published Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

Tim Gobble has to go

  • photo
    East Ridge City Manager Tim Gobble.
    Photo by Miranda Harple

The East Ridge City Council has decided to address the contract of embattled City Manager Tim Gobble at its meeting Thursday — and for good reason. Gobble's conduct and performance have been under scrutiny for months.

The laundry list of Gobble's errors in judgment and alleged wrongdoing, outlined in previous news reports, is shocking: hiring a teenage family friend to perform a job that requires a degree and years of experience, misusing thousands of dollars in city funds, inappropriately attacking critics on the city's Facebook page and tainting a court case involving his daughter.

Last fall, when Gobble decided to hire a communications director for the city, the requirements for the position originally included a bachelor's degree and full-time experience. Applications poured in. More than 70 candidates -- many of whom had master's degrees and years of experience -- applied for the post.

Rather than hiring one of these qualified applicants, Gobble chose to hire his part-time assistant, a 19-year-old church friend named Chris Clabough, as the city's communications manager.

Gobble claims that he was allowed to elevate Clabough to fill the post, even though he was not qualified for the position, because it was a promotion rather than an outside hire. The city code, however, makes it clear that waiving job requirements to fill a position with an internal candidate is only allowed if the candidate is already a full-time city employee. Clabough was not.

In order to hire Clabough properly, Gobble should have reposted the position without the education and work experience requirement -- something that was never done. As a result, more than 70 people who were qualified were not considered for the job, and someone who is underqualified for the position is now making $35,000 a year as East Ridge's communications director.

When residents began to realize that the hiring process surrounding Clabaugh -- whom Gobble referred to as his "Jedi Knight" in an email obtained through state open records laws -- might not conform with requirements in the city code, the city code mysteriously vanished from the Internet. It was only reposted to the state website that serves as an online repository for city codes when residents began to question whether Gobble had orchestrated the document's removal to prevent people from realizing that Clabough's hiring violated the code.

•••

In addition to Gobble's questionable hiring practices, there are clear indications in public records that he plays fast and loose with tax dollars.

The line item related to maintenance for the city's community center building was budgeted for $4,000 this fiscal year. As of December, only six months into the fiscal year, Gobble had allowed $26,474 in spending toward the facility -- 662 percent more than was budgeted for the entire year.

Expenditures at the former McBrien Elementary School, which the city owns, were targeted at $5,000 during the entire 2012-13 fiscal year. Thanks to an expensive decision to install a gym for city workers, which Gobble championed, $10,297 of taxpayers' money has already been spent at McBrien, records show.

A review of credit card receipts and bank statements tied to city-managed accounts indicated that Gobble often dines out on the taxpayers' dime. Despite the fact that Gobble pulls in $125,000 a year and the average East Ridge resident earns $22,105 annually, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, it is common for Gobble to make taxpayers pick up his lunch tab.

In fact, in a span of 104 business days last year, Gobble gobbled down more than 45 meals purchased using a city credit card.

City records indicate that Gobble, Deputy City Manager and Public Safety Director Chief Eddie Phillips and Marvin "Stump" Martin, the head of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, frequently eat together and pay for each other's meals using their city-issued credit cards. By trading off who picked up the bill, and writing "official business" on the receipts they submitted to the city's accountants, the three men apparently thought no one would realize how frequently they eat out at taxpayers' expense.

On the receipts, Gobble claims that because business is discussed at the lunches, expensing the meals is legitimate. It remains unclear why the men can't simply discuss city business in their offices at no additional cost to taxpayers.

In one instance, when it seemed Gobble used his card for a legitimate dining purpose -- while attending a conference in Knoxville -- he left a $10 tip on a $25.42 lunch check. While the waiter must've appreciated the generosity, the taxpayers who actually paid for the 40 percent tip likely would not.

Gobble frequently makes East Ridge residents subsidize his sweet tooth, as well. Gobble claims that his numerous taxpayer-funded trips to Baskin-Robbins are justifiable business expenses -- as was the purchase of a bag of Sour Patch Kids and a Coke.

Under the not-so-watchful eye of Gobble, other East Ridge employees used city credit cards for questionable expenditures, as well. Outrageous examples include an $82 pair of jeans from The Buckle in Hamilton Place mall, as well as $3,374 worth of workout equipment and $1,006 for plasma TVs for the city's employees-only gym.

•••

There is a series of other situations that East Ridge City Council members should take into consideration when deciding whether to give Gobble the boot.

For example, the city code requires the city manager to become a resident of East Ridge within 90 days of beginning the position. Now, nearly two full years after being hired, Bradley County property tax records show that Gobble and his family still live in Cleveland. In an attempt to satisfy the law, he apparently rents an apartment in East Ridge and counts that as his residence while still commuting to Cleveland nearly every day, according to people close to the situation.

