Clarkston parts ways with city manager, assigns financial director to the role temporarily

A temporary replacement has been assigned as acting city manager for Clarkston after Shawanna Qawiy, former city manager, and the city council parted ways.

At two special called meetings that lasted less than five minutes each, city council and Clarkston Mayor Beverly Burks approved a separation agreement with Qawiy on Aug. 7, and then voted unanimously to adopt Clarkston Finance Director Dan Defnall as acting city manager on Aug. 10.

The shakeup comes after months of scrutiny in the media and tense town hall discussions and meetings where some blamed Qawiy’s ongoing issues with Clarkston Chief of Police Christine Hudson as the reason why the city’s police force is almost down to nine officers, while others defended the former city manager and said she was being treated as a scapegoat.

Despite Qawiy’s supporters handing out a three-page letter at the city’s last regularly scheduled council meeting, seemingly typed and signed by Qawiy listing reasons why she should remain Clarkston’s city manager, Burks said Qawiy’s separation from the city was mutually agreed upon, according to reporting from Decaturish.

At the Aug. 10 meeting, Burks said Defnall would now be acting city manager while the city works with the Georgia Municipal Association to find suitable candidates to fill the roll.

“Just to be very clear, Mr. Defnall is acting city manager while we are looking for our interim city manager, then we will follow up in terms of finding our permanent city manager,” said Burks. “We’ll make the necessary adjustments in terms of having Mr. Defnall and our city clerk, (Tomika) Mitchell to be our signers for checks on behalf of the city.”

Defnall has served as Clarkston’s finance director since January 2015. His responsibilities include management of all areas relating to finance and accounting including accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, budgeting and financial reporting, according to Clarkston’s website.

Towards the end of the Aug. 7 meeting, council also voted unanimously to amend Fiscal Year 2023 General Fund budget after numerous discussions about once again increasing police pay for Clarkston officers.

“The Fiscal Year 2023 General Fund total budgeted revenues were originally $7,328,408 with budgeted General Fund Expenditures budget of $7,328,408,” states the meeting agenda. “After receiving updated data on the 2023 Property Tax Digest, management staff has reviewed the 2023 Budget to amend revenues and expenditures based on current information. The net amendment to General Fund Revenues is an increase of $188,472 and net amendment to General Fund expenditures is an increase of $188,472 to bring the amended General Fund Budget amount to $7,516,880 for both Revenues and Expenditures.”

Clarkston will hold a work session on Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. and the city’s next regularly scheduled council meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Sept. 5.

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