Ron Littlefield emails show flawed, petty mayor

Ron Littlefield emails show flawed, petty mayor

March 12th, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield

Photo by Lido Vizzutti

In his final State of the City address on Monday, Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield defiantly addressed criticisms and sidestepped failures. He also spent much of his speech counting successes -- largely a series of boondoggles and corporate welfare handouts.

Looking back, it's hard to imagine how this administration could be so failed that its only "successes" are actually fiascos themselves. Until, that is, Chattanoogans are able to see how Littlefield actually spent his time in office.

A review of several hundred emails that Littlefield sent while in office indicates that, rather than governing, the mayor spent some of his time ridiculing residents, attacking opponents and even making his own wife the butt of a joke.

The emails, obtained through state open records laws, show that Littlefield regularly used taxpayer-funded city employees and resources to fight efforts to recall him in 2011.

On August 15, 2011, Littlefield emailed himself -- during regular office hours and on his City of Chattanooga email address -- a fundraising letter he crafted in an attempt to raise money for his recall defense. There is no worse abuse of tax dollars than to use them to assist in political fundraising, but Littlefield did it repeatedly.

In another example, Littlefield worked with city Media Relations Director Richard Beeland and Deputy Mayor Anita Ebersole to obtain and use a video to raise money for his recall defense fund.

Littlefield also enlisted Ebersole and Marie Chinery, assistant to Chief of Staff Dan Johnson, to create an anti-recall beverage cup. The cup, which featured the phrase "I DON'T RECALL" on one side and "Mayor Ron Littlefield, City of Chattanooga" on the other, was created on taxpayers' time.

When they weren't busy engaging in political fundraising on taxpayers' time, Littlefield and his team sometimes turned their attention to investigating and attacking city residents.

Littlefield kept a list of the church connections of groups and individuals involved in the recall effort. He emailed the list to Beeland "for use, if needed." The shocking list could have been used to confront and needle his political opponents.

In an e-mail with the subject "Recallers" Littlefield asked Beeland if there were: "Any crazies there tonight?" Beeland responded "Yes," then named two recall advocates by name and complained that one was submitting a number of requests for public records.

When a city resident called for an audit and investigation of the office of the media relations director, the resident asked for an audit because she believed Beeland, as media relations director, was, among other things, "denouncing and denigrating grassroots efforts" to recall the mayor."

In an email about the matter, Littlefield mockingly told Beeland: "Oh no. Now you are in trouble." To which Beeland replied by calling those behind the grassroots efforts "a bunch of nuts" and "crazies."

Also in 2011, facing an effort by city police officers to improve their pay and working conditions, Littlefield lashed out at Officer Phil Grubb, the president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 673. In an email to a friend, Littlefield called both Grubb and Grubb's father "unhappy" and made fun of Grubb's weight. Littlefield went on to say, "There was a saying regarding someone that was constantly disgruntled and disagreeable: 'The only way that he could be a bigger jerk is to gain weight.' It appears that Phil has pushed that concept about as far as practicable."

Littlefield didn't reserve his snide remarks and rude comments to his enemies.

In a May 2009 email to Littlefield while he was on vacation, Chinery asked "How's the beach?" Littlefield took the email exchange as an opportunity to demean his wife with a pun, replying "Lanis? Oh, she's fine. No -- you said 'beach,' well that's different."

Perhaps if Mayor Littlefield had spent less time acting like an out-of-control petty tyrant and more time doing the peoples' business, he'd have more to show for his eight years in office. Instead, he will be remembered as a failed mayor -- and, judging by his own emails, a flawed and petty man.