Red Bank Commissioners Still In Major Fuss; City Attorney Stulce Upset About Allegations Of "Illegal" Meeting

Saturday, May 8, 2021 - by Gail Perry

A special called meeting of the Red Bank Commission on Friday was contentious from the start. Mayor Hollie Berry and Vice Mayor Stefanie Dalton contend that a vote for a contract to retain Tim Thornbury on an on-call basis at the April 26 meeting was not legal because the city had no representation present. City Attorney Arnold Stulce has recused himself from matters concerning that meeting and Mr. Thornbury, but he had asked Attorney Harry Cash to appear at the meeting on behalf of the city.

 

The mayor said that her conversation with Elisha Hodge at MTAS made her think that the council needed to vote before hiring an attorney to represent Red Bank. “I have to say this, said Attorney Stulce, "it bothers me saying that was illegal.” He said he had personally sat in on decisions made by the Chattanooga City Council based solely on a phone call to represent the council. He said on those occasions, no mayor made an appointment and it was never questioned.

 

The longtime city attorney said, "The first time I heard 'illegal vote,' the implication feels that I did something wrong when asking Mr. Cash to appear with five days notice."

 

Commissioners Ruth Jeno, Pete Phillips and Ed Lecompte indicated they all felt railroaded into a vote to choose an attorney with only one choice. “It seems like the resolution is written for one outcome and I’m not thrilled with that,” said Commissioner Phillips. The resolution being voted on was for the retention of special counsel Attorney John Harrison of Evans, Harrison Hackett.

 

“How was this firm decided on, and was it a collaboration of all commissioners?” How did it come about?" asked Commissioner Lecompte. The response from the mayor was that after speaking to MTAS she asked attorney Phil Noblett for a recommendation. Mr. Noblett is the city attorney for Chattanooga, though his replacement has been announced. 

 

Commissioner Jeno said, "Our own city attorney made two recommendations - Mark Litchford and Harry Cash, and Mr. Cash did sit in on the Zoom meeting. "That was inadmissible," said the mayor because Mr. Stulce had recused himself.

 

Commissioner Jeno retorted, "I trust his knowledge and dedication to the city and feel it is offensive not to consider his recommendations."

 

City Attorney Stulce said, "Apparently someone else has said my suggestion is somehow a conflict. I was unaware of this until the mayor just said Phil Noblett told her it would be a conflict.”

 

"Elisha Hodge also said it," said Mayor Berry.

 

Commissioner Jeno said that she had spoken to Ms. Hodge just two hours prior to the meeting and her suggestion was to hire legal counsel specializing in municipal law. The council had concerns because attorney Harrison specializes in employment, not municipal law.

 

“I don’t know why Harry Cash was not good enough,” said Commissioner Phillips. "It seems to me that this whole process is asinine. We had a special meeting to decide on the agreement with Mr. Thornbury and voted. This is just being dragged on as if it’s good for the city. I want to work with you and move the city forward, but we’re not lawyers, let’s do our job.”

 

Commissioner Jeno said that she had assumed that at least three of the other commissioners had agreed to the attorney (Harrison) who had been selected, however she found no one except the mayor and vice mayor knew about it. “We’re a team and are supposed to work together,” she said, adding that the mayor only had to ask the city recorder to send a group email to the commissioners. “This is just another stunt from you girls - or women. You go around us. Your opinion doesn’t matter any more than the rest of ours.”

 

Attorney Harrison told the board he has no stake in the controversy and that everyone being considered is a fine lawyer. He said this case has the potential for expertise in both fields. He said the first action would be to determine if the decision made at the April 26 meeting is legally binding, and if the conclusion is that it is not binding, then it would get into employment law. He said Mr. Litchford is experienced in both, but he said he is too, although his specialty is employment law.

 

“It’s not you,” said Commissioner Jeno. "I have a problem with the whole process. You have a wonderful reputation. It is common knowledge that this board is divided."

 

A vote on the resolution to hire attorney Harrison failed with only the mayor and vice mayor in favor.

