published Saturday, September 1st, 2012

East Ridge mayor blasts councilman in email

IF YOU GO

East Ridge's special called meeting will be held Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in East Ridge City Hall at 1517 Tombras Ave.

  • photo
    Email from East Ridge mayor, Brent Lambert, to Tim Gobble

East Ridge's mayor scolded a city councilman in a scathing email Thursday, accusing him of purposely planning a special meeting while the mayor was on vacation, warning the councilman "not to forget your place," and threatening to have the councilman's car towed.

Mayor Brent Lambert sent the email to Councilman Jim Bethune the morning after a special meeting was held to resolve the future of an unfinished city construction project in a residential neighborhood.

Lambert said he was not consulted before the meeting was called, making it illegal.

In the email obtained by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Lambert said he tried to have the meeting time changed but received no response which, according to Lambert's email, meant that Bethune and another councilman either had "serious reading comprehension issues" or they gave misleading reasons for calling the meeting.

"I have never yet called a meeting without checking everyone's availability. That practice will now end since professional courtesy apparently means nothing to you," Lambert stated in the email.

Lambert goes on to say that he'll have to "clean up your mess when I return" to avoid potential legal conflicts arising from the questionable impropriety of the meeting.

"And by the way," he concludes, "If you park in my parking space again, I will have your vehicle towed."

Bethune said Friday that he was not upset by the email.

"My reaction was that it was the most childish thing I've ever seen," he said.

Lambert said he sent the email to Bethune, council and city staff directors to "stand up to the schoolyard bully."

"He has consistently tried to undercut me and insult my position," Lambert said. "He may not want me to be mayor, but for two more years, that is what I am and he needs to accept that."

Lambert said he wants to get the work done at Cedar Glen, but he is worried about setting "a horribly bad precedent" if the decisions are made in a meeting with questionable legality.

"This latest round of drama was totally unnecessary," he said.

The mayor has called for a special meeting that essentially will be a "do-over" of the meeting called last week to deal with city repair work in the Cedar Glen neighborhood. Bethune and Councilman Denny Manning requested the meeting earlier this week after the city abruptly pulled the plug on construction work on several small bridges in the neighborhood, leaving several drainage ditches and culverts that residents believe are dangerous.

In the special meeting Wednesday, the five-member council voted 3-1 to complete the work. Lambert previously had voted in an April meeting to have the work done.

City Attorney John Anderson said that, because the mayor had not been called before the meeting was held, it could be challenged as an illegal meeting. If there is a repeat vote Tuesday, Anderson said it would have to be a ratification of the previous resolution that was voted through "in a forum that was not proper."

Bethune said a new meeting is unnecessary.

"There was nothing done that was under the table," he said. "All the people in Cedar Glen are upset because of the way things are going. [Lambert] just feels like he's been left out, I guess. I have no hard feelings."

Susan Daniels, a Cedar Glen resident who for eight months has led the charge for getting the bridges repaired, said she is worried that amidst the drama at City Hall, residents are being forgotten.

"I'm disappointed in our city government," she said. "At this point, I don't know what's going on with the mayor. If this is just a re-do of the last meeting, why wouldn't the mayor just give the last meeting his blessing, since the vote was already 3-to-1? Why are they making the residents go to yet another meeting?"

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