published Friday, June 14th, 2013

East Ridge suspends charter study panel

The East Ridge City Council suspended its Charter Study Commission on Thursday night.

Mayor Brent Lambert told the other four members of the council that it had created the commission in an improper fashion during a March 14 meeting. He said he was tipped off to the problem earlier Thursday when a resident called him, though he would not say who the person was when pressed by other councilmen.

Ironically, Lambert cited a section of the city's charter as the reason why the commission cannot study the charter, at least not right now. Amended in November 2008, Section 5-E states that a charter study commission will be formed every five years, or at any time when the mayor calls for it.

So the council can either wait until November to form the commission -- which it thought it formed about three months ago -- or Lambert can call for the commission. On Thursday, he declined to do that.

"Would you appoint a Charter Study Commission with the people that's on it now and make this simple?" Vice Mayor Jim Bethune asked Lambert. "Just call for it. That's all you got to do. Just call for it and then we're done."

"This is not about a power struggle," Lambert said.

He said he doesn't know the proper process. Does the city have to create a new resolution to re-appoint the commission members, or can Lambert do it by himself?

For now, the commission is on hold.

The council approved forming a commission 4-0 during a March 14 meeting. Lambert was absent, and before Thursday, he said, he did not know that he had to create the commission.

Every member of the council -- including Lambert -- appointed two people to examine the charter and suggest changes to it, such as altering the educational requirements for the East Ridge city manager position.

City Attorney

The council voted 3-2 to make Interim City Attorney Hal North its permanent attorney. North has worked for the city since December.

He will continue to make $120,000 per year. North does not have a contract with the city, so the two sides can split at any point.

Lambert and Councilman Larry Sewell voted against the appointment.

Contact Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.

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