Hamilton County: Adams says he quit after mayor lied to him

Hamilton County: Adams says he quit after mayor lied to him

April 1st, 2009 by Elizabeth Ryan in Local Regional News

Hamilton County Commissioner Curtis Adams said he resigned as city manager of East Ridge last year because Mayor Mike Steele lied to him and interfered with his work.

Testifying Tuesday in the first day of the ouster trial of Mr. Steele, Mr. Adams said the mayor told him he supported a proposed 47 cent property tax increase while privately campaigning against it. He said he confronted Mr. Steele about the situation in an e-mail.

"I told him that I was disappointed," Mr. Adams said. "If a mayor breaks the charter, that doesn't mean he breaks the law, but he broke the charter when he told the city manager that he was for me, and then he tells somebody else that he's not going to do it."

Mr. Adams said he resigned soon after the incident but returned on Mr. Steele's persuading. A few days later, he said, an e-mail from Mr. Steele prompted him to resign again.

The case is in court after a group of East Ridge citizens alleged that Mr. Steele acted with "willful misconduct" by disregarding the limits of his authority as mayor as outlined by the City Charter. Among the list of 24 complaints, the petitioners argue that Mr. Steele terminated former city attorney Cris Helton and rehired Mr. Adams without the City Council's consent.

Mr. Steele's attorney, Dee Hobbs, argued Tuesday that most of the petitioners' charges were "factually inaccurate" and did not rise to "willful misconduct."

Mr. Steele denied wrongdoing on most of the charges, but admitted he sent an e-mail to Mr. Helton notifying him of the council's intention to make a change.

"What authority did you have to make that statement or send that e-mail?" asked attorney Charles Wright Jr., who represents the petitioners.

"I had none," Mr. Steele said.

"Do you admit that was a mistake?" Mr. Wright said.

"Yes," Mr. Steele said.

Mr. Steele, on the witness stand for about five hours, was asked about how certain contracts were awarded and his relationships with East Ridge city attorney John Anderson and Albert Waterhouse, owner of a local public relations company, among other subjects.

Mr. Hobbs dismissed the claims against his client as insignificant.

"Even if he made mistakes - and I think he acknowledged doing something that would have been in violation of the charter ... there's a difference in mistakes and willful, wrongful conduct," he said.