published Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Georgia state Sen. Jeff Mullis wants Fort Oglethorpe coup, turmoil examined

Georgia Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, talks during an interview.
Georgia Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, talks during an interview.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Georgia state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, introduced a resolution calling for the creation of a seven-person Fort Oglethorpe Charter Study Committee to look into recent controversial city actions.

The mayor and City Council forced the resignation of the city manager and fired the police chief and public works director, Mullis' Senate Resolution 693 states, and "these acts have created a great amount of turmoil and consternation among the citizens of the city."

Fort Oglethorpe residents have suggested the mayor and council's action was an "abuse of power," the resolution states, and they question whether the actions were permissible. So Mullis will appoint a committee to study the city's charter to see if it should be rewritten or amended to address the situation.

Mullis said in a statement, "I've received hundreds of phone calls regarding Fort Oglethorpe, and this resolution is a direct response to those citizens who have asked me to take action.

"We can look at implementing measures that will prevent the future abuse of power by the mayor and some of the City Council members."

Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Lynn Long said Friday that he hadn't seen Mullis' resolution.

"I think Jeff Mullis needs to worry about Atlanta, not about Fort Oglethorpe," the mayor said. "I don't think the citizens of the city of Fort Oglethorpe appreciate a state senator meddling in their business."

Long acknowledged that the state Legislature has the power to review the city's charter.

"They can do anything they want to -- they proved that on 42 acres," he said, alluding to legislation that deannexed a 42-acre parcel on Battlefield Parkway from city limits, leaving it under county jurisdiction. The county allows Sunday sales of alcohol, and that makes the property more attractive to developers.

Committee members will include voters and city residents, along with business owners.

"I am looking forward to continuing the discussion over Fort Oglethorpe throughout the spring and summer and engaging in open and honest conversations with concerned citizens and stakeholders," Mullis stated.

The Fort Oglethorpe Charter Study Committee will have a Dec. 31 deadline to report on its findings or make recommendations for legislation, the resolution states.

It wasn't immediately clear Friday afternoon who would appoint committee members: Mullis by himself or with help from Fort Oglethorpe's state representatives, Jay Neal, R-LaFayette, and Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold.

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 township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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