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Board declines to override mayor’s veto of resoluation on city manager

By Bill ShortFlag City Logo

The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen declined this week to override the mayor’s veto of a resolution regarding the city manager form of government.

At Monday night’s board meeting, a resolution to reconsider the vetoed one died when it failed to receive a motion and a second.

On Jan. 7, in response to a recommendation by City Attorney Barbara Lapides, the board adopted a resolution stating that it supports the city manager form of government, as well as the “role and authority” of the city manager under the Charter, and that it has “no present intent” to amend the Charter to “diminish” that.

In accordance with the Charter, within five days after the resolution was adopted, Mayor Terry Jones filed his disapproval with City Clerk Lorrie Beth Leach and delivered copies to the board members with a written explanation.

“The information was not available for the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to review prior to being voted on at last meeting,” Jones wrote. “I want the board, at our next regularly scheduled meeting, to have more time for a thorough discussion on this subject prior to being voted on for final approval.”

At its Jan. 7 meeting, the board voted to hire Thomas F. Christie as the first city manager under the new City Charter and to approve a job description for the position.

Lapides recalled that, before the end of 2012, she prepared the employment agreement with Christie. She said they went “back and forth over several matters,” and it was revised.

But in an e-mail that Christie sent Lapides on Jan. 5, he asked her to convey to the board his concern about “some articles” that had been published in one of the daily newspapers in Shelby County. He also sent a letter to the board members.

“He wants to be the manager, the chief administrator of the city,” Lapides said. “And he was concerned because of what was in the newspaper articles, and the fact that it said something about the board wanting to talk about the Charter and maybe make some changes.”

She said Christie asked for “some reassurance” that the board does not intend to substantially change the city manager’s job to the point where he would not be the “operating head of the city,” but like an administrative assistant.

Alderman Mike Caruthers has noted that, because the previous board attempted to adapt the Collierville City Charter for Millington, there are going to be “some mistakes” in it. He has asked Jones to consider a Charter Review Commission, where each alderman would appoint a member.

And Caruthers has noted that, because of Christie’s expertise as a city manager, he would be an “absolute integral part” of the commission to help “tweak” the Charter to make it “as good as it can be.”

During the portion of Monday night’s meeting designated for public comments on agenda items, Debra Sigee said that, in proposing the original resolution, Lapides was acting on behalf of Christie instead of the city. She also said the city attorney “restricted the authority” of the Charter Review Commission before it has even been created.

Sigee said she believes dissatisfaction with Jones’ re-election as mayor is what led the board to respond to Lapides’ recommendation, because he had publicly supported creation of the commission.

Because of how swiftly the new Charter was approved last year, Sigee said the aldermen who voted for it were not re-elected. She contended that the new board would be “no different” if it overrode Jones’ veto of last month’s resolution.

Sigee said she meant “no disrespect” to Christie, who she believes is “competent” in his profession. But she contended that, if a resolution affecting what the city can do with its Charter is what he needed to reassure him of his position, he should never have signed a contract to be Millington’s first city manager.

While acknowledging that no one knows what a Charter Review Commission will propose, Sigee said the board has the “authority” and the “final say.” She expressed hope that the newly elected board will lead Millington forward instead of backward.

“Why not wait and see what happens with the Charter Review Commission, if or when one is established, instead of causing upheaval by restricting the commission before it is formed?” she asked rhetorically. “This is not the way to begin building citizen trust in Millington’s elected officials.”

Louise Kennon said she spoke with Christie earlier on Monday about “some of the same things” that Sigee mentioned. She expressed a strong objection to Lapides’ presenting Christie’s e-mail to the board.

“That was her prerogative,” she acknowledged. “But it was not her prerogative to send you an e-mail prior to presenting it at a general meeting.”

Kennon said Christie told her that was not a violation of Tennessee’s Sunshine Law, and she conceded that it may not be.

“But once again, this appears to be what we have just spent the past year doing,” she said. “Whether it’s legal or illegal, I think you were sold a bill of goods by doing that.”

Kennon said she shares Sigee’s belief that “everything that’s happened” is because there was a “move” to keep Jones from “making it.” She also noted that she told Christie he should have never taken the job if he did not want to “abide by what we had said.”

“He said it cost him money,” she recalled. “That’s his problem. I don’t have anything against him, but I think we need to rethink what we’re doing.”


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February 2013
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