March 23, 2012 11:49:44 AM
City road crews are working on right of ways on Gardner Boulevard. When they finish the job, they have a few shovelfuls of cooling asphalt of no use to anyone. The owner of a nearby business asks for a bit of leftover asphalt, so the head of the road crew piles a few shovelfuls on the driveway to her business. She takes it and spreads it where needed.
For that, two councilmen want to fire the manager of the city public works department, Mike Pratt.
Granted Pratt should not have given city property to a private individual no matter how insignificant -- the asphalt was valued at $15, and if the material was no longer usable, as was reported, it wasn't worth that. Pratt did this without any prompting from a higher-up, as best we can tell.
"I asked Mike for a little bit of leftover asphalt to fill a spot in my parking lot," Lavonne Harris, owner of Von's Exotic Hair Salon, told the city council. Harris is head of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). "I don't think he did anything wrong, and I certainly don't think he should be terminated. If I had known it was going to create all of this nonsense, I never would have asked him for it. This has gotten way out of hand."
Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens and Ward 5's Kabir Karriem want Pratt fired.
Should Pratt have given the asphalt to a private individual? Certainly not. According to an attorney general opinion on a related issue, his actions were illegal. Was this part of a larger plot or a common practice? Not as we can tell.
Discipline Pratt if need be -- what he did was illegal -- but fire him for what appears to be an innocent mistake? We think not.
Said Councilman Kabir: "One of the problems that is going on in the city is that no one is getting any work done in their wards. We are not getting anything from our public works department."
If that is the case, Pratt should have to explain himself. But that is an altogether separate matter.
While we don't condone Pratt's action -- it was illegal, after all -- we agree with the majority of the council, that firing is too harsh a punishment.