published Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., eyes new ethics code, board

Lynn Long
Lynn Long
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The city of Fort Oglethorpe may get its own ethics board and a new code of ethics.

And instead of breaking tie votes, the mayor may not get to vote at all.

Those were some ideas aired Tuesday night at a public forum held by the 14-member charter review committee created by local legislators in response to City Council's forced resignation on March 22 of then-City Manager Ron Goulart followed by the sudden dismissals of Police Chief David Eubanks and Public Works Director Jeff Long. Eubanks and Long later filed lawsuits against the city.

"You deserve better [city government] than what you're paying for now," committee Chairman Steve Cooper told a crowd of about 40 people -- including committee members themselves -- during a 75-minute talk at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School.

"Look where we are today: Lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit," he said. "The drag on the coffers has just begun."

The committee has met regularly, Cooper said, to come up with changes to recommend to the Georgia Legislature in January. The group has focused on the second section, or "the meat of the charter," he said, that defines the structure of city government.

One of the committee's ideas is to have the City Council select a mayor, instead of having the office as an elected position.

The proposed ethics code and board would encourage the "proper and right relationship between elected officials and the hired [employees]," he said.

Cooper said he served for 12 years on the board of the Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union where it was a "cardinal sin to influence day-to-day operations."

At the direction of Mayor Lynn Long, the City Council appointed its own charter review committee.

Cooper said his state-appointed committee, created by northwest Georgia Republican lawmakers, state Sen. Jeff Mullis, Rep. Tom Weldon and Rep. John Deffenbaugh, would look at what the city's committee recommends.

But Cooper said the state committee ultimately will decide what happens to Fort Oglethorpe's charter.

Only one city councilman, Earl Gray, attended Tuesday' meeting.

Contacted by phone before Tuesday night's meeting, Long said, "I don't feel welcome there. Best thing I can do is let 'em do their own thing."

Long said the city may put its charter recommendations before voters, he said.

"Let's face it, they own the city. I don't. And neither does the state senator," Long said, referring to Mullis.

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

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties 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. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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