Graham council OKs Garner as city manager, ending 6-months probationary trial period

After two hours behind closed doors Tuesday night to consider the performance of Graham’s new city manager, Megan Garner, council members emerged to pronounce themselves well-satisfied with the exercise of her duties and to say, in the words of mayor Jennifer Talley, that Garner “had successfully completed her [six-month] probationary period.”

Council members voted unanimously for councilman Ricky Hall’s motion to lift Garner’s probationary period, thus elevating her to a permanent full-time position.

For the first hour of their closed-door discussion, the council members huddled and discussed Garner’s performance among themselves; then to start the second hour, Garner and city attorney Bob Ward were summoned into the conference room adjacent to the city council chambers.

Garner was hired last October 22 (to start work November 15), the day after she resigned from her position as town manager of Rural Hall in Forsyth County.

She and the Forsyth County town have been embroiled in litigation ever since, with the town subsequently suing Garner over what it contends was an improper “severance” payment of $150,000 which she reportedly negotiated with three of the five then-councilmen who resigned the same night as she did.

That settlement was voted on by the town council the same night Garner resigned, after which three of the five town council members also resigned.  The new council has sued to prevent the payment, which was blocked from being transferred to her account because it exceeded the parameters of withdrawals that could be made from the town’s bank account.

Meanwhile, Garner has contended in court filings that the nearly $150,000 “settlement agreement” was intended to compensate for a hostile work environment that Garner claims she was subjected to in Rural Hall because she’s a woman.

Both the town of Rural Hall and the former fire chief’s ex-wife have also alleged that Garner engaged in an extramarital affair with then-fire chief Andy Marshall and then concocted a cover story when confronted about the affair.

Ex-wife Stacy Marshall has filed a separate lawsuit against Garner in Forsyth County superior court, seeking more than $25,000 in damages under each of three alleged claims: alienation of affection; criminal conversation; and punitive damages.

Stacy Marshall claims that Garner, “for a period of several months from approximately December 2017 through April 2019…willfully, intentionally, and deliberately seduced, enticed and alienated the affections of [Marshall’s husband, Andy Marshall.]” Stacy Marshall further alleges that Garner’s “seduction of and sexual relations with” her husband led to the end of their marriage.

None of Garner’s legal problems stemming from her tenure in Rural Hall was mentioned during the open portion of Graham’s city council meeting.

But earlier during the same city council meeting, Garner was repeatedly chastised by various speakers who alternately urged, and demanded, that she fire Graham police officer Douglas Strader.

Graham police chief Kristi Cole hired Strader in March 2021, seven months after he was fired from the Greensboro police department.

Strader was fired a year after he shot at a fleeing vehicle in Greensboro.

Now, as a Graham officer, Strader was one of those involved in making arrests at the Pines Apartments where residents of the complex first heckled and then tried to interfere with a traffic stop made in the parking lot of the apartment complex off Ivey Road in Graham. [See separate story in this edition.]