Additionally, a judge ruled in November 2012 that Gobble "overstepped his bounds" when he suspended several court clerks for allegedly failing to tell his daughter about scheduled changes in a Sept. 3 court case concerning an incident in which she was allegedly robbed. The attorneys for the defendant argued that Gobble's actions tainted the case by interfering with the court's neutrality.

As it turns out, a clerk had, in fact, notified Gobble's daughter of the scheduling change by leaving a message on her answering machine, according to a Times Free Press report.

Many of the details of the situation between Gobble and the court clerks made its way to the city's Facebook page. That's because, until recently, Gobble managed to turn the official East Ridge Facebook page into his personal vanity page where he defended his questionable actions, attacked his critics and posted pictures of himself working out in the expensive gym he helped to build with tax dollars.

Tim Gobble's inability to follow the rules and his apparent disregard for taxpayers' money leave the East Ridge City Council with only one option when it meets Thursday: present him with a well-earned pink slip and show him to the door.

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AndrewLohr said...

Does his dining out with other govt people comply with open meetings laws?

February 2, 2013 at 12:18 a.m.
Frances said...

Thank you Mr. Johnson!! Ice cream, candy and cokes!!! Unbelievable!! Well, really it isn't, nothing that Mr. Gobble does surprises me anymore.

February 2, 2013 at 6:59 a.m.
shen said...

I thought E. Ridge begged for Gobble, even a Bradley County residents issued clear warnings. Now they're crying and slobbering all over the place? Be careful what you ask for.

February 2, 2013 at 8:07 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

Any wonder why the Secret Service let Gobble go? Why everyone that hired him was happy to see him take another job?

Bring back the Goat and get rid of the Turkey. Gobble must go!

February 2, 2013 at 8:38 a.m.
hadassah said...

Any wonder that every employer that he has ever had has let him go. Interesting that they have all been on the taxpayers dime. He could never make it in the private sector. I agree trade the goat for the ass.

February 2, 2013 at 9:18 a.m.
Facts said...

I suppose that means he'll now run for Congress again & be supported by all the Desjarlais losers that were originally with Gobble. Retread losers.

February 2, 2013 at 12:02 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

East Ridge is up for a tax increase. Seems Tiny Tim needs a bigger office for his ego, Director of Copies and Coffee, treadmill, and yet-to-be-hired friends and relatives.

Why does East Ridge need a mayor when Tiny Tim is running the show? Does the mayor clock-in each day to report to Tiny for his daily duties? Maybe Tiny needs two coffee runners.

February 2, 2013 at 3:33 p.m.
medrep63 said...

TIm Gobble is an ego-maniac...from the Secret Service to Cleveland City Council, Cleveland EMA, Bradley County Sheriff, his run for Congress ( now that was a total joke! ) and now East Ridge! When will people learn, he is trouble with a capital T. I went to Cleveland High School with Tim, and there he was pretty much a nothing, a zero, scrawny, unpopular kid..you get the idea. So he grows up ( laughing )and gets all these jobs in the public sector on the taxpayers dime, and blows them all. He is incapable of getting along with people..obviously. Where you have Tim, you have trouble. His brother owns a business in Cleveland fixing cars, and he totally rips people off. They are two like minded people...oh and btw..they grew up in the Church of Christ..there every time the doors are open..it's always the "churchiest" people who are the "scummiest!!" Please Tim when you get booted from East Ridge next week, dont try for another job in Cleveland...just go away..you are a sad pathetic, dishonest person.

February 2, 2013 at 3:50 p.m.
medrep63 said...

PS: A friend of mine was struggling to put up a tent post at a festival in Cleveland once..it was while he was sheriff and running for Congress. He came running into the tent to help her, until he realized she was a reporter for a local paper that usually had nothing good to say about him..Being the testy guy he is, he dropped the post and walked out, but not before he said a nasty comment to her about her reporting skills..and btw his usual tenure is about two years, so East Ridge be grateful..his time is almost up!!

February 2, 2013 at 3:58 p.m.
Lr103 said...

daystonsdawrin said: Bring back the Goat and get rid of the Turkey hadassah said: trade the goat for the ass

Not in the defense of Gobble. Never really caredfor him. However, like when Chattanooga was all up in arms about immigrants moving to the area, E. Ridge too demanded an ordinance against livestock of any kind within city limits. They feared those darn newcomer immigrants from south of the border would stink up the city with their cultural tradition of raising livestock such as chickens and goats in their front yards.

But Timmy sho' nuf is purty.

