published Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Lawsuit seeks to remove Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., officials

Fort Oglethorpe City Mayor Lynn Long pulls rank with his gavel Tuesday at a special hearing in the council chambers.
Fort Oglethorpe City Mayor Lynn Long pulls rank with his gavel Tuesday at a special hearing in the council chambers.
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The mayor of Fort Oglethorpe and three city councilmen conspired illegally to get rid of two longtime department heads — and it was caught on camera, a lawsuit alleges.

Chris McKeever, along with Louise Stinnett, the widow of City Councilman Eddie Stinnett, filed a lawsuit Friday in Catoosa County (Ga.) Superior Court seeking to remove Mayor Lynn Long and councilmen Louis Hamm, Johnnie "Red" Smith and Clay Kissner from office.

"Our lawsuit is to have the four of them removed for malfeasance," McKeever said.

The lawsuit states that Long, Smith and Kissner met unlawfully in the mayor's office between 5 and 7 p.m. on March 21 to offer Harold Silcox the job as city manager on one condition: That he fire police Chief David Eubanks and Public Works Director Jeff Long.

Councilman Louis Hamm was in the hall outside the mayor's office, McKeever said.

"There are security cameras throughout City Hall," she said. "So we have all that City Hall footage."

The lawsuit states the elected officials conspired to circumvent the spirit, if not the letter, of state law and the city charter.

For a quorum, or majority, of council members to gather, the meeting has to have previous public notice and be open to the public.

Long said Monday nothing illegal was done.

"This was not a quorum," he said. "Louis Hamm never entered my office. He stopped there for a minute and did not enter the conversation."

He said the security footage will support him.

Hamm returned to a Downtown Development Authority meeting being held in another part of City Hall, Long said.

Kissner, who was elected March 19 to fill Stinnett's empty seat, hadn't yet been sworn in.

"You're not an elected official until you're sworn in," Long said.

Unemployment pay challenged

Former City Manager Ron Goulart disagreed. He said that Kissner's term began on March 19, when he was declared the winner of the election.

Goulart and state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, traveled to Dalton on Monday to testify at a hearing on behalf of Jeff Long. He faced losing his unemployment pay, Goulart said, because the city appealed Long's right to receive unemployment compensation.

They didn't have to testify, and no decision was made Monday regarding Long, Goulart said.

Meanwhile, the city failed in its attempt to stop Eubanks' unemployment pay.

"We went down a couple of weeks ago; they ruled in the chief's favor," Goulart said.

Long said the City Council didn't try to stop the men's unemployment pay. That was Silcox's decision, he said, and Silcox was at the hearing.

"I guess it was, if he was there," Long said. "The city manager is the CEO of the city."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education 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.

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