Outgoing East Ridge Mayor Slams Council For Running Off City Managers; Council Can't Agree On Custer Pay

Friday, October 12, 2018
Kenny Custer addresses the East Ridge City Council
Kenny Custer addresses the East Ridge City Council

Departing East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert on Thursday night slammed city council members for running off a series of city managers who were not willing to do their bidding.

Mayor Lambert said, "It's disgraceful the way we have treated city managers in the past."

He said, "This council decided to run off several people who ably filled this spot. The last one (Andrew Hyatt) did not want to go. He was let go because he would not agree to fire someone. That's it. That's all there was it. The majority on the council wanted somebody gone and Mr. Hyatt wouldn't do it."

Mayor Lambert said, "I want the best for this city, but the best will never happen if we don't stop these petty games. To say, 'Do what I want or I'll get rid of you,' it's garbage."

He said, "Eddie Phillips, Frieda Wheeler, as fine a people as are on this earth, they came and they went. They wouldn't do the bidding of the majority on the council. So they were part of the revolving door."

Scott Miller, the latest to step down as East Ridge city manager, has recommended that Kenny Custer be named assistant city manager so he can head up the city while a search continues for a permanent replacement. But council members could not decide on how much he should make above his current pay of $64,095.

Councilman Jacky Cagle, who was non-committal about the Custer appointment though he said he "has nothing against" him, recommended $1,000 extra per month while he fills in when no permanent city manager is in place.

Councilman Brian Williams, who is running for mayor against former Councilman Jim Bethune, opted for $85,000 for permanent assistant city manager duties.

Esther Helton, who is running for a state House seat, said it should be $95,000. She said, "I do not want to jeopardize losing a good person."

It was also not agreed whether he would be permanent assistant city manager or drop back to just his current duties when a new city manager is in place. Mayor Lambert said to Mr. Custer, "If I were you I wouldn't do it - go from $85,000 back to $64,095."

Mr. Custer said he was recently offered a post as #2 in the state fire marshal's office but turned it down. He said he has been with the city 18 years - under 11 city managers including interims - and would like to finish his career there if possible.

He said, "I'm not quite done here yet."

Mr. Custer would not say he would accept the assistant city manager position, but said he was considering it. He said, "It is a pleasure to serve the 21,000 people who live here and to operate their government efficiently and effectively."

Mayor Lambert said, "I'll be surprised if he's in the same position a year from now.

Mr. Miller, who is retiring but plans to continue living in East Ridge for the time being, said there have been some 50 resumes received from those who want to be East Ridge city manager. He said, "About a dozen show good promise."

None of the motions dealing with the assistant city manager post could get a second so the matter was delayed until the next meeting.

Larry Sewell, the vice mayor, was absent.

Council members also discussed whether political signs would be allowed at Saturday's PioneerFest at Camp Jordan Park.

Attorney Mark Litchford said an ordinance passed in 2016 bans the posting of political signs on city property.

Several of the council members involved in upcoming races have paid for tables at the event.

One of the exceptions for the sign posting dealt with election day. Mayor Lambert smilingly said there could be a king and queen election to meet the exception. But the city attorney said that would not work.

It was finally decided there can be political signs at PioneerFest affixed to tents and booths - just not stuck in the ground. 


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