East Ridge tables ordinance that would allow Oreo to stay: Gobble seeks election for clerk

East Ridge tables ordinance that would allow Oreo to stay: Gobble seeks election for clerk

September 28th, 2012 by Shelly Bradbury in Local Regional News

Samantha Viar holds a handful of oatmeal for her goat, Oreo.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

OREO UPDATE

After a short discussion, the East Ridge City Council once again tabled an ordinance that would allow Oreo the pygmy goat to remain in its home within the city limits. The council will reconsider the ordinance at the next city council meeting on Oct. 11.

POLL: Should Oreo the goat be allowed to stay in East Ridge?

In a surprise move at the East Ridge City Council meeting, City Manager Tim Gobble asked that the court clerk become an elected position.

The court clerk currently is appointed by the city judge.

Gobble's proposal was not listed on the official agenda for the meeting Thursday night, and some council members said they only read the proposed ordinance when they sat down at the start of the meeting.

Recently, Gobble has been ensnared in conflict with the East Ridge court clerk's office. Earlier this month, he suspended Court Clerk JoAnn Thomas and formally reprimanded two other court employees for "insubordination" after he said they failed to tell him about court scheduling changes for a Sept. 3 robbery case in which his daughter was the victim.

At Thursday's meeting, he said the problems in the court clerk's office started before he became city manager. Both a 2010 and 2011 audit revealed ongoing, unresolved issues, he said, including failure to properly maintain records, failure to collect fines and failure to alert victims, police and witnesses of court scheduling changes.

Some of the issues in the court clerk's office could be resolved if the court clerk was an elected official, Gobble said.

"It would make that individual answer to the public and then the people can decide every four years as to whether that person should be maintained or replaced," he said.

City Attorney John Anderson said the change would bring the city into agreement with a 2008 opinion issued by the Tennessee Attorney General that says court clerks should be elected. As city attorney, Anderson technically represents both Gobble and the court clerks.

The council put the ordinance on the agenda for the next city council meeting on Oct. 11.

If it is passed, the city must hold a special election in the spring to elect a court clerk, who would serve a four-year term. The election would cost the city around $10,000, officials said.

Council member Jim Bethune asked Gobble why the change has not previously been considered if problems with the court clerk's office have been long-standing.

Gobble said the idea has been tossed around in the past, but no official action has been taken.