Disappointed In The Collegedale Commission

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Back a long time ago, when I was in high school at McCallie, us students were afforded a lot of freedoms. But those freedoms came with the expectation that you knew, above all else, to be honest and truthful. From the outset, this was always assumed to be the case. For example, if you missed a test, you could take it at home and return it the following day, along with a signed statement of McCallie's honor pledge.

But woe be unto the one who got caught cheating.

You would usually get a second chance, but you lost all of the freedoms and the trust you once had. Your word wouldn't be taken at face value. Do it again, and you were expelled. Plain and simple.

If you haven't heard, Collegedale, along with its city manager and police chief, are being sued for retaliatory discharge and violation of due process towards a former police officer, who questioned an alleged quota on January 6, 2019, and was fired on January 10, 2019. I've read the lawsuit, and more importantly, I've read the exhibits that were filed along with it in Circuit Court. I heard the attempt by our city attorney to disparage it as nothing more than allegations written on a piece of paper by some lawyer - the same city attorney who was sound asleep next to the city manager and the mayor for at least five minutes during the June 17 Commission meeting.

I witnessed our mayor change up the order in which commissioners offer their comments, starting with the vice-mayor. I watched their attempt to deflect attention away from the real issue of the night by expressing buyer's remorse over their unanimous vote for a 39-cent property tax increase at the last commission meeting, despite an outpouring of public protest and not a single citizen speaking in favor.

What I see from the gallery is a department that's shedding good officers left and right. I see a department that has resorted to supervising their employees via an Excel spreadsheet, which tells me that their leadership is so often absent that they don't have any other way to keep tabs on their people. I see a department that despite having one of the newest fleets in the county, and even with a six percent minimum salary increase, still can't retain officers.

More importantly, what I saw tonight is a commission that has repeatedly been shown, and told, that this department is in real trouble. They know this. This lawsuit is not the first sign of trouble. And where was our city manager? Not at the meeting. Neither was the police chief.

From where I sit, I've lost confidence in our commissioners to do the right thing. I've been present at each commission meeting since June, and I've seen their subservience to the city manager when it came to the budget. Indeed, at the first reading of the budget, we all witnessed the city manager shout down not one, but two commissioners when they tried to offer up suggestions on the budget. I've seen their unwavering obedience to the status quo, and it disgusts me. Their unwillingness to act not only condones the wrongdoing, but it tells those who try to do right or report those who are doing wrong that they won't be believed, their claims won't be taken seriously, and that they speak out at their own peril.

As my parents would say to me when I was a little kid, "I'm not mad at you, I'm just disappointed."

Matthew Sadler


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