 

It was decided to have another special called meeting to give the commissioners a choice of which lawyer to hire - Harrison or Litchford. A motion passed to set the special meeting for Monday at 11 a.m. The agenda will be to retain either Attorney Harrison or Litchford for legal counsel for deliberation and a vote. Since there is not adequate time to advertise the meeting, the mayor said it could be put on the city’s website and that she would put a notice at the Red Bank Food City and Post Office. “This is ridiculous,” said Commissioner Jeno.

 

The special meeting to consider the actual contract that had been scheduled for Tuesday may need to be moved so that whichever lawyer is hired has enough time to review the documents and familiarize himself with the case. The date for that public meeting will be decided Monday after the vote on the attorney.


Latest Hamilton County Arrest Report

Rezoning Request Filed For Affordable Housing Project Near Ridgeland High School

Walker County Plans To Put Moratorium On Large Poultry Operations


Here is the latest Hamilton County arrest report: ACKLIN, MARQUAN D 209 TUNNEL BLVD CHATTANOOGA, 37411 Age at Arrest: 18 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County POSSESSION OF CONTROLLED ... (click for more)

A rezoning request has been filed for an affordable housing project just south of Ridgeland High School on Happy Valley Road. There would be 250 housing units in 10 3-story building with a ... (click for more)

Walker County, Ga., officials are planning to put a moratorium on large new poultry operations in the county. A resolution says the concept of a "mega poultry house" is relatively new. ... (click for more)



Breaking News

Latest Hamilton County Arrest Report

Here is the latest Hamilton County arrest report: ACKLIN, MARQUAN D 209 TUNNEL BLVD CHATTANOOGA, 37411 Age at Arrest: 18 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County POSSESSION OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE --- ASH, MARCUS EUGENE 1011 GADD RD APT 709 CHATTANOOGA, 37343 Age at Arrest: 26 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga DOMESTIC ASSAULT --- BELL, MATHEW ... (click for more)

Rezoning Request Filed For Affordable Housing Project Near Ridgeland High School

A rezoning request has been filed for an affordable housing project just south of Ridgeland High School on Happy Valley Road. There would be 250 housing units in 10 3-story building with a community building also included. Units would range from 650 studio units to 1,375 three-bedroom units. The property is to include "high-end amenities" such as an outdoor pool, gym, playground, ... (click for more)

Opinion

Historic Zoning Commission Works For The Developer, Not The Community

As a St. Elmo property owner for many years, I have followed the success of the community's preservation of our historic character. The Historic Zoning Guidelines were crafted back around 1989 with the clear intent to preserve and protect the historic community; a Historic Zoning Commission was established to ensure Guidelines were followed. I have become increasingly aware ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: UAW: No Drug Tests?

General Motors is at wit’s end. GM needs to hire 450 “part time” workers immediately in Flint, Michigan and another 275 at the Fort Wayne, Ind., assembly plant. Add the fact the United Auto Workers, with its last president just sentenced to over two years in the slammer, is just as desperate for new members. GM is offering $16.67 an hour the first day, free medical care after 90 ... (click for more)

Sports

Vol Fans Invited To College World Series Watch Party Sunday At Lindsey Nelson Stadium

Tennessee Athletics is celebrating the baseball team's College World Series berth by hosting a "Big Orange Watch Party" Sunday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium during the Volunteers' opening game against Virginia. Admission is free for all fans. The stadium's front gate opens at 1 p.m. ET, and first pitch is set for 2 p.m. ET. Free parking is available in the G16 garage and all other ... (click for more)

Vols’ Johnson Claims Choo Choo Title

As he walked off the final hole at Council Fire Golf Club Wednesday afternoon, unaware that he had an insurmountable lead to win the Chattanooga Choo Choo Invitational, Tyler Johnson was suddenly caught off guard by an impromptu recognition of his victory. Tournament director Chris Schmidt asked a member of his staff to blast a loud rendition of “Rocky Top” from nearby speakers, ... (click for more)