East Ridge City Manager Tim Gobble on Thursday night was once again under fire for the hiring of a 19-year-old church friend to a $35,000 post.
And he warded off an effort to have a city decal placed on the new city VW Passat that he drives.
Citizen Frances Pope asked how Chris Clabough could have been hired to the post when there was a requirement initially on the job posting that the applicant have 3-5 years of office administration. She said Mr. Gobble had stated in a city Facebook posting at a time when Mr.
Claybough was parttime that he was not ready for certain of the job responsibilities.
Jackie Fulks, another citizen, wanted to know if other city employees had been told that the office administration requirement was later withdrawn.
Mimi Lowrey said Mr. Clabough did not apply during the application process, though 76 others did, including some with a master's degree. She said, "You're just lucky I'm not his mother."
City Attorney Hal North said that typically when a job requirement is changed, the job is reposted. "Otherwise, you exclude a pool of applicants."
Councilman Denny Manning said, "About the boy - the young man - was he hired to cut grass, weedeat and pick up papers at Camp Jordan?" Stump Martin, city parks director, said he was not.
Mr. Gobble said Mr. Clabough had proven himself during several months when he was handling many of the duties of the job, and he said they worked well together.
He said, "This young man has proven himself and has excelled in all areas."
He said at one point he may become a city manager - "possibly for the city of East Ridge."
Mayor Brent Lambert said, "Our role is not to make personnel decisions. Who he hires is who he hires. I just want to make that very clear."
Councilman Larry Sewell asked Mr. Gobble, "Were you threatened with your job for hiring this young man?" Mr. Gobble said, "Yes."
Councilman Sewell continued, "Was it by a member of the council?" Mr. Gobble said, "Yes."
Later in the session that stretched almost five hours, counting the agenda meeting, Councilman Manning made a motion to have government decals and tags placed on all city cars.
City Manager Gobble strenuously protested, saying there were legitimate and personal safety reasons for certain top officials and certain police officers not to have such identification.
He and Councilman Sewell said an East Ridge resident had been released back to the community from a mental facility earlier in the day after he had threatened various government officials, including the president of the United States. Mr. Gobble said police had gone door to door to warn residents of his neighborhood that he was back.
Councilman Gravitt said he thought some of those concerns were overblown. He said, "I hear from citizens all the time asking why there aren't decals on the cars that the taxpayers have paid for."
It was questioned why two new vehicles being driven by two top police officials are not marked or why Mr. Martin does not have a decal on the new Ford truck he is driving. Mr. Martin "should be proud to pull up to other parks and display the East Ridge decal," it was stated.
Councilman Gravitt said, "I look at it as crime deterring. If they are unmarked, nobody knows they are cops."
City Manager Gobble said in his contract it says he can drive his city-issued vehicle for a limited amount of personal use. City Attorney North said there could not be a government vehicle for that car because of its sometimes-private use. However, he said that would not have anything to do with putting a decal on it.
Councilman Sewell said, "You need to leave the police cars alone. You are going to get somebody killed."
Councilman Sewell told Councilman Manning. "The whole thing is you just want him (Gobble) to have a sticker on his car. Just say it."
Councilman Manning withdrew the motion, saying, "I'm tired of arguing about it."
He later said, "I withdrew my motion because another member on the board withdrew his second after he had agreed to pass the motion. That is the truth of the story as to why I withdrew the motion.
"I have fought this kind of backwater for eight years and I thought this was going to change when the new council took over. I'm sorry - hopefully things will turn around as you were promised in this new year and new council. God bless everybody."