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Board Fires City Manager Christie

By Bill Short

Thomas Christie

Thomas Christie

The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen adopted a resolution this week to terminate the employment of Thomas Christie as the city’s first professional manager.

Board members took the action Monday night during their regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Mike Caruthers.

The resolution was approved by a 4-3 vote, with Aldermen Hank Hawkins, Bethany Huffman and Thomas McGhee dissenting and Mayor Terry Jones casting the tie-breaker. Alderman Frankie Dakin was absent.

Millington’s new Charter requires the board to designate a “qualified officer of the city” to assume the duties and authority of the manager.

Jones said he has talked to several people who are willing to be appointed interim city manager. Then, the board can begin the process of advertising the opening for the permanent position.

City Attorney Charles Perkins noted that the board needs to make the interim appointment “pretty quickly.”

You need someone to run the city,” he acknowledged, “because pretty much everything flows through the city manager.”

Jones said the resolution was placed on the agenda because of Christie’s “blatant disregard and disrespect” for the board and the city’s residents.

During his monthly report earlier in the meeting, Christie said he “strongly” believes in democracy and public service – two areas in which he considers the nation and this city “presently lacking.”

While acknowledging that his time to contribute to both is “very limited,” Christie said that is why his bluntness “sometimes overrides” his tact. Because time is something that can “never be recovered,” he said he believes the public does not want the board to waste it.

If my disappointment over time waste has caused me to unintentionally hurt feelings, I apologize,” he said. “However, I will not apologize for what I have said, because the truth is the truth, regardless of how it is delivered.”

The former city manager of Salem, Ill., Christie was one of four finalists for the Millington position publicly interviewed on Nov. 26, 2012 at City Hall by the newly elected board members. He was hired on Jan. 7.

During discussion before the vote Monday night, Caruthers said one of the reasons that the board chose the city manager form of government was to add some “stability” to Millington. But he contended that, in the past seven months, the city has seen “anything but stability.”

I think we’ve got the right form of government,” he said. “I think we need to take a look at who’s running it.”

Huffman acknowledged that there have been some “heated tempers” and other things that everyone might wish they had not said. And she noted that Christie apologized for that.

But citing the “turmoil” during the past seven months, she said the last thing Millington needs is more of it. She called it “unfair” to the residents, the city’s employees and the people who expect better from its leaders to “turn the city upside down again.”

Huffman also said she considers it “fiscally irresponsible,” under the employment agreement with Christie, to give him $40,000 in severance pay and to begin a search for his replacement.

I just think this is a little premature,” she said, “given everything that’s gone on and where we are, and everyone’s ability to want to start a new chapter.”

Hawkins said that, by firing Christie, the board will get the reputation among future applicants for the position that it is “very difficult” to work with. And he noted that the problems it has will still exist, regardless of who is hired.

I come from a background where you meet your challenges, you face adversity, and you get through it,” he said. “I think we may be going down the wrong road prematurely.”

McGhee expressed uncertainty that any of the board members would have done the job any better than Christie. He also called it “unfair” to ignore “progressive discipline.”

We go from one infraction to the guillotine,” he noted. “That’s not good business.”

McGhee recalled that, when the board members were working on the budget, they talked about how expensive it would be to fire somebody and bring someone else in. But now, they were getting rid of the “chief cog” in the new form of government.

If we really want this city to move forward, we’ve got to be willing to do things differently,” he said. “We’ve got to be willing to listen to other people and receive their input.”

Jones said he has been contacted by several residents who are not happy with the city manager form of government.

But we know we have this form of government now, and this is what we have to work with,” he acknowledged. “And to operate properly, the mayor and the city manager have to work together.”

Alderman Chris Ford said he has kept all the e-mails that the board members received from Christie. And he considered them “very condescending, derogatory and divisive.”

Noting that Christie and the board were not working together, Ford expressed doubt that they could in the future. Citing Christie’s statement, he said it apologized and then “kind of took it away.”

It’s my interpretation that it was kind of a half-hearted apology,” he said. “And I’m not convinced that that’s going to be able to be changed.”

In response to a question by Huffman, Caruthers said he originally wanted the board to discuss what “level of discipline” would be appropriate for Christie. And it “morphed” into a resolution for termination.

