published Saturday, March 16th, 2013

East Ridge to create charter panel

The East Ridge City Council voted Thursday night to review the city's charter.

The council unanimously decided to create a 10-person commission that will propose changes to the East Ridge Charter. Any proposed changes would be put before the voters, probably in the May 2014 primary.

"There's a lot of issues and a lot of problems with our charter that need to be addressed," Councilman Marc Gravitt told the audience Thursday night.

Since former City Manager Tim Gobble stepped down Feb. 7, several councilmen have argued that the charter's job requirements are too demanding.

The city still has not filled the job, and for now Eddie Phillips is the interim manager.

Under the current rules, the East Ridge city manager must have at least three years of experience working for a city or town and must hold a bachelor's degree in public administration. Should a potential manager hold a master's or doctoral degree in public administration but not a bachelor's, he or she won't qualify for the job.

Councilman Larry Sewell said Friday that he has looked through about 25 applications; of those, only one person has the required degree.

"This is the top priority that needs to be addressed," said Gravitt, who put the resolution on Thursday's agenda. "If a candidate has a Ph.D. in economics or a master's in accounting, we couldn't hire them."

Gravitt and Sewell also don't like the charter's rule that the judge must live in the city. They said it limits the pool of applicants too much. Gravitt also thinks the charter language needs to be clearer. In particular, he said, the charter needs to state explicitly to whom the court clerk reports, a problem that came up when Gobble disciplined a clerk last fall.

Each council member will appoint two people to the charter commission. Denny Manning will appoint Mimi Lowery and Bill Breneman. Gravitt will appoint Robert Stahl and former state Rep. Ken Meyer.

Sewell said he had three potential candidates in mind, but he had not asked them yet. Vice Mayor Jim Bethune and Mayor Brent Lambert did not return calls Friday.

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