By a 3-2 vote, Signal Mountain Council members Monday evening ended Chris Dorsey’s brief term as town manager.
The vote came despite impassioned statements by town residents disputing concerns Mayor Bill Lusk had expressed regarding Mr. Dorsey’s job performance, and angered fellow council member Dick Gee.
“I think we have brought great dishonor to our town and to our government,” Mr. Gee said immediately before the vote was taken. “I can’t find anything (the city manager has or has not done) that rises to the point of dismissal after six months . . . Six months is not enough time.”
Both he and fellow council member Bill Wallace, also a strong supporter of the city manager, left the meeting immediately following the vote.
Annette Allen, who made the motion that Mr. Dorsey be terminated, then joined Mayor Lusk and Vice Mayor Susan Robertson in naming the town’s longtime police chief to fill in as interim city manager until a permanent replacement can be found.
Earlier during the meeting, a variety of Signal residents made their way to the podium during an open comment period to discuss the council majority’s displeasure with the town manager, and the reasons they have given for it.
Some were unhappy about a Chattanoogan.com article that appeared over the weekend in which the mayor expressed concern about a municipal property on South Palisades where trees and other vegetation were cut – reportedly even after temporary no trespassing signs were put up by the town – leaving the area pocked by stumps and fallen trees.
Removal of the vegetation did not constitute illegal activity and was not “vandalism,” a word used in the article, they argued.
Vandalism – a word the mayor told the crowd he personally had not used to describe the South Palisades plot – is defined by an online Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “intentional destruction or damage to property.”
Likewise, some speakers objected to the use of the verb “pock” to describe the tree stumps and other items left behind when vegetation was cut.
“Pocked,” according to the same dictionary, means “marked with.” For example, it says, the phrase “the many craters that pock the moon's surface” uses the word correctly.
On another issue, supporters of the Mountain Arts Community Center spoke out in defense of the center’s director, who has drawn the displeasure of the council majority by her failure to seek grants and do other types of fundraising.
They pointed out council members need to take note of the fact that the director has made numerous valuable contributions to MACC, many of them “in kind” rather than financial donations.
For example, they said, the director was able to persuade a local architect to prepare – at no cost either to MACC or to the town – a detailed list of the estimated total $1.6 million in work that needs to be done at the center and how much the various projects would cost.