Gobble Secretly Taped Heated Conversations With East Ridge Council Members Before They Fired Him And City Attorney Anderson

Friday, March 01, 2013

Former East Ridge City Manager Tim Gobble, ex-Secret Service agent, secretly taped heated conversations he had in his office with council members prior to their forcing him out and firing City Attorney John Anderson.

Mr. Gobble took the tapes with him after he was sent back home to Cleveland, but they are now in the hands of East Ridge officials.

After a court reporter spent three days transcribing conversations of Dec. 4 and 11, they were released to the media on Friday.

They show Mr. Gobble sparring with Vice Mayor Jim Bethune and new Council member Marc Gravitt. They joined with Councilman Denny Manning to oust him and Attorney Anderson.

Much of the fervor centered around Mr. Gobble's hiring of a 19-year-old church friend at a $35,000 salary and his use of the city's Facebook page.

The talk on Dec. 4 turned to citizen activist Frances Pope, who had a falling out with the city manager after first being in his corner. Mr. Gobble said, "She doesn't know what she's talking about  and that's the problem. They talk - people talk about stuff they have no idea or clue about."

He added, "Well, she's a fool. She doesn't even know what I'm talking about." He said at a meeting he had been responding to a text message from his son - not making a Facebook post.

Councilman Gravitt said there had been a poster on the city Facebook page saying "that Facebook page is more about you that it is about the city of East Ridge. . . And that's not Frances saying that. . . The city Facebook page, honest to goodness, seems like it's more about - at times more about you than it is about the city and that's the issue."

Gobble: "I feel like I've been unfairly attacked a lot of times and I'm trying to show that that's not the case."

Gravitt: "How many times you've gotten on there about the surplus being -

Gobble: "In the grand scheme of things it's percentage-wise very little."

Vice Mayor Bethune said, "Well, we had tax increases."

Councilman Gravitt put in, "A monkey could have came out - "

Gobble: "I disagree with that. I don't think a monkey sitting in a chair could have done a good a job as we did. We came in under budget."

Vice Mayor Bethune said it appeared "you're taking all the credit."

Mr. Gobble replied, "If you'll look back at the post, it will say - "

Councilman Gravitt interjected, "Oh, my God. This man will never agree - "

Gobble: "Marc, listen to me."

Gravitt: " - to nothing. He is never wrong." 

Bethune: "You're wasting your time, dude."

Gravitt: "I can't - I can't handle it. I cannot work - "

Gobble: "I never said Tim Gobble - "

Gravitt: " - with someone - I can't work with someone that's never wrong."    

Later, Councilman Gravitt said, "The number one thing I hear about you is that you are the most arrogant person that they - "

Gobble: "But I'm not."

Bethune: "You're self-centered."

Gobble: "I think we've done good managing the city and turning it around. I think that we've got generally good management policies and procedures in place. Things are going well. The garbage is getting picked up. Everything's getting done."

Bethune: "My blood pressure's up."

There were a number of exchanges about "the boy" - Chris Claybough.

Mr. Gobble kept defending the hire, saying, "I think he'll be good. I'm trying to mentor him and bring him along. I think he'll be really good. He might be the city manager here one day."

He added, "He's old enough to do it and he's smart enough to do it and he's mature enough to do it."

Bethune: "You've got two kids working up here and if you come back and said I'm going to pay one of them $35,000 fulltime. . . This guy has no experience.

"After the meeting yesterday, who come walking across the street with the mail?"

Gobble: "He did."

Bethune: "Who was with him?"

Gobble: "Some other guy."

Bethune: "Another little boy. Everywhere you see one you see the other."

Gobble: "The guy wants to be - he wants to be a city manager and I had told him that I'd try to guide him and help him learn and teach him - "

Bethune: "He see the crap you go through, then he won't."

Gobble: "Well, he just thinks it's East Ridge. He doesn't think it's every city in the world."

They turned to "the average rollover for a city manager."

