On Tuesday morning, Chris Dorsey was supervising more than 50 employees and making decisions for a city of 11,000 as Red Bank city manager.
Twenty-four hours later, he filed for unemployment.
Dorsey said it was the only logical move after commissioners voted 3-2 to fire him Tuesday after six years as city manager, the last marked by lawsuits, political infighting and economic uncertainty.
His contract stipulates that, upon termination, he is entitled to half of both his $91,800 salary and his $6,600 annual car allowance. He also will receive health insurance for his family and other benefits for six months.
Commissioners have threatened since January to fire Dorsey. The vote came just one month after his contract automatically renewed for a seventh year. City Attorney Arnold Stulce declined to state the total value of Dorsey’s severance package.
Dorsey said he stayed at Red Bank City Hall until 11 p.m. Tuesday, cleaning his office and hearing “nothing personal, just business” from the three commissioners calling for his ouster — Vice Mayor Greg Jones and Commissioners Floy Pierce and John Roberts.
“I think it was political,” Dorsey said Wednesday. “It was kind of surprising that the motion was made at the very end of a meeting.”
Roberts said Wednesday he had received insufficiently detailed police department progress report from Dorsey. He made the motion to fire Dorsey, calling it a “gamble” Wednesday.
“I was rolling the dice [Tuesday] night,” he said. “It was a 50-50 shot.”
Unprompted, Roberts added, “I did not talk to anybody else before it.”
State law prohibits elected officials from privately deliberating toward a decision related to city business.
But Commissioner Ruth Jeno, who voted against firing Dorsey, said Roberts planned Tuesday night in advance and got “two votes in 30 seconds with no discussion.”
“I was professional enough to tell Chris what my problems were and we talked about them and brought them into the open,” Jeno said, adding that she might resign over the Dorsey flap.
Pierce did not return several calls seeking comment.
Though he voted against firing Dorsey, Mayor Monty Millard had more criticism than praise for Dorsey’s tenure.
“There’s mixed feelings about Chris,” Millard said, pausing. “In some areas he’s done an outstanding job. He had done a great job in managing the money in our city.”
But Millard also listed grievances, including high turnover in the police department and a failure to repair police facilities quickly.
Millard was twice arrested by the Red Bank Police Department while Dorsey was city manager, though the charges have been dropped. Millard said his personal troubles have “nothing to do with this whatsoever” and characterized Roberts’ motion as “an absolute shock.”
“I was ready to get home and watch baseball,” he said.
The mayor said the city would promptly start the search for a new city manager. He said he would require the next hire to live within Red Bank city limits. Dorsey lives eight miles outside the city in Hixson, something Millard said was a problem.
Dorsey came to Red Bank in 2005 after 18 years in Memphis city government. All four commissioners interviewed Wednesday praised Dorsey’s financial skills, but they criticized how he handled personnel.
In July 2010, then-police officer Bradley Hanon privately lobbied Jones and Pierce to work toward the dismissal of then-Police Chief Larry Sneed. Hanon later sued Dorsey, among others, for keeping Sneed employed so long and ignoring what Hanon perceived as problems within the police department.
Hanon later resigned after an outside investigation commissioned by Dorsey found that he and a police corporal illegally searched a home in Red Bank.
Chris Carroll covers federal politics for the Times Free Press. A Chattanooga native, he went to Red Bank High School and graduated with honors from East Tennessee State University. Chris investigated violent crime, municipal government and hospitals before taking the political beat. For tornado coverage, he and Pam Sohn won a first-place Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors deadline reporting award. In 2010, Chris won the Golden Press Card Award of Merit and another deadline reporting ...