the issue, noting he had received multiple calls about it.
“This is a lawn ornament,” declared former councilmember Josh Davenport. “Why are we so concerned about lawn ornaments? I wouldn’t have touched this lawn ornament if I had known the deep sentimental impact of it to the community.”
A veteran in the audience emphasized the statue’s importance, saying, “You won’t know the importance of that ‘lawn ornament’ until you have done what we have done.” The council ultimately agreed to return the statue to its original position.
The council also revisited the hybrid Town Manager/Public Works Director position, which had been established on April 16 and filled by Davenport.
Davenport had been serving as Public Works Director while handling additional HR responsibilities. Concerns about the position’s creation and scope were raised by council members Wells and newly sworn-in member Krystal Bien. Wells proposed that until there is greater clarity regarding the role, the position should function solely as Public Works Director.
Councilman Maxie Yates stated his confusion with the ethics issues after Town Attorney Michelle Jordan explained that she didn’t identify any ethical issues with the hiring of Davenport for the hybrid position.
“The average person speaks at a sixth-grade level, and I told y’all that this conversation was as clear as muddy water and so I asked [Jordan] if she knew what they were talking about, and she stated ‘Yes, I do’, but now she doesn’t. So where does that leave us when our little legal secretary over here doesn’t know what’s going on because she says she doesn’t know anything about ethics and this seems to be about ethics and we can’t get any advice,” asked Yates.
“I asked her an attorney question and she said yes but suddenly today she has no idea. So where does that leave us?”
Fellow council members emphasized that Jordan is an attorney and not a “legal secretary.”
After discussions between Davenport, Attorney Jordan, and various council members, the motion passed with support from Bien, Wells, and Yates, while Teresa Harrison and Garet Skipper opposed it.
Following the decision, Interim Town Manager Josh Davenport expressed his dissatisfaction, stating he could not continue in either position if the council considered potential ethics issues. Davenport resigned, turning in his keys. Esto Town Council Member Garet Skipper also resigned in protest, declaring,
“We can’t keep going backwards,” as he left. Public Works employee Tony Manis initially resigned but later retracted his resignation.
In response to the staffing changes in Public Works, former Public Works Director Billy Martin volunteered to perform routine water well checks until new staff could be hired. The council instructed the Town Clerk to prepare job announcements for publication.
Additional discussions included:
Leasing of Former Lamb’s Junkyard Property: The council reviewed progress on the brownfield cleanup and a potential lease of the former Lamb’s Junkyard property.
Fiscal Year 2024-2025 Budget: Discussions included plans to set the town’s millage rate and budget levels in the next meeting.
Two-Toed Tom Festival: Preparations for the Two-Toed Tom Festival, scheduled for September 14, were also on the agenda, promising activities and entertainment for residents and visitors.

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