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Debate on Young’s contract on hold; grievance still looms

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By Jennifer Caldwell

The post July 4 fireworks anticipated for Tuesday’s LaFollette City Council meeting proved to be little more than sparks when Councilman Hansford Hatmaker decided to hold off on action to revoke City Administrator David Young’s contract.

When Hatmaker made a motion to void Young’s contract Reid Troutman, city attorney, took the opportunity to interject some legal advice.

Troutman told Hatmaker he had spoken with the TML attorney who suggested the council sit on the issue until a court hands down a ruling on the validity of the contract.  

According to Troutman, because Young’s contract is currently the subject of litigation making a decision on the contract would be ill advised.

“Well, I’m just going by what state law says,” Hatmaker said, arguing that the city charter does not allow the council to enter into a contract with the city administrator.

Again Troutman cautioned Hatmaker against making a hasty decision on the matter.

“You really need to have an opinion from a court before you make a decision,” Troutman said. “If a court says it’s a good contract and you have already voted against it, it could cost the city some money.”

After some consideration Hatmaker decided to follow Troutman’s advice.

The grievance filed by City Recorder Linda White against Young continued to create controversy.

During last week’s workshop, council members voted in favor of appointing codes inspector Wayne Gregg to investigate the grievance, despite Gregg’s current medical leave status.

On Tuesday night, Mayor Mike Stanfield informed the group that because Gregg had declined to head up the investigation they were back to square one in the selection process.

Troutman again apprised the council of the rules for selecting an investigator.

According to the city’s employee handbook, grievances must be investigated by a city employee, according to Troutman.

Councilman Joe Bolinger suggested that Troutman or city judge Wes Hatmaker be selected for the job.

“I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to do it,” Troutman said citing previous attorney client relationships with both White and Young as his reason for being removed from consideration.

When Councilman Bob Fannon asked his colleagues to consider appointing a LaFollette Police Department detective White was opposed.

“I don’t want anyone from the police department,” White said adamantly.

Despite a request from Fannon, White was not quick to divulge her reasoning.

“Bob, I don’t want to say why I don’t want them, but it you want me to I will,” White warned Fannon.

Seeking some clarity on the matter Fannon turned to Troutman for an explanation of which if any parties the council is required to appease.

“Does David or Linda have a yea or nay in what we do,” Fannon asked.  Troutman responded that the approval of White and Young was not necessary in the selection process.

As the discussion heated up White leveled an accusation at Fannon.

“I don’t want the police department because I know of one occasion where Bob called and had some charges dropped and I’m afraid he might do that again because David is his buddy,” White said.

When Fannon asked what occasion she was referring to, White said it involved a theft incident at Fannon’s business, which he dropped the charged on.

Fannon argued that the matter involved his personal business, which gave him the right to decide whether or not to press charges.

On the heels of the dispute, Fannon’s motion to enlist LPD detectives to investigate the grievance failed with Stanfield breaking the tie vote.

While Troutman offered that neither Young nor White’s opinion had to be considered, Hatmaker continued to express an interest in White’s view.

Hatmaker asked White if she would be satisfied with allowing Chief James Lynch handle the inquiry, to which she responded no.

As negotiations ground to a halt Troutman told the group it was imperative that they agree on an investigator in order to put the matter to rest.

“One way or another this has to be dealt with,” Troutman told the group.

Following more discussion, the council finally agreed to approach Gary Byrd of the fire department chief with the job.  

In other business, council members voted in favor of temporarily changing retirement requirements to allow employees the opportunity for early retirement.

With the changes employees who are 57 years of age and have completed 20 years of service can retire with medical benefits until the age they become eligible for Medicare.  

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