Come Monday night, Signal Mountain town manager Chris Dorsey – hired for that position just six months ago – should find out whether he still has a job.
Mayor Bill Lusk confirmed Saturday that several council members, himself included, have profound concerns about what they perceive as Mr. Dorsey’s failure to carry out his responsibilities and are considering firing him.
The issue is not listed formally on the agenda of Monday’s night’s regular council meeting, he said, as it was at a heated work session on Friday. However, he added, any of the five council members could bring it up during the informal discussion period near the end of the meeting.
Attempts to reach the town manager for comments on Saturday were unsuccessful. The woman who answered the phone at his home said he is out of town dealing with family matters.
However, she added, he will return in time to report to work on Monday morning and plans to be at the council meeting that night.
Mayor Lusk said the situation boils down to the fact that the town manager “has lost the confidence of a majority of the council members.”
“I’ve been a manager for most of my all-too-lengthy career,” he said, “and when I mention to someone on my staff that something needs to be done, I follow up to see that it actually happens.”
He is particularly unhappy about two instances where the town manager has not done that, he said.
The first, he said, is the persistent resistance of the director of the Mountain Arts Community Center – a town employee – to write grant proposals and fundraise in general.
“That is part of her job description,” the mayor said, noting that he himself has repeatedly asked the employee what kind of progress on grant proposals she is making.
The invariable answer, he said, is that she’s “working on one.”
Annette Allen, another council member, said she believes both the town and MACC supporters “could learn a lot from Bachman,” a former school building in Walden that has been transformed into a community center which is virtually 100 percent self-supporting.
“We should be considering all possible revenue streams,” Mrs. Allen said.
Echoing the mayor, she noted that “Soliciting and writing grants is part of the director’s job description. Grants and fundraising are essential to (paying for) ongoing improvements to the building.”
Neither MACC nor town officials, she said, should “expect taxpayers to pick up the entire tab” for the whopping $1.6 million total in repairs and improvements the community center has told the town the building needs.
Further, she said, “It’s vital that a new Friends (of MACC) group form that can resume fundraising activities . . . I would like for the MACC board or a new Friends group survey the community to find out what programs citizens would like to see at the MACC. By appealing to a broader base, MACC is likely to draw more financial support from citizen donations.”
Not all council members, however, share the mayor’s concerns.
“I support Chris Dorsey 100 percent,” Bill Wallace wrote in a brief and to-the-point email. “The town is fortunate to have someone with Chris' experience and maturity.”
Monitoring MACC is not the only area where the town manager has failed to meet council expectations, Mayor Lusk said. For example, he said, although his contract requires that he move to Signal Mountain within a year Mr. Dorsey has shown no sign of doing so.
In fairness, however, Mayor Lusk said that reluctance may be due to the fact that he’s known at least since his three-month review in October that a majority of council members was unhappy with his job performance.
“At this point (since Mr. Dorsey may lose his job) I’m kind of happy that he hasn’t moved up here,” the mayor said candidly.
Another failure on Mr. Dorsey’s part, according to Mayor Lusk, is his lack of monitoring of vandalism of a piece of town property on the brow, near the intersection of South Palisades and Wilder – where some neighbors had talked openly about their desire for a “better view” – that left the area an eyesore pocked with unsightly stumps and felled trees.
Neither the city manager nor the employees responsible for oversight of the property bothered to check to see whether the temporary no trespassing signs erected at the site had put an end to the amateurish clear cutting, the mayor said.
In the end, he said, it was he himself – alerted to the situation by concerned area residents – who informed Mr. Dorsey that trees and other vegetation were still being cut.
As a result, permanent no trespassing signs were posted at the site on Saturday afternoon.
At this time, the mayor said Saturday, he personally has no plans to make a motion Monday night that Mr. Dorsey’s employment be terminated. However, he added, he has not ruled out doing so.
Mayor Lusk said he discussed his concerns with Mr. Dorsey prior to the Friday meeting – as he has on previous occasions – and told him at that time that if a motion to terminate the city manager was made and seconded, he would vote for it.
Mr. Dorsey was fired as Red Bank city manager after a long tenure there. After he took a job in Florida, East Ridge commissioners wanted to hire him. However, he turned that job down to work for Signal Mountain.