“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. . Those opening lines from “A Tale of Two Cities” perhaps best described how lives and events were changed Friday by the actions of the Fort Oglethorpe City Council.
At 2 p.m. all was well — “it was the best of times” — when Clay Kissner, elected Tuesday to fill the remainder of the term of the late Eddie Stinnett on the city council, was administered his oath of office by Catoosa County Probate Court Judge Gene Lowery.
After congratulatory handshakes and posing for photographs with his wife and four-year-old daughter, Mr. Kissner at 3 p.m. took part in a special called council meeting.
“My first day was h---,” he said. “It was tough, nothing like I wanted my first meeting to be like.”
The meeting had a single agenda item - “executive session: personnel,” and, following that 15-minute closed-door session, the council returned and City Manager Ron Goulart resigned his position.
“Through no fault of my own, I am submitting my letter of resignation,” Mr. Goulart said when the public meeting reconvened.
The city’s manager for six years and its attorney for five years before that, Mr. Goulart said he did not want to surrender his position but felt to have stayed on would have only postponed the inevitable.
The death of Mr. Stinnett, coupled with the suspension of Councilman Charles Sharrock pending his appeal of his removal from office related to charges of sexual harassment, meant the five-member council was hampered in the execution of its duties.
“I can count the votes,” Mr. Goulart said. “In this position you can’t satisfy all the people all the time. Rather than prolong this, I felt it in the best interests of everyone to go ahead and leave.
The city manager serves at the council’s pleasure and Mr. Kissner’s joining the council meant that Mayor Lynn Long could cast a deciding vote should any vote to discharge Mr. Goulart be tied.
Councilman Earl Gray put forth a motion calling for discussion before the resignation was accepted, but that motion died due to lack of a second.
Mayor Long stated that an interim manager be named to oversee the city’s business and suggested hiring former council member Harold Silcox to serve in that capacity.
Mr. Gray’s was the only dissenting vote as councilmen Louis Hamm, Johnnie “Red” Smith and Mr. Kissner voted in favor of installing Mr. Silcox as manager before the meeting was adjourned.
“What a sad day for this city,” Mr. Gray said immediately afterwards. “A lot of strange things have happened today.”
That was at 3:55 p.m., and the sadness was not yet done.
Within a few minutes, Mr. Silcox, using the mayor’s office since Mr. Goulart will not vacate his office until Monday, spoke privately first with Police Chief David Eubanks, next with Public Works and Recreation Director Jeff Long.
The results of both conversations with both long-term employees/department head were the same: immediate termination.
Chief Eubanks, after turning in his keys and badge, said he was given no reason for dismissal.
Patrol officer Jeff Holcomb, who was unsuccessful in his bid to become sheriff last November, has been named acting chief of police.
Deposed after having served five years as the city’s top cop, Mr. Eubanks had no comment except, “I’m not happy about it and my wife isn’t going to be happy about it.”
Mr. Long had been a Fort Oglethorpe employee for 19 years and has represented District 1 on the Catoosa County Commission since 2011, a position that led to his firing Friday.
“The reason was because I voted with the county as a commissioner to adopt the de-annexation resolution,” Mr. Long said, while removing his personal belongings and files from his city-issued pickup truck.
Mr. Long was referring to a request by Northwest Georgia Bank that a 42-acre parcel of land be de-annexed from Fort Oglethorpe and back into the unincorporated portion of the county.
De-annexation — which the city council refused to address — has been approved by the state legislature. The request was a response to Fort Oglethorpe denying the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday, something which is allowed everywhere else within the county.
The city council will consider a request by Mayor Long that several referendums related to the Sunday sale of alcoholic beverages be placed on the November ballot.
Regarding the dismissal of two long-time city servants, Mr. Goulart said, “I’m really sorry for Jeff Long and David Eubanks. They are two of the best employees this city has ever had.”