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Staff photo by Emily Crisman / Red Bank City Attorney Arnold Stulce, left, sits next to City Manager Tim Thornbuy at a special-called meeting of the City Commission May 11. The meeting was called to discuss and vote on several matters related to Thornbury's departure.

The Red Bank City Commission this week postponed a vote on departing City Manager Tim Thornbury's employment agreement until next week.

Mayor Hollie Berry said she wanted to give commissioners more time to review an amended agreement emailed to commissioners just before this week's Tuesday meeting, which was called to vote on several matters related to the city manager position.

Only Commissioner Ruth Jeno voted against tabling the vote, stating that she did not want to put off the decision any longer.

On April 26 a majority of the commission voted to accept the terms of Thornbury's voluntary resignation, including paying him his full $110,000 annual salary and benefits to serve as a consultant on an as-needed basis until next March.

According to that agreement, Thornbury's last day as city manager would have been May 7, with his consulting duties beginning May 8.

"During this [April 26] meeting the city had no legal representation," Vice Mayor Stefanie Dalton said during a May 4 meeting.

City Attorney Arnold Stulce was present at the April 26 meeting, but recused himself because of his long professional relationship with Thornbury. At Stulce's request, Harry Cash, attorney for the town of Signal Mountain, was on standby to provide counsel if necessary.

Since the board did not vote on whether to retain legal counsel before the April 26 meeting, Dalton said, she contacted the regional and legal representatives with the University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service as well as Stulce for legal advice and clarification.

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Staff photo by Emily Crisman / Red Bank Vice Mayor Stefanie Dalton, Commissioner Ruth Jeno, Mayor Hollie Berry, attorney Mark Litchford, and Red Bank Commissioners Pete Phillips and Ed LeCompte, from left, attend a special-called meeting May 11 at City Hall.

Based on that advice, the commission this week retained the counsel of Mark Litchford, city attorney of East Ridge. Litchford advised commissioners to not share the amended agreement they received just before the May 11 meeting with the public, as doing so would waive their attorney-client privilege.

Per Thornbury's original employment contract when he became city manager in November 2018, the city is required to pay him his full annual salary and accrued vacation and sick leave if terminated without cause if that agreement is still in effect. That agreement automatically renews annually on Nov. 6 until 2024, unless Thornbury or the city provides 30 days notice of intent to sever the agreement.

If terminated for cause, or if he leaves voluntarily, he is owed only accrued vacation and sick leave.

Commissioners say they have never discussed terminating Thornbury, who submitted a letter of voluntary resignation last month along with a revised employment agreement.

"Recently, I have sensed that some of you desire a new approach in the administration of the city and that a change in the city manager position would facilitate that new approach," Thornbury wrote in his resignation email.

This week, commissioners also voted to postpone votes on using the services of MTAS in the city's search for a new city manager and on the selection of an interim city manager.

Next week's meeting is at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Red Bank City Hall.

Contact Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6508.

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