East Ridge to pay court clerk more

East Ridge to pay court clerk more

December 5th, 2012 by Shelly Bradbury in News

East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert

Photo by Alyson Wright/Times Free Press.

The East Ridge City Council set the salary for the city's soon-to-be elected court clerk in a special meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The clerk, who will be voted in during a special March 5 election, will make $54,472 -- significantly more than the $37,277 the current, appointed clerk earns.

"I feel good that it's a fair salary," Mayor Brent Lambert said, "especially because that position is going to be over the court clerk's office and will be a really autonomous position. That person will only report to the citizens of East Ridge."

The elected position is paid more because the clerk will be in a supervisory role, City Manager Tim Gobble said.

"With the clerk being elected and solely responsible for the management of the office -- including -- hiring and firing the people in that office, it was classified at a higher level than it is classified now," he said. "So that's equivalent to the level of responsibility we anticipate this job having."

The council voted Nov. 8 to switch the clerk from an appointed to an elected position. The move brings the city in line with a 2008 opinion issued by the Tennessee attorney general that says cities like East Ridge should have an elected court clerk.

But some, including City Judge Arvin Reingold, have called the switch solely a political move.

Gobble suggested the change at the end of the Sept. 27 council meeting. His proposal came just weeks after he suspended Court Clerk JoAnn Thomas for "insubordination" over what he said was the failure to tell him about court scheduling changes for a Sept. 3 robbery case in which his daughter was the victim.

The conflict raised questions over whether the court clerk should answer to the city manager or the city judge. The new elected court clerk will answer to neither, Gobble said.

"They'll report directly to the people," he said. "And it completely solves the issue."

Lambert said he thinks the move will prevent future confusion.

"It will really be independent," he said. "So I don't think we'll have that type of war over who is going to run that office or to who that office will report."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at sbradbury@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.