Tim Gobble Is Not The Problem; He's The Solution - And Response (3)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

"The complete records, audits, back-up documentation and budget prove we operated within policy guidelines and the law.”

These are the words of East Ridge City Manager Tim Gobble regarding a recent lashing in an opinion column in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

While my opinion regarding this man runs afoul of East Ridge’s Francis Pope, for whom I have nothing but respect if for no other reason than her level of participation in an otherwise appallingly apathetic citizenry (as well as another man for whom I have an almost blinding admiration for, Royce Burrage, Jr.

, if I interpret his support of M. Pope’s opinions correctly), I speak from experience: If a company or a citizen is going to call out Mr. Gobble on anything, they best have a laser with which to line their ducks properly. This first sentence I’m quoting stands first.

Mr. Gobble went on to say this: “Bottom line: city staff is doing the job appropriately and within policy, procedure and the law. Since Tim Gobble became city manager, the city has gone from a $600,000 General Fund deficit to a $917,000 General Fund surplus and spent 15% less than budgeted to spend last year, a testament to good management. The city is in the best overall financial condition it has been in for the last 20 years.”

Facts. Numbers. Statistics. How incredibly frustrating it must be when met against criticism backed only with…well, I’m not sure. Supposition?

Mr. Gobble dealt with each random accusation line by line, from candy bars to lunches during administrative meetings for directors and chiefs. So desperate are some people to criticize him they feel it best to pay an employee their $8 to $30 hourly wage to spend an hour eating elsewhere to continue a simple meeting rather than continue it for $2 to $8 and complete that task sooner. “Penny wise and Pound foolish is the first phrase that comes to mind.

He held MTAS to their rules and their fees, and without looking at the actual information they accuse him of collusion when he in fact was holding MTAS to their own level of supposed accountability (which is an entirely different opinion column of its own, for those that have seen MTAS at work first-hand). They do the same regarding his residency when he has established such quite transparently with his residency records (with the State) from day one while openly, as he has from the start, making clear he won’t uproot his children from their school or church peer groups. Does the irony of his detractors wishing to escape “the good ol’ boy syndrome” escape them that he is not one of “the good ol’boys”, and now this is being held against him as well? Desperation has such an unpleasant musk.

My rambling, while passionate, distracts from my original intent, though: The facts.

Mr. Gobble will deal with them one at a time, line by line, as he did in response to the recent TFP opinion submission, and it is there he has always had the advantage, as is often the case when broad accusations are met with empirical and numerical facts: For all the accusations of financial philandering, since Tim Gobble became city manager, the city has gone from a $600,000 General Fund deficit to a $917,000 General Fund surplus, and spent 15 percent less than budgeted to spend last year, and the city is in the best overall financial condition it has been in for the last 20 years.

He speaks “too much” at meetings? He provides lunches to facilitate ongoing meetings of city business amongst its appointed leaders expected to carry out the city’s most crucial business? He holds employees accountable to their basic job descriptions as he is required to do as per his own job criteria, even when it involves his own children? These are your criticisms, despite his moral and fiduciary successes (that’s plural) in local governments (also plural)?

East Ridge…if these are your worst problems, consider yourself admired. I have no personal connection (or benefit or expectation thereof) to Tim Gobble outside of some fairly heroic actions in his past as a Secret Service Agent (a career he forsook for yet even greater moral and Constitutional reasons in Cleveland that you would likely hold against him as well), but if you insist on your paths of criticism…be prepared to answer to them line by line. He will not lie down, and his science and reality will beat your annoyance and exaggerated opinions every time.

When he is wrong he admits such, but let me tell you: His greatest detractors have become quite obese over time from repeatedly having to eat their words. And in this, for good or bad…I find him an inspiration. I have had powerful people try to silence me in the past and bully me in the present, and I hope I have done half as much as Mr. Gobble in the aspect of not just being intolerant of such, but making their errors in character quite clear to the rest as to make further efforts on their parts less palatable.

Mr. Gobble: Stand strong. You are a great light of hope to reasonable people who also decline to tolerate mediocrity. You and I may not agree on everything, but in your principles against such dilettante attacks, you are a man I am eager to defend. I expect more from elected and appointed elected leaders, and I say without hesitation that you set the bar for such.

As Bradley County Sheriff, while Hamilton County’s current Sheriff Jim Hammond sued his own men to avoid fair pay, Tim Gobble sued his county for the opposite reason. Since Tim Gobble became East Ridge city manager, the city's finances have turned around. The city is in the best overall financial condition it has been in for the last 20 years. He has openly yelled at people for not doing their taxpayer-funded jobs when victims of violent crimes are further victimized by a lazy and clearly incompetent “system”, even if it’s his own family being victimized.

Debate these things effectively, and I will as openly stand corrected. Until then? Bring facts and a big appetite, for your own words will surely consume you.

Tim Gobble isn’t the problem: He’s the solution. Chattanooga or Hamilton County should be so lucky.

Craig W. Joel, Public Servant


* * *

I have been reading and hearing for some time different views from people about the job performance of East Ridge City Manager Tim Gobble. Some people have been supportive, while most have been critical about him. It has been written that he has done things that were unethical, wasted city money, has unnecessarily used social media, etc.