February 2, 2013 at 4:08 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

I understand the ordnance but maybe it's time to repeal it. Since Mayor Lambert has nothing to do but collect a paycheck now that Gobble's in charge, maybe Lambert could become East Ridge's Official Goat-Herder and Chicken Catcher. Give Lambert a pooper-scooper and put him on patrol.

Drop Lambert's salary down to minimum wage and make him useful while he's serving King Timmy the First!

February 2, 2013 at 4:54 p.m.
Lr103 said...

The point I was making is folks always think their plans are meant to hurt the other guy and not them. Just like the barking dog and loud musich ordinance, Chattanoogans once demanded. Then when they found themselves being cited for barking dogs or their children being stopped and ticketed for playing their car stereos too loud, there was sudden silence on the issue. The complaints mysteriously stopped.

February 2, 2013 at 5:39 p.m.
Salsa said...

Sounds like East Ridge politicians have their new good old boy city manager selected and waiting in the darkness for an introduction. Should be a good show. All we need is some fresh popcorn. East Ridge politics is the greatest show on earth these days.

February 2, 2013 at 5:49 p.m.
hadassah said...

I want to know who got the blue jeans from Buckle? That should be a reason for termination.

February 2, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

With all those meal that East Ridge taxpayers are buying maybe it's time for the Tiny Tim Restaurant and Grill at City Hall. Tiny Tim could be Chef Ramsey, Eddie Roberts could deliver the food in his Cadillac, and Stump Martin could bus the tables.

It would be nice to see these three earn thier pay. What about Timmy? You could yell at the city clerk servers, Eddie and Stump, and save the taxpayer's money. Have your Director of Copies and Coffee wash windows, update your Facebook page, and wipe the sweat from your brow as you workout.

You could bill the City for overtime and treat the ex-East Ridge Attorney Anderson to steak and caviar.

What a racket!

February 2, 2013 at 7:05 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

Today, Sunday, Feb 3, 2013, I see where Gobble has an article on chattanoogan.com bemoaning the TFP editorial by Drew Johnson.

Here's my question for Gobble.

Why don't you have an interview with Mr. Johnson at the TFP, bring your supporting documents, and the TFP can record the interview for playback?

Let's see who's telling the truth, see who's telling lies, and see if Gobble is the above-board politician he claims to be.

Are you reading this Tim? Let's see if you have the cajones to face the accusations from the one who made them.

Leave your lawyer at home Gobble, this is a man-to-man thing. It would be good PR if you show up and can defend yourself. It will be considered a run-and hide if you don't.

The balls are in your court. Got any?

February 3, 2013 at 8:45 a.m.
Frances said...

Daytondarwin, an editoral taped interview to plead his case, I like it. TFP please invite him for a sit down. I am an ER citizen and I will provide the donuts, on my dime not the city's. Let me know when to have the donuts there.

February 4, 2013 at 4:27 a.m.
prc said...

Wow, I used to think good news, bad news, was news for Gobble. I have always been pretty sure he likes to see himself on videos and the internet. Before, he always had that little useless fat man with a camera riding around with him. Now with all that is going on, I think he simply has a screw loose. That Jedi Knight stuff smells fishy to me. Bet there is way more to that story.

Ever noticed it is always the small little towns he always gets settled in? That big old DC attitude, he must think we are a bunch of dumb push around hillbillies. It is my understanding he got showed the road from the secret service and ran back home like a little girl. It looks like it is always the same thing. Documents disappear, incorrect use of credit cards, flying off the handle, buying anything he wants, jobs only given to the submissive ones, claiming ideas of others, making no sense, and rebounding using fast fancy words with no proof. Should he give in to an interview, no chance, but it would only be interesting maybe half way through. This circus is far from over. That resume is getting pretty bad from each move he makes. Only stupid fools will hire him to yet another catastrophe. He was only a sheriff for two years in my book. Wasn’t around much the second two years. I bet Bradley County was glad to be off life support when he left. You know, most of us will always have a boss while working but a boss that is equaled to An intravenous drip feed, this has got to be a rough way to go. It has always been budget funds out weighing ethics and even safety of others and n o b o d y mattered except him. Kind of makes me want to go to Bradley county and give a deputy a sympathetic hug.

February 4, 2013 at 11:54 a.m.
jongraham54 said...

I am the man who's case he "tainted" . i was arrested on false accusations on a burglary that happened to my neighbor. was treated horribly on accusations that made no sense. caused me to lose my job and my home not to mention my name and a record i would never imagine i would have. .this is the hardest most confusing thing iv'e ever been through in my life and its not over yet. Makes me scared for justice and other people that would have to go through what my family has these past 5 months

February 7, 2013 at 1:40 p.m.
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