The board of Athens Alliance Coalition have removed Charles Hardy as executive director and as the director of the First Step homeless encampment as of last night. He will no longer have anything to do with First Step, and is currently suspended with pay pending administrative review by the board. Assistant Director Marcel Mincey and Project Manager Tershant Smith have taken over in the meantime as co-directors of the camp.
This change in leadership comes after Hardy was convicted of misdemeanor battery against a former camp resident. ACC Manager Blaine Williams sent a letter to the Athens Alliance Coalition board on May 3, informing them that they would be in breach of their contract with the local government if they allowed Hardy to remain as camp director after being convicted of a criminal act.
For about a week, Athens Alliance Coalition attempted to negotiate with Williams, asking if Hardy could remain as camp director if he worked remotely where he would no longer be a threat to camp residents. This may have been enough to satisfy the local government’s concerns. However, Hardy continued working on camp grounds, ignoring instructions from his own organization’s board.
Brent Temple, the chair of the Athens Alliance Coalition’s Board of Directions, told APN that Hardy “continued to show up [to the camp], and he ignored the continuity of operations plan that he agreed to. We made a performance plan that would have moved us back into compliance, but he violated it.”
Hardy has posted on social media that his removal would mean the closing of First Step, but this is not true, according to Temple. The camp will stay open under the leadership of Mincey and Smith on an interim basis under the continuity of operations plan.
“We replaced Charles with these two people, who are well-suited to run the camp,” Temple said. “They will do so under close guidance and in cooperation with the board of directors.” Coming soon, the board will search for and hire a new executive director on a more permanent basis.
Despite everything that’s happened, Temple hopes that First Step will continue beyond the December 31 deadline of the camp’s current contract. “We have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can serve the most difficult to reach group of homeless individuals there are. If it can be done, and it should be done, it must be done,” Temple said.
Temple also emphasized Hardy’s positive role in the organization over the past year. “None of what we’ve accomplished would have been possible without Charles. We’re grateful to him.”
UPDATE (5/13/23): Hardy is refusing to acknowledge the Athens Alliance Coalition board’s decision to remove him as executive director and continues to falsely claim that First Step will be shutting down in 30 days. He issued the statement below, claiming to have removed Temple as chair of the board.
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