I most recently read the article by Mr. Johnson in the Times Free Press stating reasons that Mr Gobble should be let go. I do not personnally know Mr Johnson, nor do I personnally know Mr Gobble. I am a city of East Ridge resident, which means that I should have taken the time to meet Mr. Gobble. That is my fault.

What I do know is that my city leaders (some I do know and respect) chose a city manager a few years back that was from a different area. After a short period of time, the city leaders realized that a change was needed. I believe that a lot of the reason was due to the financial state that the city was in during the former city manager's time in East Ridge. I did not completly agree with the lack of confidence for the former city manager, but I respected the decision of the council.

Now my City Council has employed a city manager that is from this area and we seem to be right back at the same spot we were just a couple a years ago. The only differences that I notice this time are the following: Our finances are in better shape, our city employees now have a wellness facility to access, Mr. Martin was hired as an athletic director (which I believe has proven to be profitable), a recycling program has been implemented and social media has been used to open lines of communication between city residents and city government.

I do believe that Mr Gobble and our City Council have a vision for East Ridge. I also believe that the City Council and Mr Gobble need unity to see this vision through. Not everyone agrees with some of the things that Mr Gobble, City Council or the Mayor have done and I understand that. I also do not agree with some of the things they have done either, but I support all of them and respect the positions they hold.

If City Council is going to ask for the resignations of the city managers every other year, then pretty soon we are going to run out of qualified people. If we are ever going to see East Ridge become what we want it to be, the personal attacks have to end and working together has to begin.

James Ashley May

* * *

I hope Mr. Joel, Mr. May and others that think Mr. Gobble is the answer to the problems in East Ridge will rethink your position. From someone who is involved, supported Mr. Gobble until his actions lost my support, and have experienced the “other “Tim Gobble, I agree with Mr. Drew Johnson’s opinion. If you would be so kind to indulge me, I know this piece will be longer than I would like, but there a lot to say about Tim Gobble.
Let’s look at financial state of the city. Yes, we did have a surplus; we also had a property tax increase and a sanitation fee increase. The property tax and the sanitation fee is the largest it has ever been. According to audit figures for the June 2011 audit, property taxes were $3,848,003 while June 2012 they were $4,823,070. That is an increase in revenue from the property taxes of $975,067. City sanitation fee revenues for June 2011 were $955,331 and for June 2012 they were $1,435,448 with an increase in revenue of $480,117.
Adding those together you get $1,455,184 more revenue from taxpayers’ pockets, with no significant increase in services. Mr. Gobble wants to brag about his surplus. My feeling is that a blind monkey should have been able to come in with some kind of surplus with an extra $1.5 million.
His recent hiring was “Good Ole Boys” at its best. Job posting, 70+ applicants, no one hired for the job, he hired a friend part-time to perform various assignments, removed the required qualifications from the previous job posting, did not re-post and “promoted” his friend to the full time job at $35,000 plus benefits. His only experience being his four months of part-time employment with the city. Mr. Gobble felt that his friend had performed all his part-time assignments well, was smart and they had a good working relationship with Mr. Gobble. Mr. Joel and Mr. May, would you support this “promotion” at your place of employment?
Mr. Gobble seems to record some of his conversations. A council member told me he had heard a tape that Tim has that was made at City Hall where another Council member threatened Tim’s job. What would be your feelings if your conversations with staff or officials were taped without your knowledge? By the way, I made an official open records request to listen to that tape last Monday. Still haven’t heard from Mr. Gobble on this subject. If this alleged taped conversation is so important, why has Mr. Gobble not shared it with all Council members, including the one that is allegedly on the tape? This should be open records, let’s see if he tries to deny it and on what basis.
Do I, as a concern citizen, who has for years asked for open, honest, responsible government, think that Tim Gobble is the solution? Absolutely not, he is not the entire problem but he is certainly contributing to it.
Mr. Joel, when Mr. Gobble arrived in East Ridge I shared your opinion of him for a time, then I encountered “the other” Tim Gobble. Let me set the stage a bit. I am not a young chick that gets my feathers ruffled easily. I am rapidly approaching 65 years on this earth and have come in contact with a lot of different types of people in my life. I have to say that Mr. Tim Gobble is one of the most unique people I have ever encountered. I didn’t know Tim before he became city manager of East Ridge, so his history and past are irrelevant to me. I can only base my opinion on his actions in East Ridge.
On arrival Mr. Gobble embraced my participation in our city. I had phones calls at 8 a.m. asking me (a citizen) to check my notes to see if they had voted first reading on an ordinance that was slated for second reading, to phone calls after 9 p.m. to discuss the city employee leave buyback program. He opposed this program and asked if I would go before Council about stopping or changing it. During this whole time Mr. Gobble continually would tell me, “They don’t like you, Frances, but I do.” Of course, he never would say who “they” were; leaving me to assume it had to be members of the elected body and/or staff. My comment back was always, “Tim, I don’t care if 'they' like me or if you like me. I have to face myself and God in the mirror every morning and that is what matters. I will continue to be involved and stand up for my city and my fellow citizens.” Mr. Gobble often said, “Frances, I appreciate your input and questions, they make me a better city manager.”

