East Ridge fires police chief and hires seventh city manager in 11 years during council meeting

East Ridge fires police chief and hires seventh city manager in 11 years during council meeting

March 14th, 2019 by Davis Lundy in Local Regional News

In this 2011 staff file photo, Red Bank City Manager Chris Dorsey talks about the plans for building a new city hall.

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

Updated at 10:58 p.m. on Thursday, March 14, 2019, with more information.

After 112 days, acting East Ridge City Manager Kenny Custer fired Police Chief J.R. Reed, according to a press release from the city issued following the regularly scheduled city council meeting Thursday night.

Reed, who was placed on administrative leave on Nov. 21, was terminated effective Thursday, according to the two-paragraph release.

"After several months of investigation, the administration for the City determined the separation with Chief Reed was deemed necessary," the release states.

Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / East Ridge Police Chief James Reed answers questions from reporters following the capture of a manhunt suspect at the entrance of Camp Jordan on Thursday, October 4, 2018 in East Ridge, Tennessee. Law enforcement employed the use of K-9 Units, a drone and officers on foot to find the suspect.

Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / East...

Photo by Erin O. Smith

Custer said on March 1 that the investigation was complete and that he would decide "within the week."

Custer said in his letter suspending Reed, a 26-year employee, that allegations against Reed included "internal financial audit of confiscated funds and goods, lack of department leadership, management of investigations, handling of open records requests, and allowing a hostile employee environment to exist."

The Times Free Press reported a series of incidents involving Reed and the East Ridge Police Department in December 2018. The incidents include circumventing protocol in the closure of an East Ridge business and monitoring of a gated community, a lack of basic supplies for officers, personnel issues with officers and a November 2018 arrest in which the suspect was stunned in the testicles and choked unconscious.

Earlier, the council made quick work of selecting Hixson resident Chris Dorsey as its seventh city manager since 2008. Dorsey, currently the city manager of Sparta, Tennessee, was the only person nominated and was a unanimous choice of the five-person council.

During the regularly scheduled meeting, the pounding rain on the city hall roof was not a bad omen for the council hiring it seventh city manager in 11 years. New council member Andrea Witt made the motion to hire Dorsey and other members concurred in less than three minutes, leaving the council chamber sunnier than the weather outside.

"I appreciate the faith the city council has shown toward me," said Darcy, who was told of the vote as he drove home from Sparta. "I look forward to talking with the city [Friday]."

The council approved an offer sheet for the new city manager prior to selecting Dorsey. The package will include a base salary of $115,000, a $450-per-month car allowance, two weeks of paid vacation, five sick days, a phone and a 10 percent contribution to a retirement program.

"I think he will do well," said Mayor Brian Williams. "I said from the beginning that I do not want to have another revolving door, and I surely hope that is the case. I think Chris is looking for something long term and believe he wants to be here."

Dorsey served as city manager in Red Bank for six years and in Signal Mountain for eight months. Dorsey turned down the East Ridge job in 2013 before accepting a position in Sparta.

"I think he is going to be a good fit," said Vice Mayor Esther Helton, who also serves the community in the state General Assembly. "He has roots in Hamilton County. If anyone has a chance to make it past two years, it is him."

The opening occurred when City Manager Scott Miller retired in August 2018 after serving for two years. Williams said the decision was made to not fill the position until after the November 2018 election, which resulted in his election as mayor and two new council members. The council incorporated the duties of director of city services into a new assistant city manager position on Nov. 2, and appointed Kenny Custer to the position.

In other action, Custer updated the council on a strategic plan being developed for the police department. He said a committee has held community meetings with citizens, officers and administrators in the department.

"We are very excited about what the outcome will be," said Custer. "We are seeing a true benefit to the strategic planning session."

Custer said the fire department would soon begin a strategic planning process and that Williams had suggested doing one for the city council.

Additionally, East Ridge's SWAT team, deactivated last summer after citizen concerns revealed a lack of supplies — including body armor and weapons — is now fully activated, according to acting police Chief Stan Allen, who said all armor is in place and the department is waiting on delivery of several weapons.


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