Mr. Gobble said it was five and "I'm going to try to break the average here."

They continued talking about building an agenda filled with controversial items.

Bethune: "You got any Valium on you? I might need one. I've never took one in my life, but - . . . I've never had any problems sleeping until the last two weeks. I can't even lay my head down at night and sleep thinking about all this stuff and what's going on and what we need to do. And it's tough on me. And I retired to retire. And I come out here to do East Ridge business and to do it to the best of my ability and it ain't been fun. And it ain't - my wife's all upset with me. She said, 'You're not yourself.' And I said, 'I got to get this stuff over with.'"

Gravitt: "I ain't going through this crap."

Bethune: You'll have a heart attack - as heavy as you are."

Gobble: "I don't want to either. I wish we could all get on the same page."

The talk again turned to the Claybough promotion, which the city manager said he was sticking with.

Bethune: "I think you just cost yourself a job."

Gobble: "I don't think so. What?"

He said Mayor Brent Lambert had no problem with the Claybough promotion. "Was glad for it and said he's a very well-qualified young man."

Bethune: "Why didn't he get the job?"

Gobble: "Who?"

Bethune: "Brent. He's not making any money."

Gobble: "He didn't apply for it. He didn't want it."

He was asked why employees were being hired out of Cleveland instead of East Ridge. He replied, "Y'all got something against Cleveland?"

Bethune: "No, but we do have something for the people of East Ridge. That's the thing."

Gobble: Well, who in East Ridge wants this job? You know, I asked Frances if she wanted the job and I asked Mimi (Lowrey). You know what, they said, 'No, we don't want it.'"

On his assistant's young age, he said, "He can go over there and shoot guns in Afghanistan."

The embattled city manager said, "I haven't done anything wrong. I've done everything by the book. And I can prove it by the book."

Bethune: "The state says you hadn't done right - on bids and on getting - ."

After Mr. Gobble defended himself, Vice Mayor Bethune said, "Don't get mad at me."

Gobble: "Well, don't come in here and - "

Bethune: "I'm not threatening it."

Gobble: "You just said you just jeopardized your job, is what you said. And that's an insinuation of - "

Vice Mayor Bethune asked the city manager if he could ask him a question.

Gobble: "Yeah."

Bethune: "A personal question?"

Gobble: "Yeah."

Bethune: "As a friend, not as a city manager, just talking. Can I?"

Gobble: "Yeah, you can."

Bethune: "Would you give me an answer without getting mad?"

Gobble: "I - I never - I don't get mad. I just don't think y'all understand."

Bethune: "Your face gets red and - ."

Gobble: "I just don't think y'all really understand what we're trying to do."

Bethune: "You can't hide your temperature. Your degree. The attorney knows he's coming, right?"

Gobble: "He knows at some point y'all are going to vote to fire him."

The talk turned back to "the boy."

Bethune: "I haven't seen the boy do anything other than stuff the envelopes, go get mail - "

Gobble: "We've done a lot more."

Gobble: "But when two councilmen walk in here and threaten my job because I hired somebody, I've got a real problem with that. Real problem."

He added, "And we will litigate it if we have to. I hope we don't have to."

Bethune: "Tim, you don't have to do that."

Gobble: "It's the right thing to do - to hire him."

Bethune: "Everybody's got their panties in a wad."

Gobble: "Yes, they do because of stuff like that. I don't appreciate that in any shape, form or fashion."

The vice mayor said he could anticipate what story might be written about the hiring: "Tim Gobble has hired a kid, our kid, out of Cleveland, Tennessee that goes to church with him for $35,000. You can see it."  

Mr. Gobble said he wanted to keep his job, noting that he had "kids to send to college, bills to pay. I've got a mortgage. I've got rents. I've got car payments. I've got student loans that have to be paid back.

"And I do the best job probably of any city manager that's been here in a lot of ways."

Bethune: "No, no, no, no."

He said "the best" was Mike Nettles - or David Mays.

