published Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Fort Oglethorpe councilman ousted for sexual harassment still drawing pay, health benefits

Former Fort Oglethorpe City Councilman Charles Sharrock hasn't served for almost a year since being ousted for sexually harassing three female employees — but the city still pays his $708 monthly salary and another $250 each month toward his supplemental Medicare insurance.

The pay and benefits will continue until Sharrock, who's still fighting his dismissal in court, has exhausted all of his appeals, or until his term expires. Sharrock was one year into his second four-year term at the time of his ouster.

"He's getting paid, and there's a reason he's getting paid," Mayor Lynn Long said. "We chose, based on legal advice, to continue to give him his pay and his insurance."

Long used a "what if" scenario to explain the rationale behind funding Sharrock's insurance.

If an uninsured Sharrock needed a $1 million surgery -- and then won his appeal and was reinstated -- the city, Long said, would be on the hook for the bill.

"Then the taxpayers would all want to hang this mayor," said Long, who often refers to himself in the third person. "We're better off to pay the little insurance [premium]."

City attorney Robert Stultz said the city charter was mum on the matter.

"The charter did not provide any guidance in regard to whether or not he was to be paid or not paid," Stultz said. "We felt the better position would be to continue to pay him until all of his appeals are exhausted."

Sharrock's Ringgold-based attorney Renzo Wiggins didn't return calls seeking comment. Sharrock's former cell phone number doesn't work, and he's declined in the past to comment on his ouster.

In the most recent ruling on the case, Catoosa County Superior Court Judge Jon "Bo" Wood on July 10 upheld the City Council's 4-0 decision on Nov. 27, 2012 to oust Sharrock for sexual harassment. The preponderance of evidence showed that Sharrock committed illegal conduct in performance of his office, the judge wrote, "which is unbecoming the character of a public officer."

"[Sharrock's] asked for Judge Wood to reconsider his decision," Stultz said.

Ultimately, the case may go all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court, he said.

Stultz didn't know if the city would try to recoup Sharrock's post-ouster pay and benefits should the city prevail in court.

"I think that'd be up to the City Council to pursue getting that money back," he said.

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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