Ft. Oglethorpe's city charter under the microscope - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Ft. Oglethorpe's city charter under the microscope

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A battle is brewing in Fort Oglethorpe over the future of the city's charter. It was thrown into question after several officials were suddenly fired last year. The council is expected to discuss a new charter at its meeting Monday night.

Last year a state senator formed a review committee to look over the city's charter and power structure, after the sudden firing of the police chief, the public works director and the city manager. In the meantime, the city formed its own committee. The mayor says the state has no business telling the city what to do.

"If this could happen to the city of Fort Oglethorpe, it could happen to Rossville, it could happen to Chickamauga, it could happen to Lafayette," said Ft. Oglethorpe's Mayor Lynn Long.

Long is not happy the state is looking to revise the city's charter.

"Bottom line is, I don't want the state senate to tell me what to do. That's just the bottom line. And I don't think the citizens of the city of Fort Oglethorpe want that to happen either."

District 53 Senator Jeff Mullis formed a committee to see if last year's firings of City Manager Ron Goulart, Police Chief David Eubanks and Public Works Director Jeff Long were an abuse of power.

"They didn't comply with the existing charter. The existing charter said that, that process of removal had to be public. And it wasn't," said Steve Cooper.

Cooper is chair of the state review committee. He says the city brought the intervention on itself.

"To live in a city that has that reputation of the 'good ole boy' politics of the deep South of many years ago, in my opinion, doesn't hold a place here," said Cooper.

"We'll never get anything done in the city of Fort Oglethorpe. We'll have a council that's dead, no matter what," said Ron Hodges.

Ron Hodges is the chair of the city's review committee, which has created its own charter. He says the state's version strips any tie-breaking voting power away from the mayor. As it stands now, there are only four members on the council.
"This is how you keep government healthy," said Cooper.

Cooper says the state-pushed charter is still being reviewed before it is presented to the legislature, and ultimately the governor for approval.

"As I've been informed, the state can do whatever they choose," said Long.

The city council will have to have a first vote in order to get the ball rolling to eventually get its version of the charter on the May ballot. Count on Channel 3 to let you know what happens.

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