published Friday, March 29th, 2013

Deannex vote cost Fort Oglethorpe public works director his job

Sue Long, right, the wife of former Public Works Director Jim Long, is escorted from the Fort Oglethorpe City Council room by police Capt.Gary McConathy on Thursday under the direction of Mayor Lynn Long.
Sue Long, right, the wife of former Public Works Director Jim Long, is escorted from the Fort Oglethorpe City Council room by police Capt.Gary McConathy on Thursday under the direction of Mayor Lynn Long.
Photo by Tim Barber.

A vote related to Sunday alcohol sales that Jeff Long made as a Catoosa County commissioner cost him his day job as director of public works for Fort Oglethorpe.

That's what Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Lynn Long said Thursday at a news conference he called to try to counter blistering criticism the mayor and all but one councilman received for the sudden departure on March 22 of Jeff Long, City Manager Ron Goulart and Police Chief David Eubanks.

At a Feb. 7 County Commission meeting, Jeff Long made a motion to ask the Georgia Legislature to deannex 42 acres of prime commercial property on Battlefield Parkway from Fort Oglethorpe, which doesn't allow Sunday alcohol sales.

Property owner Northwest Georgia Bank wanted the parcel back under jurisdiction of only the county, which allows Sunday sales, so that a developer interested in buying the land would be able to attract restaurants and retailers.

"According to the City Charter, that was a conflict of interest," Mayor Long said of Commissioner Long's vote. The mayor provided the news conference audience with copies of several pages of the charter, which states that no city employee will hold any public office that's "in conflict with the duties of the city employee."

The deannexation will cost the city about $11,000 annually in lost property taxes based on 2012 revenue, according to Catoosa County Tax Commissioner Sandra Self.

"It's gone forever," the mayor said of the tax revenue.

"I don't think anybody in this room can serve two masters at the same time," Lynn Long said. "If he had abstained, it certainly would not have been a conflict of interest."

Jeff Long couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

In response to reporters' questions, Lynn Long maintained that Goulart wasn't fired, but resigned as city manager.

"I'm not saying Mr. Goulart wasn't under some heat to resign," the mayor added.

The mayor wouldn't say anything about the police chief's dismissal, which along with Jeff Long's firing were the first actions taken by interim City Manager Harold Silcox the night the City Council appointed him city manager after Goulart resigned.

"I'd love to answer that question," the mayor said. "Personnel's one of the things that you can't [comment on]."

The mayor said he could talk about Jeff Long's case, because he's an elected official.

The mayor's explanation didn't sit well with much of the audience, many of whom carried white posterboard signs emblazoned with the word "RECALL" in red letters. About two dozen people filed out of the room midway through.

"I just think he dug himself deeper," said Jack Goodlet, owner of Park Place Restaurant in Fort Oglethorpe. "He didn't really say anything."

"It's just not right," Goodlet said of the firings.

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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