published Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Judge to weigh ousted Fort Oglethorpe City Councilman Charles Sharrock's lawsuit

RINGGOLD, Ga. — Attorneys met with Judge Jon B. Wood on Wednesday afternoon and made final arguments in a Catoosa County Superior Court lawsuit by former Fort Oglethorpe City Councilman Charles Sharrock to regain his council seat.

Fellow councilmen voted 4-0 on Nov. 27 to oust Sharrock for sexually harassing female city employees.

"Really, this was a pretext for [Mayor Lynn Long's] grab for power," Sharrock's Ringgold, Ga.-based attorney Renzo Wiggins told the judge. "If Sharrock could be removed, then the mayor would have power."

Sharrock often cast the deciding vote when the council split 3-2, Wiggins said. Since Sharrock's ouster, Long has cast deciding votes, Wiggins said.

Long couldn't immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Wiggins also argued that Sharrock's Oct. 9 physical contact with city police detective Tammy Davis wasn't illegal and wasn't malfeasance on Sharrock's part.

"His testimony was that he went back there to comfort that police detective," Wiggins said. Davis had been suspended for having a traffic accident in a city car. Sharrock put an arm around her, rubbed her on the back from her shoulder to her belt line, and kissed her on the cheek, according to a letter Davis wrote the following day at the request of then-Police Chief David Eubanks.

"On the very end of the spectrum of being minor -- this was it," Wiggins said.

Wiggins also said Sharrock wasn't given sufficient notice of the Nov. 27 hearing.

Three complaints

City attorney Robert Stultz dismissed that idea.

"Obviously, he had more than adequate notice," Stultz said, citing evidence such as the wording of the city charter that allowed for Sharrock's dismissal and the fact that Sharrock was present at all the council meetings at which his dismissal was discussed.

"This is not just a one-time incident," Stultz told the judge, citing a female employee's complaint from 2008 that resulted in Sharrock taking a sexual harassment class. Another female employee complained about Sharrock in 2009, the city attorney said.

"There is testimony that he kissed her -- kissed her on the neck," Stultz said.

Wiggins argued that the city charter didn't define a standard of proof for Sharrock's removal, such as guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Stultz said, "The standard of proof is just simply having a vote of four council members."

Woods said he'd review the case or take it under advisement around the Fourth of July holiday.

"Y'all are doing a great job of outlining the issues," Woods said. "I'm going to take it under advisement. I'll let y'all know."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@times freepress.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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