Red Bank fires 'financial wizard' Chris Dorsey

Red Bank fires 'financial wizard' Chris Dorsey

October 12th, 2011 by Emily Crisman in Community Hixson

Red Bank City Manager Chris Dorsey listens to citizen comments following his sudden firing at last week's City Commission meeting. Photo by Emily Crisman

A little more than a month after Red Bank City Manager Chris Dorsey's contract was automatically renewed, he is looking for another job.

Dorsey, who was unexpectedly ousted by a 3-2 vote at the end of last week's City Commission meeting, said he will receive seven months' worth of his $91,800 annual salary as well as his car allowance and unused vacation time.

"I'm just getting over the shock at this point," he said in a phone interview. "I loved working in Red Bank and being able to make a difference."

Mayor Monty Millard, who voted against the firing motion brought by Commissioner John Roberts, said he is determined to move the city forward and will be actively seeking a replacement.

"I want someone who has a vested interest in Red Bank, and will work with us to promote economic growth and make sure our city runs effectively and efficiently," he said in a phone interview.

Roberts echoed Millard's response in a separate interview.

"I'm going to be looking for a city manager with an invested interest in our city, strong leadership and strong management," he said.

Finance Director John Alexander will serve as city manager in the interim. He has been with the city a little more than one year.

Millard had originally nominated Fire Chief Mark Mathews to the temporary post, but Mathews declined, saying he was not qualified for the job. Recorder Ruthie Rowen declined with a similar response, and Alexander initially refused as well.

"The city manager serves at the will of the commission," said Dorsey, who came from Memphis to work for Red Bank six years ago, serving the first four years without a contract. "They're allowed to do what they want."

Millard said he was "caught off guard and by surprise" by Roberts' motion. Commissioner Ruth Jeno, who was the other neigh vote, also expressed disbelief.

"We're supposed to be good stewards for the city of Red Bank and their money," she said during the meeting. "I just think it's the wrong time to do it."

"It's not about the money," said Jones in the meeting. "For me it's about management; it's about leadership."

When introducing the motion, he cited the high turnover rate in the city's police department, multiple lawsuits with Dorsey listed as defendant and Dorsey's failure to provide an adequate police report he said the commission has been requesting for the past nine months.

"I thought it was time to draw a line in the sand," Roberts said in a phone interview. "Over a certain period of time the frustration just grew and I just wanted to take a stance."

Also voting for Dorsey's removal were Vice Mayor Greg Jones and Commissioner Floy Pierce.

Roberts said the commission was provided with a police report from Dorsey for the first time at an agenda meeting earlier that day. Dorsey said Roberts did not approve of the format.

"It does not detail where the crime was coming from," said Roberts of the report. "He knew I wanted specific details. We've had conversations before about all this stuff."

He said he had a number of issues with Dorsey aside from the report, including his failure to take the initiative to attend monthly lunch meetings with commissioners to discuss their vision for the city, as well as another lawsuit filed against Dorsey received last month.

Several Red Bank citizens spoke in support of Dorsey at the meeting following the passing of the motion to fire him.

"It smacks so much of what happened with Larry Sneed," said Red Bank resident Gina Hembree, referring to the former police chief fired by Dorsey without clear reason.

Millard said during the meeting that he would like for the new manager to live in Red Bank. Dorsey is a Hixson resident.

"I was caught in the crossfire, as they say," said Dorsey in a follow-up interview. "I hope they all do well."