Board decides Stahl followed procedure in firing city workers

By Julie Fann
Star Staff

During a meeting for the second reading of the city's new fiscal year budget on Thursday, the Elizabethton City Council reported matter-of-factly that, according to the Personnel Advisory Board, City Manager Charles Stahl followed proper procedure when he fired three former city workers.
   A report filed by the board this week with City Attorney Roger Day reads: "Tennessee Code defines the role of the Personnel Advisory Board as advisory. It is not the duty of this board to determine the guilt or innocence of any affected employee of any act but only if proper procedure was followed. It is not the duty of this board to determine if punishment ... was merited or if a lesser punishment should have been used ... the city manager followed proper procedure in the termination of Larry Caldwell, Keith Ingram and Todd Berry."
   Attached to the report was a letter from a Municipal Management Consultant with the University of Tennessee's Technical Advisory Service. Pat Hardy, in advising the board, stated the city manager is vested with all power over personnel decisions by the city charter.
   In the letter, Hardy said the charter limits the extent to which the city council can be involved in personnel matters. He stated, "With regard to the procedure to be used by the Personnel Advisory Board, the charter provides that once a written complaint is received, an investigation shall commence of the procedures followed in carrying out the action complained of, not of the decision and action actually taken by the city manager."
   Stahl fired Caldwell, Ingram and Berry at the end of April when city police reported they saw the men taking items out of vehicles in the city's storage lot. The employees appealed the decision in May when Lisa Nidiffer Rice, attorney for the men, told the Personnel Advisory Board the men did not steal the items from the city because the city did not, technically, own them.
   In a second reading of the 2002-2003 budget, the City Council unanimously approved all items. The new property tax rate remains the same as last year, at $2.30 per $100 of assessed value. The bulk container fee was increased from $18 to $20.
   The general fund took a 13 percent cut, and the water/sewer fund was also cut 33 percent. The new budget includes $100,000 additional revenue for the sale of some Industrial Park land to an unnamed industry, and $100,000 for street paving.
   City Attorney Day also mentioned that 15 pieces of land will be sold due to unpaid property taxes by city residents.
   City Council also agreed that $52,810 will be spent toward purchasing nameplates for veterans who are part of the city's new war memorial.
   Also, the city will make the first of two payments for 2002 Appalachian League dues. Every six months, the city is required to pay $5,000 to the league.
   The city will also spend $26,650.18 toward the purchase of gasoline, diesel fuel, and the replacement of a truck transmission at the city garage.