Barely 24 hours had passed since Chancellor Billy Joe White reinstated David Young as the city administrator for LaFollette.
On Wednesday White ruled the city’s termination of Young had been illegal. But before Young could return to work, the LaFollette City Council met Thursday morning, voting to terminate him once again.
Mayor Mike Stanfield started the meeting with an announcement that the city council planned to appeal White’s decision. Stanfield said he stood behind the council’s original decision for terminating Young on grounds he had allegedly sexually harrased female employees.
“We had a fireman to investigate this issue and he talked to Mrs. Dower, Linda, Amanda, and Mr. Mullens. I believed what he had to say and I believe these people today, so we’re here to decide what to do with Mr. Young’s position,” Stanfield said.
“Boys, you’re going to just spend dollar after dollar of the taxpayer’s money doing things wrong,” Councilman Bob Fannon said to his colleagues about appealing the judge’s decision.
“All we have to do is show that we had cause and he has to show that he did nothing. We had plenty of cause to dismiss Mr. Young. I’m telling the people here in the audience and here in LaFollette, we’ve got plenty of cause; I want my day in court,” Stanfield said.
“We got spanked yesterday in court, I’m part of the council, I got spanked too,” Fannon said in reference to White ruling in Young’s favor in chancery court on Wednesday.
“If you guys want to get rid of Mr. Young then the easiest thing to do would be to buy his contract out,” Fannon said.
“Well, what’s the pleasure of the council,” Stanfield asked.
“I make a motion that we terminate Mr. Young under article five of the charter, section one, eight and 9,” Councilman Hansford Hatmaker said.
Article five, section one of the city’s charter states that the city administrator shall serve at the will of the city council. The termination is also being based on the clause that Tennessee is a state where employers can hire and fire at will when it comes to employment. The charter also said the city admnsitartor shall serve “at the will of the council.”
Section eight of the charter specifically deals with the removal of the city administrator. The charter states the city administrator shall not be removed for at least 90-days after any general municipal election, but after the 90-day period is up, the administrator can then be removed only by a majority vote of the city council. It was on this basis that Hatmaker made his motion to terminate Young., he said. When the issue was put to a vote Councilman Joe Bollinger and Hatmaker voted to terminate Young. Fannon and Councilman Wayne Kitts voted against the termination, leaving the mayor to break the tie. Young was once again terminated.
Section 9 of the charter references the rules of severance pay should a city administrator be involuntarily removed from his position. Under section 9, the city charter states that if a city administrator has been in service to the city for two years or more, then he is entitled to two months of severance pay. The council had actually voted to pay Young’s severance pay during the Tuesday night council meeting, before Young was reinstated as city administrator. Young’s second termination has no affect on his receiving of severance pay.
Stanfield said he felt that the council had made the right decision in deciding to terminate Young once again.
“I couldn’t bring him back down here, it would have been a moral qualm for me,” Stanfield said minutes after Thursday morning’s meeting.
“We took an oath to protect the employees and the people of the city,” Stanfield said.
However, Fannon and Kitts do not feel good about the decision the council made to terminate Young.
“I think we’re in the same boat as before. We got spanked in court yesterday when we supposedly had cause and now we’re doing it (terminating Young) without cause,” Fannon said.
“If his (Young’s) contract is not valid, then they’re a lot of people’s contracts in this county that are not valid,” Fannon said.
Fannon feels that the lawsuits and court appeals will end up costing the city more than if the council had just bought out Young’s contract.
Kitts agreed with this.
“I said several months ago if they wanted to get rid of him, then they ought to just buy his contract out,” Kitts said.
Fannon said he fears the issue will just drag on for a year or more.