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Fort Myers city manager faced concerns long before anonymous letter

City Manager Marty Lawing faced accusations of discrimination in prior jobs.
Posted at 6:13 PM, Jan 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-05 12:17:39-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Fort Myers City Manager Mary Lawing, who is accused in an anonymous letter sent by city employees practicing discrimination in the workplace, faced controversy before he even started the job.

In May of 2021, on the same night the council eventually approved Lawing’s $230,000 a year contract, several members of the public and city council urged for the job offer to be pulled.

“Mr. Lawing would be a liability to the city,” one public speaker said that night.

“I am hoping they will table this decision,” another said about the job offer from the city council.

The reactions came after members of the public learned about several lawsuits accusing Lawing of discriminatory practices while working as the Guilford County, North Carolina County Manager.

One lawsuit, which was later tossed by a federal judge, accused Lawing of upholding the wrongful termination of a black county employee.

Years before taking that job, while working as the Brunswick County, North Carolina County Manager, Lawing was named in legal proceedings over efforts to place a landfill in a mostly black neighborhood.

"Mr. Lawing has done some things that I don't think would make him the best manager for this county," said Carolyn Coleman during a 2013 Guilford County Commission meeting.

Despite the backlash, Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson and the majority of the city council approved Lawing’s contract.

They argued the claims against him were never substantiated.

Lawing was appointed City Manager after Anderson asked the previous manager, Saeed Kazemi, to step down due to concerns about confidence, credibility and communication.