Editor's note: The following statement was issued this week by East Ridge City Manager Tim Gobble.
On Feb. 2, 2013, top-level staff in East Ridge was recklessly accused of wrong-doing in a Times Free Press editorial by Drew Johnson.
The following is a response to Mr. Johnson's accusations.
Complete records, audits, back-up documentation and current budget prove the city operated within policy and the law. For instance, purchases such as a coke and candy bar were while on city business and were in place of full meals or more per diem to which the employee was entitled to. This saved the city money.
All hiring practices have been within guidelines and no written personnel policy or procedures have been violated. A legal review from the city attorney at the time of Chris Clabough's promotion confirms he was legally hired/promoted.
The $26,474 Mr. Johnson wrote was over budget for Community Center maintenance was actually for a soccer camp that was paid for through player fees. The Community Center maintenance line item is No. 266 on the current budget and Mr. Johnson wrote about line item No. 267 in error.
Occasional lunch meetings with directors, chiefs, legal counsel, auditors and others were clearly justifiable. Our records confirm these expenses were within credit card use policy guidelines. In addition, these expenses have been audited.
This includes blue jeans purchased at the Buckle by an East Ridge undercover drug officer who had his pants destroyed while apprehending a criminal.
City records show that Tim Gobble, Parks and Recreation Director Stump Martin and Public Safety Director Eddie Phillips did not frequently use city credit cards to pay for each other's meals.
According to state and county records Gobble is a legal resident of East Ridge. He rents a home in the city like 47 percent of the East Ridge population.
The city code was removed from the MTAS website while in the process of being updated. Since then, the code has been placed back on the MTAS website although it is outdated by more than a decade.
City staff is conducting business appropriately and within policy, procedure and the law.
Since Tim Gobble became city manager, East Ridge has gone from a $600,000 General Fund deficit to a $917,000 General Fund surplus and spent 15 percent less than budgeted to spend last year. The city's fund balances are increasing and long-term debt decreasing. Records indicate the city is in the best overall financial condition it has been in for more than 20 years.
I read with great interest the letter in Saturday's Times Free Press by Walter Hussman, Jr. He made very clear the struggles with which most all written media are grappling. I appreciate and admire the approach that your newspaper is using to meet these difficult challenges. It is my hope that the paper can continue to provide circulation in the North Georgia area. The paper does a very good job of including the North Georgia area in its news and reporting even to high school sports.
By the way, I have the best delivery person in the known world. He not only makes his deliveries in a timely manner but makes certain the paper is protected from the elements (and we do have weather elements in Gordon County!).
FRED R. PENICK, Calhoun, Ga.
One day Jim Eberle came by my house and asked me what the deal was about all the land from Lupton Drive all the way to the river. I told him that it was given to the school board by a very generous family to be used for recreational purposes only and that the school board said we, members of Dupont Rivermont Dixie Youth, could have it for ball fields but we could not get in to it.
He looked at me and said, "You mean all you need is a road to it?"
The next time you turn off Lupton Drive to go down to the beautiful ball fields, tennis courts or just to fish remember how you got there and say, thanks, Jim. Because without him it would still be just a big old field.
I encourage residents of Chattanooga District 2 to vote for Roger Tuder for City Council in the March 5 election. I have known Roger for over 10 years. He possesses the highest integrity, sound judgment and an even temperament.
Roger has a proven record of sound fiscal management and a common sense approach to addressing issues in Chattanooga. Roger is a hard worker and has a long history of service to the community. He is a conservative who can be counted on to provide sound leadership during these challenging times.
Roger's commitment to our city will be a valuable asset as Chattanooga faces many challenges and opportunities in the coming years. I encourage every resident of District 2 to vote on March 5 for Roger Tuder to represent them as City Council person.