Chattanooga City Council gets information late on mayor's new hires

Chattanooga City Council gets information late on mayor's new hires

January 8th, 2012 by Cliff Hightower in News

Chris Brooks, co-founder of Chattanooga Organized for Action.

Chris Brooks, co-founder of Chattanooga Organized for Action.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

POLL: Should the city spend $75,000 for a study on local gang violence?

Chattanooga City Council members are getting more understanding of two new hires for an initiative against youth violence, just days after Mayor Ron Littlefield introduced them in a council committee meeting.

Council members had asked for job descriptions and salaries of the new employees. Those were not available during the Tuesday meeting, but the mayor's staff made them available Thursday.

Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said she knows it is the mayor's prerogative to hire whom he wants.

But, she said, "I think it's wise to let the council know why we need a position."

Boyd Patterson, an assistant district attorney, will head the initiative at $90,000 annually. Fred Houser, a case manager and counselor at the Davidson County Juvenile Detention Center in Nashville, will be the assistant director and make $70,000 annually.

The hires were rolled out suddenly Tuesday, with Littlefield telling the council the pair would start almost immediately. He pleaded for the council to authorize the redistribution of $75,000 slated for minority business to pay for a study on gang violence in the community instead.

The council will debate and vote on the $75,000 expenditure Tuesday.

Meantime, the council is getting acquainted with the new hires. Ladd said Friday she will host a presentation by Patterson on Monday morning where he will talk extensively about how he and Houser plan to tackle Chattanooga's gang problems.

Earlier last week, one person criticized how the mayor rolled out the hires.

Chris Brooks, organizer for Chattanooga Organized for Action, said Patterson's resume was basically a printout from an email and also included two blog posts listed as "Christian publications."

Brooks said in a statement that the council should be able to scrutinize these appointments.

"The City Council should be allowed an opportunity to carefully review the qualifications and work history of these two gentlemen before they go to work for the people of Chattanooga," Brooks said.

Richard Beeland, spokesman for the mayor, said the City Charter does not give the council authority to scrutinize hires. "That's not the way it works," he said. "It's an administrative decision, and he's doing it."

Councilwoman Deborah Scott said she was a bit surprised at the suddenness of the announcement. She said the council heard about the hires just a day before they were supposed to start work.

She said she wants to see concrete objectives set for the initiative so performance can be measured.

She said she did receive a job description and it is satisfactory.

But she said the job descriptions and resumes came in late. "As a courtesy, I would have liked to have seen it ahead of time," she said.