East Ridge is down to one city manager candidate.
The City Council will gather tonight at 7 to question Chris Dorsey, the former Red Bank city manager who in October 2011 was fired. The five-man East Ridge council wanted a contested race, but on Friday morning members received an email from the other candidate, Kenneth Creque.
He said he didn't want to be considered for the job. Creque, of Plymouth, N.C., talked with his family and decided East Ridge "would not be a good fit." The council decided earlier this week not to interview a third candidate, Jim Coleman, after a dispute about traveling expenses.
Originally, East Ridge received 82 applications for the position, which the council has hoped to fill since Tim Gobble resigned Feb. 7. Of those 82 applications, four candidates were found to have the qualifications.
Then one candidate dropped out two weeks ago.
"How did we get from Point A to Point B?" Mayor Brent Lambert asked rhetorically Friday evening.
On April 25, the council voted unanimously to bring Coleman, Creque and Dorsey to town for a followup interview. All three had met with the council two weeks ago -- Coleman and Creque through Skype, Dorsey in person -- but that interview was not formal, Lambert said at the time.
At the April 25 meeting, some councilmen said they were unimpressed with Coleman. While Creque and Dorsey wore suits, Coleman wore a golf shirt. And during the interview through Skype, Coleman's phone rang. Still, they voted to bring him to town.
The next day, interim City Attorney Hal North emailed the three candidates to tell them the council's decision: All three were invited back for interviews, either on May 3 or May 5. The council also voted to give the candidates $300 in traveling expenses.
Coleman, who would be driving about 700 miles from Lady Lake, Fla., and staying two nights in a hotel, asked if he could have more money. North told him the council wanted him to cover the rest of his costs.
Coleman said he needed time to think about whether he would come, but if he did he preferred to interview May 5. That afternoon he booked a room at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in East Ridge.
"He wanted us to pay more money to drive up to apply for a job," Councilman Denny Manning said. "When I grew up, nobody paid me to apply for a job. You were just lucky to have one. We couldn't pay [Coleman] enough."
Late Monday or early Tuesday, interim City Manager Eddie Phillips said, members of the council told Phillips they were no longer interested in Coleman despite voting publicly to bring him to town.
"That's kind of ridiculous when you say, 'I'll let you know,' and then you don't say anything to us," Councilman Marc Gravitt said Friday.
For his part, Coleman maintains he still wanted the job and was shocked when North emailed him Tuesday saying he was no longer a candidate.
Why didn't anyone call Coleman in the four days between his and North's emails? That's not an employer's job, Gravitt said. It's the applicant's job to stay active.
Manning said he had not been able to keep tabs on the situation with Coleman because he has been preaching at several funerals this week, including two Friday. Lambert said he was a little bit out of the loop after a minor car crash April 25.
Regardless, the city will interview Dorsey. Councilman Larry Sewell said that if East Ridge offers to hire Dorsey, it may have to compete with Signal Mountain. Sewell said Dorsey has applied for a job there, though Dorsey would not comment on the situation.