published Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Pair of Fort Oglethorpe city employees don't get jobs back

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  • photo
    Jeff Long is sworn in to the Catoosa County Board of Commissioners District 1 seat during the swearing in of elected officials ceremony, held in the Catoosa County Superior Court in Ringgold, Ga.
    Photo by Alyson Wright /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Two longtime Fort Oglethorpe city employees failed Tuesday night in their bid to get their jobs back.

Former Police Chief David Eubanks and Public Works Director Jeff Long appealed their March 22 firings at a roughly three-hour hearing Tuesday night that drew a standing-room-only crowd to City Hall -- mainly supporters of the fired employees.

City Council acted as judge and jury. Mayor Lynn Long kicked off the meeting by telling audience members that they couldn't wear or hold up "RECALL" bumper stickers directed at councilmen who supported the firings.

"Ladies and gentlemen, you remove the stickers, or you remove yourself," Long said.

Ringgold attorney and former state Rep. McKracken "Ken" Poston, who represented Eubanks, said the Georgia Open Meetings Act allowed such stickers.

City Attorney Robert Stultz questioned interim City Manager Harold Silcox about Jeff Long.

Silcox fired Long and Eubanks on March 22 shortly after he was appointed to take the place of former City Manager Ron Goulart, who was forced to resign by the majority of councilmen.

Silcox said he fired Long, who also serves as Catoosa County commissioner, over a vote Long made as commissioner to de-annex prime property on Battlefield Parkway.

Long's attorney, Stuart James, argued, among other things, that it was illegal for Silcox to fire the men because Goulart didn't officially resign until March 25, that Jeff Long had an "unblemished" personnel record and that the annexation was contingent on the city's approval.

A dramatic gasp from the crowd came as James got Silcox to say "yes" when James said, "You were appointed interim city manager for the sole purpose of firing Mr. Long and Eubanks."

Silcox changed his response to "no," and later said his hearing was damaged by a mortar shell explosion in Vietnam.

During Eubanks' appeal, Silcox said the police chief had been fired for such offenses as not responding to a double shooting at Hutcheson Medical Center.

"Did you recall the chief had a stroke?" Poston asked Silcox. "Did anybody tell you that he was still on medical leave?"

Councilman Earl Gray wanted to reinstate both men. Councilman Clay Kissner also voted to reinstate Long. But Mayor Long and councilmen Louis Hamm and Johnnie "Red" Smith upheld the dismissals.

The fired employees' attorneys filed suit against the city Tuesday in Catoosa County Court, seeking damages, lost wages and reinstatement.

Staff writer Rachel Sauls contributed to this report.

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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