This cooperatively friendly relationship continued until issues came up that I did not agree with nor could support Tim’s views. I can give you a list from being denied a request for a copy of the budget that had already been given to council and a local reporter, to emails harshly criticizing and belittling me (a citizen) to council, senior staff and the city attorney, about an opinion that posted on this website. The last straw for me was when Mr. Gobble openly at a public event felt that it was appropriate to make me the subject of conversation. Including comments about what a negative, troublemaking, mean-spirited person I am. This was in the presence of employees, citizens, staff, elected officials from the city to the state and some candidates that were running for office.

Needless to say, my verbal communications with Mr. Gobble stopped when I heard about this. I would only use email and Facebook to communicate with him about government information at that point. He called my home and I would let it go to the answering machine. Then one day my front alarm goes off and who is approaching my front porch? Tim Gobble, unannounced and uninvited. His two-hour stay started with wanting my opinion of the public safety director being out on town on trips, according to Tim 40 days last year. My opinion was, “Tim, you are the city manager. What do you think?” The conversation, led by him, went on to include department heads asking him for raises, to telling about a conversation he was involved in with a council member where he (Tim) and Public Safety Director Phillips laughed and said, “Frances Pope runs this city.”

After enough of his ramblings I told him I couldn’t believe he came to my home to talk about all this stuff after the way he talked about me behind my back. He denied saying the things, until I told him five different people told me pretty much the same recap of his comments. Mr. Gobble then said, “Well, maybe I did say those things, but my back was hurting.” What kind of answer is that? Do I see Mr. Gobble as an honest man? No, he looked me straight in the face and lied about his actions. Only when confronted with the fact that several people had told me, did he admit it and then took no responsibility for it, excusing his actions because his back hurt.
Let me share a couple of comments I have in emails that Mr. Gobble made about me. These were in an email that he sent to Council, senior staff, the city attorney and me. “Don't apologize to Frances for doing your job or let her take us back to the age of carrier pigeon and tin cans with string.” “You (Frances) are now twisting words to suit your purposes.“ Mr. Gobble knows this is the furtherest thing from the truth.
In an email between Mr. Gobble and the Tennessee Office of Open Records concerning an open records request I had made, Mr. Gobble said, “It seems Ms. Pope is fond of not fully informing you of the true story and facts.” After Ms. Elisha Hodge, open records counsel, explained the city was not in full compliance with the Open Records Act, his return comment to her was, “I am considering this matter closed and you are welcome to have further communications on the matter with our city attorney. If you feel a date stamp by the post office is strong enough to litigate this matter, please proceed.” Let me say, I have a great deal of respect for Ms. Hodge and the Tennessee Office of Open Records. That office provides a great service to citizens of the state of Tennessee and does it with dignity. I believe Mr. Gobble showed disrespect to Ms. Hodge as a person and in her official capacity and then even challenges the state of Tennessee to sue our city. Any reasonable person would consider that irresponsible behavior for someone in his position.
Do Mr. Gobble’s actions cause me to have any confidence in him? No. After getting to know the “other” Tim Gobble, I wonder how he treats other citizens, employees, elected officials, business people and others that he contacts in his official duties as East Ridge city manager. Bottom line, “Gobble has to go.”

Frances Pope

* * *

First of all, I am a man that believes you can say more with less. These article concerning this subject can be condensed down to a few points.

1. First of all I resent being called one of the appallingly apathetic citizenry Mr. Joel mentions in his article. I would compare our level of voters per election to his Harrison citizens voting in county elections. Would be interesting conversation…but I digress… I haven’t seen Mr. Joel at one of our meetings and can’t imagine he really knows what he writes about. Anyway, he is from Harrison and not East Ridge. If this is the Mr. Joel that is the police union president and he and Mr. Gobble are friends, that is fine. Just say so and stay away from the statement Public Servant. I pay taxes also so I am a public servant. Too generic a statement…..

2. Where did he get the 15 percent less spending in the budget? News to me.

3. General fund and Deficit he talks about is largely because of the new taxes and garbage fees imposed last year. Look it up..

4. Holds employees accountable. Doesn’t hold himself accountable for interfering in court affairs. Doesn’t hold himself accountable for not giving documents when requested without a drawn out fight. Then when Mr. Lambert (Mayor) is asked about it he says it is under review. Sounds familiar…..

5. Hires an inexperience (four month part timer I believe) for his assistant when over 70 resumes were submitted. I would like to see these resumes and the new hire and compare. I hope he had to submit a resume at least. If not, why? If it exists can council members see it and if the answer is no, why not? I would like the general public to see it also. Just redact the personal information.

6. Why can’t we see the letter Mr. Gobble has from Mr. Anderson concerning the legality of this hire…….. Good question…..

Well, enough rambling. If Mr. Joel is concerned about East Ridge I would like to personally invite him to our meeting Thursday. Starts at six thirty I believe.

Richard Elrod, Proud East Ridger

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