published Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Suit against Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., leaders dropped

Lynn Long
Lynn Long
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Fort Oglethorpe's city government will greet the New Year without some of the baggage from 2013 — a contentious year at City Hall.

Louise Stinnett and Christine McKeever decided to drop their lawsuit seeking to remove Mayor Lynn Long and City Councilmen Louis Hamm, Clay Kissner and Johnnie "Red" Smith from office because the four men backed the sudden, March 22 dismissals of then-City Manager Ron Goulart, police Chief David Eubanks and Public Works Director Jeff Long.

On Nov. 5, voters elected a slate of City Council candidates -- Paula Stinnett, Earl Gray and Craig Crawford -- opposed to the controversial dismissals. If the three vote as a bloc, they'll run the council, which only has one other voting member, Johnnie "Red" Smith. Mayor Lynn Long votes only to break ties.

"My clients ... have every confidence that the new City Council will work diligently to restore integrity and confidence in Fort Oglethorpe and do what is best for the residents, businesses and employees," the plaintiff's Ringgold-based attorney John Wiggins said in a statement.

McKeever and Stinnett entered a settlement agreement on Dec. 16 with the mayor and three councilmen under which both sides agreed to drop the case without admitting any wrongdoing. Neither side will seek attorneys' fees or other legal expenses under the agreement, which was kept confidential for seven days.

Long said settlement negotiations went on for about a month.

"I'm glad it's over," Long said. "I'm glad it's finished. It's time to make peace, just move on."

Long couldn't immediately say how much the city spent on the four elected officials' defense.

McKeever declined to state how much was spent in the effort to remove the four men -- though she did say that many people contributed.

"There were a lot of people in the community who helped with this," she said. "This lawsuit was supported by a large group of people."

Another vestige of 2013 contention died on Dec. 17, when councilmen decided against adopting a revised city charter prepared by a city-appointed charter review committee. City attorney Robert Stultz said it hadn't been properly published as a legal notice.

The city-appointed charter review committee's work was meant to compete with that done by a charter review committee appointed by state legislators after the March 22 dismissals. Its revisions to the city charter might still be adopted.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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