The City Council in Fort Oglethorpe seems headed toward a public hearing over an accusation that City Councilman Charles Sharrock sexually harassed a female city police detective by touching her. It's the third such accusation against Sharrock by a city employee since 2008, records show.
"The charges that were brought need to be aired out in public," Councilman Eddie Stinnett said Wednesday. "We're going to be holding a trial so all the evidence will be put out on both sides, and we'll have to make a judgment on what we hear."
After a closed-session discussion at its meeting Monday night, city councilmen voted 4-0 to start the process outlined in the city charter for removing a council member
The charter calls for a public hearing, after which council could dismiss Sharrock by written notice specifying the grounds for removal. Sharrock could appeal in Catoosa County Superior Court.
"After we hear it, all four will have to vote for his dismissal," Stinnett said. "If one of us votes no, he's still on."
Sharrock, who's served five years on council and is in his second term, declined to comment Wednesday.
The city hasn't yet set a date for a hearing.
City Manager Ron Goulart said the charter provision for removing a council member doesn't offer much flexibility.
"That particular provision doesn't give the mayor and council any latitude," Goulart said. "You remove him, or you don't."
Goulart said it's possible that the council and Sharrock could settle the matter in some other way, such as limiting Sharrock's contact with city employees. After the detective's accusation, Sharrock agreed to stay away from the police station, Goulart said.
Georgia Municipal Association spokeswoman Amy Henderson said it's rare for city councils to remove one of their own. Typically, it's for things such as falsifying expense reports.
"It's a fairly rare occurrence," Henderson said. "Oftentimes, it's resolved before it gets to [a hearing.]"
"I haven't heard of somebody being recalled for sexual harassment," Henderson said.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.