Mr. Gobble said that Marc Gravitt had "put me - my job - in jeopardy because I do my job. Not, you got to - that is not right. Well, he doesn't know me. He just came in. This is his first day on the job."

Bethune: "And it ain't working out real well for either one of y'all."

The vice mayor asked Mr. Gobble what kind of payout would be involved if he left. He said seven months of severance pay - about $60,000.

Gobble: "I wouldn't waste that kind of money if somebody hadn't done something illegal, unethical or immoral. And I certainly haven't done those three things."

Bethune: "That's what I'm saying. $60,000. I can't spend $60,000 right now. If I didn't even like you, I wouldn't even probably think about spending $60,000."

Gobble: "Well, I like you and I think you like me - "

Bethune: "I don't think you like any of us because we can't none of us get along."

Gobble: "I don't like being put in that position, Jim, where - where y'all - "

Bethune: "Just like him, he comes in here - "

Gobble: " antagonize - "

Bethune: "And gets you fired up and you jump on me."

Gobble: Well, you were sitting with him. You were in here saying the same thing."

Bethune: "I wasn't with him. I come - I wish I'd never walked in here."

The city manager said staff members were scared about the turmoil. "People don't need to work in environments that are so unstable like that. That's not fair to them. Diane (Qualls) and them are scared to death. Stump's (Martin) worried."

Gobble: "Eddie's (Phillips) concerned about his job."

Bethune: "He needs to be."

Gobble: "Mike Flynn's concerned about his job."

Bethune: "He needs to be John Anderson. Needs to be. That's three. Okay. Who else?"

Gobble: "They're all worried about their job. It's no way to run a railroad here."

They talked about setting an item on the agenda on the future of the city attorney. Vice Mayor Bethune said it should be at the end of the agenda so as "not to embarrass" him.

Mr. Gobble defended attorney Anderson. "He's got a good legal mind and has done good for the city."

Vice Mayor Bethune said, "My problem with John is $185,000. My problem with John is what he makes with the city of East Ridge." 

Mr. Gobble said City Attorney Anderson knew he might be fired, but wanted to keep his job with the city. "I know that he wants to be city attorney. He likes his job."

The vice mayor said Mr. Gobble "won't work with (Cris) Helton, you said." He said former City Attorney Healton had been pushed for the city attorney job by Rep. Vince Dean and former County Commissioner Curtis Adams.

Bethune: "Curtis just wants Anderson out." He said at the WWTA "Curtis got him fired. Then they had words after that."

The vice mayor said, "This is going to sound funny, but it ain't about how you do your job. You're figuring that out, I reckon. It's who likes you. Who don't like you. Who wants to get on your case. Who don't want to get on your case. Why you're not doing this. Why you're not taking care of that one. Why this is going on. Why that's not going on."

The talk turned to politics.

Bethune: "You can tell Lambert that he don't have to worry about me running against him if he wants to run for mayor again because I'm going to run for County Commissioner against Curtis and Tim Boyd. I've done made my mind up."

Gobble: "It won't work. You won't run against those two. You'd run against Curtis? I thought you and Curtis were friends."

Bethune: "I like Curtis, but Curtis is 79 years old. Curtis couldn't come up here and do this job."

Mr. Gobble said he had been asked to run for sheriff, "but I don't want to run - I wouldn't run against Hammond because Hammond was nice to me."

Mr. Gobble, getting a supportive call from Collegedale City Manager Ted Rogers, said he wanted to stay city manager . "I think overall we're going to be okay. We've got one that's coming in that's kind of antagonistic. So I just don't know. I mean, you just never know. It does change the balance of power sort of in East Ridge as far as that goes. You never know. I enjoy being city manager. If it doesn't work out, I hope I find something real quick."

Stump Martin walked into the office. "I just wanted to come in and bother you and Jim when y'all was in. I love watching y'all fight."

He added, "I love it. I love it. I love to go in there and sit and watch y'all fight."  

 

   

  
 

 

 

   

     

   

  

  


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