Red Bank City Manager Chris Dorsey said Tuesday that he was "pointed by a commissioner" toward unspecified "issues" that led to the firing of the city's top law enforcement officer.
Repeating that only he is in charge of hiring and firing city employees, Mr. Dorsey added that his source was not Vice Mayor Monty Millard, the commissioner arrested twice in the last year by the Red Bank Police Department, which was led until Friday by ex-Chief Larry Sneed.
Red Bank Mayor Joe Glasscock and Commissioner Ruth Jeno said they opposed the firing and didn't know anything about Mr. Sneed's termination until after the man responsible for city employment - Mr. Dorsey - fired him. Commissioner Greg Jones said "in no way whatsoever" did he discuss the matter with Mr. Dorsey.
That leaves Commissioner Floy Pierce.
"I really can't comment on any of this right now," she said. "I have my own thoughts, but I can't reveal them."
The comments came before about 100 people packed Red Bank City Hall to capacity Tuesday night, at least a dozen of them demanding to hear the reasons behind Mr. Sneed's dismissal.
One Red Bank resident questioned how the decision was made.
"Was there any Sunshine Law that was broken with the way this was handled?" Marlene Eberhardt asked, referring to a state law that prohibits elected officials from making public policy decisions in secret.
After Mr. Glasscock said "I don't know," City Attorney Arnold Stulce shrugged, and neither the remaining commissioners nor Mr. Dorsey answered the question.
"Is it my understanding that it just takes three commissioners to fire you?" Ms. Eberhardt asked Mr. Dorsey.
Mr. Dorsey said her understanding was correct, and Ms. Eberhardt replied, "that's all I needed to say."
City records show that Mrs. Pierce often votes with Mr. Millard and Mr. Jones on contested issues facing the commission. There was no vote before Mr. Sneed was terminated.
The trio chose not to comment on the firing as opposed to Mr. Glasscock and Ms. Jeno, who said they support rehiring Mr. Sneed and that the firing was "backroom politics."
According to the Red Bank City Charter and Tennessee state law, a city manager can be fired only "at the will" of the Board of Commissioners. Mr. Jones, Mr. Millard and Mrs. Pierce constitute a majority of votes on the five-member commission.
"At no time did any commission member ask me to dismiss Larry Sneed," Mr. Dorsey said at the meeting.
Mr. Sneed's contract was considered an "at will" deal, meaning his employment could be "terminated at any time, with or without cause, for any reason, or for no reason" by the city manager, according to a memo that detailed the former chief's hiring in 2003.
Several current and former Red Bank Police Department officers lined the courthouse wall Tuesday night, but none of them spoke. Mr. Glasscock stated before the public comment period of the meeting that people who don't live in Red Bank would be prohibited from speaking.
Four current Red Bank police officers declined comment after the meeting.
After Ms. Jeno made the comment that commissioners need to "quit acting like third graders on a playground," one resident made a similar argument, even recommending the city hire a mediator to keep everyone on the same page.
"Spend our tax money on somebody straightening you all up," Red Bank resident Betty Heffington said to applause.
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