Gobble Is No Show For East Ridge Meeting; Deal For His Departure Worked Out; Gets 7 Months Severance

Thursday, February 7, 2013
Tim Gobble, left, and Marc  Gravitt
Tim Gobble, left, and Marc Gravitt

Tim Gobble was a no show at the East Ridge City Council agenda meeting on Thursday night, and it was announced later before an overflow crowd that he had resigned.

The City Council voted 3-2 to accept a deal offered by Mr. Gobble that gives him seven months of severance pay (about $67,000). He also receives 100 of 200 hours of accrued leave. The city will defend him in a case in which he was sued along with the city. It was agreed that each side would not sue the other.

Voting in favor of the settlement were Vice Mayor Jim Bethune and council members Denny Manning and Marc Gravitt.

Opposed were Mayor Brent Lambert and Councilman Larry Sewell.

A workshop will be held Monday at 6 p.m. on choosing his successor.

Councilman Denny Manning had asked to put an item on the agenda about the Gobble contract.

Eddie Phillips, who has been called on several times to serve as interim city manager, was seated in the city manager's spot. He is the city public safety director - over the fire and police. He told the audience, "This is my sixth time to serve as interim city manager. City Hall is going to continue to stay open and we will continue to provide excellent services to our citizens."

Mr. Gobble was formerly the Bradley County sheriff.

He had been embroiled in several controversies during his East Ridge term, including over the hiring of a 19-year-old church friend to a $35,000-per-year post, and his use of the city's Facebook page.

The new council majority in mid-December had fired City Attorney John Anderson in a 3-2 vote.

Vice Mayor Bethune said he would not approve any contracts in the future for city officials that include severance pay. 

Mr. Gobble was hired in April 2011 with a unanimous vote.

The Cleveland, Tn., resident was paid $116,800 - about $4,000 more than his precedessor, William Whitson, who also had a short tenure.

Dick Cook, who headed up a charter study commission in 2008, said the requirements for city manager possibly should have not been made quite so stringent, including the necessity of a bachelor's degree in public administration.

Mr. Phillips said a number of potential candidates in the past had a master's in public administration, but not a bachelor's.

Mr. Cook said he felt the city would do better to try to find someone from home rather than continuing to bring in "mercenaries."  He said that was his conclusion after "two recent failures." He said he at first had high hopes for Mr. Gobble.

He said he felt there could be many good candidates from East Ridge and they would "know the people and know the problems. They would have the city's best interest at heart."

Frances Pope raised the issue of an alleged tape recorded by Mr. Gobble of a city council member threatening his job. She made an open records request for the tape, but came up empty.

She said Councilman Larry Sewell told her he had listened to the tape. Councilman Sewell denied saying that and said he had been advised there was such a tape but he had not heard it.

Vice Mayor Bethune said he asked Mr. Gobble about such a tape and he told him "there was no such tape."

City Attorney Hal North said if there had been such a tape he would have recommended that it be turned over under the citizen request. He said Mr. Gobble maintained it was his personal property and refused to do so. "I couldn't force him to," attorney North said.

The attorney said, "I felt if it was brought out it would have cleared the air and resolved a lot of problems."  

It is the sixth time for Eddie Phillips to temporarily run East Ridge city government
It is the sixth time for Eddie Phillips to temporarily run East Ridge city government

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