I’m of the opinion that we have to do something,” he said. “We can’t continue to operate like this at all.”

Agreeing with Caruthers, Alderman Larry Dagen said the “whole transition” to the city manager form of government has not only been difficult, but has been “exacerbated.” In order to work together, he said, the board and the city manager must have “cohesion.”

I don’t see this relationship getting better,” he noted. “And I just feel like it’s going to be a huge obstacle to try to overcome.”

Dagen said he appreciated Christie’s professionalism and knowledge, because it brought “a lot to the table.”

But I also see him being very frustrated with a bunch of novices up here, and we can’t have that,” he concluded. “What we need is help. We don’t need to be condescended to.”

  • TiGeR

    Woah. We elected “a bunch of novices”? Since when has governing a city allowed for on the job training? We elected new representatives who said they would bring new energy and innovation to city government – unfortunately what we have is obama-lite. A leader would have a vision for the city and convince all three branches; the manager, the mayor and the aldermen, to be committed to it. Where do we want Millington to be in 5 years, 10 years? How are we going to get there? Can we count on “a bunch of novices” to lead the way? I hate to think that career politians are required in order to run this city. This does not look good for Millington, Jones, or the aldermen. Now you guys go to work and get on track. If we have to have a bunch of novices, nothing says we have to have this bunch of novices.

  • Another TiGeR

    So…where did Bethany Huffman’s quote about being “a bunch of novices” go? Does anyone not see a Terry Jones orchestrated power-grab going on?

    • Herbie

      I saw a Terry Jones orchestrated power-grab! I also noticed that Frankie was absent which put the deciding vote in Jones hand. And to think the citizens of Millington have 3 more years of this CRAP!
      There is nothing wrong with having new people on the board, but what I find disturbing is those new people going along with the “OL” gang that is still there. We wanted new people with fresh ideas not someone to help rehash the same “OL” same “OL”. There were only 3 stand up people on that board…..and I want to say THANK YOU to those 3 Alderman!

  • dhouser

    Power Grab is Correct! The actions of Jones, Ford, Caruthers, and Dagen, represent the “good-ole-boy” system strongly at work. “Let’s place someone in a position so that we can control them and do what we really want to do.”
    The grab is not complete. Kickback and watch what happens next. Jones is a boob who cares only for himself and his desires. Ford is a rich, self-serving, racist who secretly wants to be Mayor. Caruthers is a bully who wants to maintain control of city regulations so that his pocketbook will continue to grow in his rental kingdom. Dagen makes zero sense and seems to waffle at every turn.
    My wife and I have been to 6 city hall meetings recently to observe what will happen next. We have lived in Millington for 42 years. We think it’s time to move on.
    I grew up in Frazier. Look to your future Millington.

  • REX

    Actually it was Linda Carter who made the power grab. Citizens of Millington should have had a right to vote on the new charter this was denied. This board is a new board with great ideas but they were handed huge problems to deal with. They are not perfect but they as a whole are not good ole boys. Become informed about the truth. Millington will be fine. Democracy at work is a great thing.

    • Herbie

      You typed “Become informed about the truth.”, but yet you evidently over looked the obvious fact that you have two Aldermen that are a carry over of the previous 2 administrations………which has been proven were displaying abuses of Mayoral power. Now I do not agree with everything Linda Carter did, but considering what she stepped into by vote of the then Alderman Board, you can not throw that “power grab” on her. She is completely out of the picture now. The whole purpose of the charter change was to reign in those abuses of the Mayoral position, which was voted on by the seated Alderman Board at that time.
      NOW you have a reelected previous Mayor who has shown an obvious resentment of those changes and two flip-flopping reelected Alderman. When you view the video of the current monthly meeting, it is quite obvious where the “power grab” is coming from!! You can SEE the truth!!

  • dhouser

    Say’s one of the good ole boys!!! See below

    • REX

      You must have been a Linda Carter supporter and please name the good ole boys on the board and there long term ties to Millington.

  • Andy

    The board seems to be wanting to run the city, and that’s not their jobs. That’s the job of the City Manager. The board needs to stay out of it and give the City Manager what he needs to be successful. It’s kind of like Jerry Jones with the Dallas Cowboys….he wants to hire a coach but then he won’t allow him to coach. The board needs to hire and then stay out of it!

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