published Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Fort Oglethorpe councilman, Eddie Stinnett, killed in car accident

The day after a Fort Oglethorpe city councilman was kicked out of his seat over sexual harassment complaints lodged against him, one of the four councilmen who voted to remove him from office was found dead in his car after a crash.

Councilman Eddie Stinnett, 67, died Wednesday morning. Authorities suspect that his heart failed. His car slammed into a curb on Battlefield Parkway and then crashed into a car stopped at a red light.

Stinnett, a retired welder and family man who was known on the council for taking unpopular stands on controversial issues, was found slumped over in his vehicle.

"Eddie and I disagreed on a lot of things," said Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Lynn Long, who had known Stinnett his whole life. "[But] Eddie stood very tall on the positions he took. I had a great deal of respect for him."

Stinnett's death leaves two empty seats on the five-member council. Charles Sharrock was voted out of office Tuesday after a four-hour public hearing in which three female employees accused the councilman of seeking them out for physical attention, giving them long hugs or kisses on the neck.

After hearing the evidence, Stinnett and the other three council members agreed that Sharrock had to go, effective immediately. They later described Tuesday's decision as one of the hardest they've ever had to make on the council.

Now, with only three council members left, Long said the remaining members will have to agree on resolutions for anything to pass. The city will hold a special election in March to replace Stinnett and possibly Sharrock. But if Sharrock appeals his ouster -- which he said he will do -- the council will have to wait for the case to be resolved before holding an election for his replacement, Long said.

Meanwhile, Stinnett's family members said they are in shock from his unexpected death.

"He would help anybody," said his niece Candi Bergen. "He was all about his family."

Married to Louise, his high school sweetheart, Stinnett was the retired owner of North Georgia Welding Fabrication. He was elected to the council in 2009.

As a controversial voice on the council, Stinnett fought for Sunday package beer and alcohol sales to boost the local economy and recently voted for a 3 percent pay raise for all city employees that ultimately was defeated.

Stinnett also was influential in getting the Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe Recreation Association fields upgraded for local baseball tournaments, Councilman Louis Hamm said. With the newly upgraded fields, Stinnett helped bring in the Honeycutt World Series, which held tournaments for local youths.

"Did we always agree on things? No," Hamm said. "He did what he thought was right, and he's going to be missed."

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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