East Ridge Passes On Final Reading Ordinance For Elected City Court Clerk

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The East Ridge City Council on Thursday night passed on second and final reading an ordinance to elect the city court clerk.

The 3-2 approval came after Judge Arvin Reingold again lambasted City Manager Tim Gobble, saying the action was precipitated when Mr. Gobble got mad about the handling of a case in which his daughter was an armed robbery victim.

The judge said, "I cannot sit back and listen to the criticism of these three clerks, who are doing a fine job."

He also said the city manager had used the city's Facebook page to be critical of the clerks.

Judge Reingold said Mr. Gobble got some misinformation about the clerk passing his daughter's case and "came charging" to the clerk's office and "loudly criticized her." The judge said only he and the district attorney can pass a case, not the clerk. He said he contacted Mr. Gobble twice to keep him up-to-date on the status of the case, but got no response. 

Mr. Gobble said there are more than $1.95 million in uncollected fines from the court dating to 2004. He said some $171,000 of that should be turned over to a collection agency, but the data has not yet been received from the clerk's office.

Judge Reingold shook his head in disagreement and Councilman Denny Manning asked that the judge be allowed to respond. But Mayor Brent Lambert said he had his say earlier in the meeting and at a prior session.

Again voting in favor were Mayor Lambert, Vice Mayor Larry Sewell and Councilman Darwin Branam. Opposed were Council members Manning and Jim Bethune.

It was uncertain whether the action might be reversed when Marc Gravitt comes on in place of the outgoing Branum in December.

Mr. Gobble was also denounced by citizen activist Frances Pope, who told the council he said in an email to Elisha Hodge of the state open records office that she "is fond of not fully informing you of the true story and facts."

Ms. Pope said she could be accused of being "a loud mouth," but not of giving inaccurate facts.

She said in another email that Mr. Gobble had invited Ms. Hodge to sue the city over the issue of Ms. Pope not getting information she requested.

Ms. Pope said, "I'm embarrassed by this. Do we really want to challenge the state of Tennessee? He should be reprimanded for doing so."

Councilman Manning told Ms. Pope, "I will be the first to apologize for what went on in our city."

On another matter, City Manager Gobble said the city is close to turning over land at the entrance to Camp Jordan for a development known as Jordan Crossing.

He termed it "the biggest thing to happen in East Ridge in 50 years."

Mr. Gobble said some of the flood-prone property will have to be raised and other sections cannot be developed.

The city manager said planning is to start soon for a multi-use trail system that would link neighborhoods in East Ridge to the city of Chattanooga and North Georgia.

He said they would be designed for use by walkers, bicyclists and seniors in golf cars.

It is a long-term project, he said, but it is necessary to get a plan in place.

He said a number of old signs along Ringgold Road have been taken down in a beautification effort.

He also said the city's finances are sound and it is aiming to pay off all the city debt by 2024. 

East Ridge found it is responsible for a giant sinkhole that opened up on the parking lot at Jones Memorial United Methodist Church.

The hole is "big enough to put a school bus in," Safety Director Eddie Phillips said.

East Ridge officials at first said they were not responsible, then they were shown an easement signed by former City Manager Wayne Hamill. The city had no copy of the unrecorded easement, but the church had.

Mack McCarley of Thompson Engineering said the city has pipes below the parking lot that have collapsed in places. He said the whole section of pipe needs to be replaced by a large concrete pipe. Estimated cost is $55,000 for the pipe and $8,000 for the engineering.  

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