published Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Ex-city manager for Fort Oglethorpe wants video removed

Former Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart
Former Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart
Ronnie Moore

Former Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart hand-delivered a notice to City Hall on Friday demanding that the city stop showing video on cable television of a May 20 council meeting that he asserts is slanderous and defamatory.

Goulart, an attorney, said Councilman Johnnie "Red" Smith made "malicious statements" about him when he served as city manager.

"The statements by Johnnie Smith were calculated to injure and damage my character and reputation for truth," Goulart's notice states. "... He willfully and maliciously imputed that I had committed unlawful acts."

Smith declined to be interviewed.

"I'm not going to say anything," Smith said. "No comment."

But Mayor Lynn Long said that, on advice of City Attorney Robert Stultz, the video would continue to air.

"I'm sorry that Mr. Goulart is all bent out of shape," Long said. "According to our attorney, Johnnie's within his [rights]."

$5,000 in cash

Goulart said Smith's comments stem from an instance in which a business owner on Battlefield Parkway left an envelope with $5,000 in cash on the desk of former construction codes enforcement inspector Mike Stewart to pay for building permits.

"[Stewart] immediately took the money and went straight to the clerk's office," Goulart said. "You don't go in there and throw down cash and leave.

"Everything was done by the book, and Johnnie knows that," Goulart said. "He's saying, 'I don't know what happened to the money.' He's lying. He knows exactly."

Long said he's asked the city's police department to investigate the cash delivery.

"I wasn't there when all the cash flip-flopped around," Long said.

Goulart's legal notice also took issue with what he said were Smith's "wanton and reckless statements ... that I had unlawfully not collected a sewer fee ... and had lied about my knowledge of a new business that is now located in the city."

Long, Smith and Councilman Louis Hamm backed Goulart's forced resignation on March 22. That was quickly followed by the appointment of interim City Manager Harold Silcox, who immediately fired Police Chief David Eubanks and Public Works Director Jeff Long.

Angry residents have packed into City Council meetings following the employees' dismissals. Eubanks and Long are suing the city over their firings.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties 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. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township┬╣s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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