published Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Three employees fired in Fort Oglethorpe 'coup' get jobs back

  • photo
    Ron Goulart, Fort Oglethorpe city manager
    Photo by Beverly A. Carroll

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    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.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives.

Fort Oglethorpe may prove him wrong.

The three city employees who left on March 22 in what's been described as a "coup" got their jobs back Monday night -- thanks to a new City Council that met for the first time.

As a standing-room-only crowd waited, council members went into closed session and then emerged and voted unanimously to reinstate City Manager Ron Goulart, who was forced to resign some 10 months earlier.

"I do appreciate it," said Goulart, who got a brief standing ovation. "Thank you very much for having confidence in me."

After the meeting ended, Goulart announced he would rehire David Eubanks as police chief and Jeff Long, who served as director of public works.

"Feels great. Got a lot of work to do," said Eubanks, whose unemployment benefits ran out Dec. 28. "It wasn't much, but I appreciated what [unemployment] I got."

The two had filed suit against the city. Their attorneys, McCracken Poston and Stuart James, were at the meeting and said the lawsuits would be resolved -- though the details hadn't yet been worked out.

"The election was a referendum that put these guys back in their jobs," Poston said. "The voters did more than anybody."

A slate of three council members, Earl Gray, Craig Crawford and Paula Stinnett, ran in opposition to the three employees' dismissal. Johnnie "Red" Smith, who 10 months ago supported Goulart's resignation, voted to rehire him Monday.

The slate didn't vote as a bloc on every issue.

Crawford wanted to table a request to give another $100,000 from the city's general fund toward construction of a new intersection at a shopping development on Battlefield Parkway.

"To me, $100,000 is a lot of money. It's taxpayers' money," he said.

But council supported the subsidy by three votes, with Crawford abstaining. Councilman Earl Gray said the tax revenue from the project will more than make up for the $700,000 outlay from the city and Catoosa County.

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 township┬╣s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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