East Ridge attorney keeps job

East Ridge attorney keeps job

March 11th, 2011 by Chris Carroll in News

HOW THEY VOTED

Motion to terminate City Attorney John Anderson

Councilman Jim Bethune - Yes

Councilman Darwin Branam - No

Mayor Brent Lambert - No

Councilman Denny Manning - Yes

Vice Mayor Larry Sewell - No

More than once, East Ridge Councilman Darwin Branam made it clear that City Attorney John Anderson's invoices didn't amount to "an emergency."

First, he missed a heated Feb. 28 meeting on the topic as he admired the beachfront views from his second residence - a 24th-floor condominium in Daytona Beach Shores, Fla. - leading to a 2-2 deadlock on whether to terminate Anderson and cease paying his already-over-budget attorney's fees.

Then, after telling the Chattanooga Times Free Press he needed "more information" on how to vote, Branam did not return to East Ridge City Hall until he flew into town Thursday afternoon, four hours before he broke the tie.

As part of $427,726 paid over the last 34 months, Anderson has collected $90,383 in the first six months of the current fiscal year - $383 more than East Ridge allocated for the entire year, which doesn't end until June 30.

Reading from a prepared statement Thursday evening, Branam assured residents he would attend regular council meetings and special called meetings "if they're emergency in nature."

He said he missed the Feb. 28 meeting about Anderson because it "wasn't emergency."

Later he joined Mayor Brent Lambert and Vice Mayor Larry Sewell in denying a motion to fire Anderson based on fees Councilmen Jim Bethune and Denny Manning called "out of line."

In defending Anderson, Branam echoed Lambert, who recently pointed the finger at himself and other councilmen who voted to hire the attorney in the first place.

While Anderson has billed East Ridge for parking, phone calls, postage and meals, councilmen have complied with his hourly rates since they hired him part-time in 2008.

"The previous council determined that several projects should be undertaken for the betterment of East Ridge," Branam said. "To terminate anyone who holds an essential position in the city without a workable plan ... would be irresponsible."

Anderson remained silent during the discussion of his contract.

On Feb. 28, Bethune offered to withdraw his motion to terminate if Anderson agreed to stop taking fees for the rest of the fiscal year.

The attorney never addressed Bethune's proposal during that meeting, declined to comment when a reporter asked about it afterward and never discussed it during Thursday night's meeting.

"He should have answered one way or the other," Bethune said.