A high-ranking staff member for Mayor Ron Littlefield withdrew her name Tuesday from consideration as City Court clerk and within minutes two city judges walked out of the room after being called "unprofessional" by the city's mayor.
Anita Ebersole, deputy to the mayor, announced Tuesday she would withdraw her name from consideration as City Court clerk.
But within minutes, Mayor Ron Littlefield stood up and proclaimed the two city judges as "unprofessional," which led to City Court Judges Russell Bean and Sherry Paty walking out of the council chambers.
"If there were concerns about the about the clerk's office, why wasn't it addressed four years ago?" Paty told the council, just before she walked out.
The storm that swooped in on the council Tuesday started over the weekend when Mayor Ron Littlefield placed Ebersole's name on the agenda to be named City Court clerk. The job has been handled by interim City Court clerk Jan Turner for the last four and a half years.
Bean and Paty said in interviews over the weekend they felt the mayor only intended to place her in the position so she could ride out her time until retirement. They also questioned her experience and the fact she would still maintain a salary of $95,000 annually, twice the amount Turner makes.
Ebersole told council members Tuesday she had already reached retirement status and within the city and she only wanted to go to the position to help improve it. She told the council she had years of previous experience working within the court system.
But in the end, she said she wanted the controversy to die.
"I don't want to put any council member in the position of voting for me or against me," she said. "I'm withdrawing my name from consideration and no vote is necessary."
She told the council she considered "this matter ended."
But Littlefield stood up after some brief comments by Councilman Jack Benson and Bean and said the blame for no progress at the clerk's office rests on the shoulders of Paty and Bean.
"It's held back by the judges wanting to keep things the way they are," he said.
He told the council the judges should spend more time telling what they do want and less time talking about what they don't want.
Paty immediately rose to respond, but Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said she would not accept any more comments unless it was about the court clerk position. Councilwoman Deborah Scott began to speak about an attempt to "get rid of City Court."
"You're out of order," Ladd said.
"We heard the executive office give damnation to the City Court judges and then were not going to let the judges respond," Scott responded.
Paty once again tried to talk, but Ladd told her the council was moving on.
Paty said afterward the judges never opposed any changes the mayor had for the City Court system. She said he never consults them when changes are being made.
"I'm not opposed to what they want to do," she said. "It's the manner in which they do it."
Bean said as a judge he could not believe the council would not let them have a chance to speak.
"I'm very disappointed in the council not letting us respond," he said.
Cliff has worked for the Times Free Press for five years and covers Chattanooga city government. He previously covered Rhea County, as well as transportation and growth and development in Southeast Tennessee. A native of Maryville, Tenn., Cliff graduated in 2003 from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis on journalism. Before coming to Chattanooga, he was a crime reporter with Hernando Today, a supplement of The Tampa (Fla.) ...