Candidates for Red Bank Board of Commissioners avoided the elephant in the room during a political forum Monday evening.
Moderator Mike Dobbs asked whether City Manager Chris Dorsey should be replaced after a summer in which he fired former police chief Larry Sneed without telling the mayor and another commissioner.
David Smith, a candidate running for the District 1 seat, hesitated to answer before the Red Bank Community Center began rumbling.
“We’ll skip that one,” Dobbs said.
Several audience members commanded Dobbs to reword the question, but the moderator instead asked about aesthetics in Red Bank, and none of the candidates touched the Dorsey issue.
Dorsey is Red Bank’s highest-paid employee with an annual salary of $90,000, records show. His decision to fire Sneed started a chain of four lawsuits against the city asking a combined $6 million in damages.
Candidates moved on to plenty of other hot topics Monday night, including photo enforcement.
“If you don’t want traffic cameras and you’re a citizen of Red Bank, call me,” Commissioner Greg Jones said. “I don’t want to hear it from talk radio.”
All the candidates railed against a possible property tax increase, but Mayor Joe Glasscock was most adamant about what he would cut to avoid one.
“First off I’d stop giving every employee in the city a 2 percent across-the-board raise every year,” he said. “I’d also cut the $2 million proposed new city hall and pave some roads.”
Several candidates suggested background checks and stronger code enforcement to keep absentee apartment owners in check.
“Let’s just keep the thugs out,” Smith said.
John Roberts, Glasscock’s opponent for an at-large post, focused on attracting “businesses of all size” to Red Bank.
“If North Chattanooga can turn itself around, Red Bank can, too,” he said.
Challengers Ed LeCompte and Robert Perry lamented the Sneed situation from the summer.
“I’ll have an open-door policy, and there will be no back-room politics anymore,” LeCompte said.
“There’s a certain way to do things, and I believe in the people’s right to know,” Perry said.
Two incumbents running for re-election questioned the forum’s integrity because of public statements made by the sponsor’s president.
In a recent opinion letter published by an online news outlet, Red Bank Neighborhood Pride President Darin Wright wrote “two of the three [incumbents] running for re-election have done little to nothing to assist Red Bank,” referring to Jones and Commissioner Floy Pierce.
Wright argued that Jones “offers little to nothing” during his commission meeting statements and Pierce “has a history of not supporting public concerns,” slamming Pierce’s efforts to block funding to a city-financed seniors’ group in favor of a private one.
“All the questions are e-mailed in or handwritten by residents,” Wright said before the debate. “I haven’t even seen the questions.”
Pierce sat in the audience during Monday night’s forum and did not debate.
Last Friday, Jones criticized what he perceived as the debate’s “unfair slant,” but he participated.