Red Bank officials quiet on firing

Red Bank officials quiet on firing

July 13th, 2010 by Chris Carroll in Politics Local

Three Red Bank city commissioners began another week without commenting on a high-profile firing of the police chief, inviting questions about whether the city's political wing influenced an administrative decision.

Monday marked the 11th straight day City Manager Chris Dorsey declined to say why he fired police Chief Larry Sneed, who ran the department for seven years.

Commissioner Floy Pierce identified herself as one of several commissioners who conveyed "issues" with Mr. Sneed to Mr. Dorsey. She said residents should know the truth behind the firing, but she would not reveal any information herself.

"It is our city manager's place to tell what happened," she said. "What he did with certain information is his business, and I wasn't involved in that."

Mr. Dorsey took responsibility before clamming up.

"That is true," he said. "And we can't comment now."

Mayor Joe Glasscock, who said he still doesn't know why Mr. Sneed was fired, said it was clear that certain commissioners are "controlling their city manager."

"If Commissioner Pierce or any other commissioner knows, then the entire city of Red Bank should know about it," Mr. Glasscock said.

Another commissioner felt the heat at last Tuesday's commission meeting, when a few Red Bank residents insinuated that Vice Mayor Monty Millard's two arrests by the Red Bank Police Department led to Mr. Sneed's firing.

The vice mayor again denied asking for Mr. Sneed's dismissal. He said he only "encouraged Chris Dorsey to do the right thing" after hearing about personnel issues at the police department.

Commissioner Greg Jones declined comment and repeated his support for Mr. Dorsey.

"I don't know that there's anything to hide," Mr. Jones said. "But maybe some things don't need to be said at this time."

At least one resident argued for transparency during last week's commission meeting.

"It's especially dangerous when the city manager acted without sufficient documented data to support his decision," resident John Westmeier said. "If his judgment is at fault, I'm concerned about the job he may do in the future."

Reached Monday afternoon, Mr. Sneed's attorney, Lee Davis, said he was drafting a lawsuit against several commissioners, Mr. Dorsey and the city.

Mr. Davis successfully sued the city of Chattanooga on behalf of two police officers in an age discrimination case earlier this year. The city is appealing a combined $750,000 settlement.

When asked about the strength of Mr. Sneed's lawsuit, Mr. Davis declined comment except to mention that his firm turns away 90 percent of employment cases.

"We hope they get the message and give Larry his job back," Mr. Davis said.

Red Bank City Attorney Arnold Stultze said the unexplained situation is "unfortunate," but said the threat of a lawsuit creates the need for silence.