published Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Newcomer holding lead in Red Bank


by Chris Carroll

A political newcomer led Red Bank Mayor Joe Glasscock by 10 votes Tuesday night, but the mayor dismissed the idea of a recount as the city defends itself against lawsuits and a perception of chronic infighting.

“I won’t contest it,” the 78-year-old Glasscock said. “Maybe if it’s by one vote or something like that.”

“All I have to say is ‘Bush and Gore 2000,’” John Roberts said late Tuesday night. “Out of respect to Joe Glasscock, too close to call.”

Assuming he holds the lead — only one precinct had not reported its numbers at press time — Roberts, 34, will become the new at-large commissioner while incumbents Floy Pierce and Greg Jones will keep their seats on the Board of Commissioners.

Pierce defeated Robert Perry and David Smith, while Jones held off Edward LeCompte.

Unlike Chattanooga and most other cities in Hamilton County, Red Bank residents do not elect the mayor. Commissioners selected Glasscock in 2008, and they will select the mayor at the Nov. 16 meeting when all the new members are sworn in.

Election Day concluded a rowdy campaign in which candidates accused each other of secret meetings, political conspiracy and fraud, sometimes in the same day.

A two-term incumbent, Pierce, 67, keeps her seat after missing two political forums that every other candidate attended. She said during the campaign that she might “regret” shying away from those forums if she lost.

“I felt in my heart that I would be doing right by not saying something that would do our city harm,” she said Tuesday.

Jones, 45, kept his seat despite taking heat from residents who didn’t think he did enough as a commissioner. During one meeting, Red Bank Neighborhood Pride Association President Darin Wright scolded Jones for saying hello to his mother rather than discussing city affairs.

“I look forward to being more involved with the city of Red Bank,” Jones said.

The new board likely will keep City Manager Chris Dorsey, who suffered politically after never offering a detailed explanation about the firing former police chief Larry Sneed last summer.

After Sneed was let go, several former police officers told the Times Free Press that Dorsey made the right decision. Some said Sneed’s leadership style felt more like harassment, with ex-officer Sean Shelton using the word “monster” in his description.

Before the firing, Pierce and Jones were aggressive as liaisons between the city manager and the police force, even conducting a private meeting “to direct complaints or information of concern to the city manager,” according to a news release.

Sneed sued the city for $1.5 million, and his attorney wrote that Pierce and Jones broke an open meetings law and hatched a political conspiracy — persuading Dorsey to fire Sneed after the chief twice arrested their friend and political ally, Vice Mayor Monty Millard. Within weeks, two other police officers and a DUI offender had filed $1.5 million lawsuits against the city.

“The truth will be forthcoming, and I don’t know if vindicated would be the word, but the voters have spoken,” Jones said Tuesday. “We look forward to all the truth being known.”

Glasscock hammered Pierce and Jones in several public settings, insinuating during the campaign that, if the candidates he supported were elected, Dorsey’s job could be in jeopardy because of how he handled the Sneed situation.

Contact Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6610.

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