In a special called meeting that didn't last long but was explosive while it did, East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert on Tuesday evening said there has been "a deliberate attempt to discredit me." He pointed to Council members Jim Bethune and Denny Manning and said, "You two are responsible."
Councilman Bethune retorted that the mayor had written him "a nasty email" in which he made disparaging remarks "about my age and my education."
Mayor Lambert, who told Councilman Bethune in an email that he had better stay out of his mayoral parking spot, said he was advised that when Councilman Bethune parked in the spot while he was away he (Bethune) said he was going to be taking over that spot.
Councilman Bethune said Tuesday, "I'll get it in 2014."
The only thing that was unanimous at the session was that all five council members agreed to ratify an action at a meeting called by Council members Bethune and Manning last week that the mayor called "illegal."
All agreed that work should proceed on the city spending some $15,000 to fix deteriorating wooden foot bridges at the Cedar Glen subdivision near Camp Jordan Park without the necessity of the residents forming a neighborhood association as was suggested earlier might be a requirement.
The Cedar Glen work had started earlier, then was abruptly halted over the association issue.
Mayor Lambert opened the session, that was held in a back room of City Hall while Judge Arvin Reingold was using the regular council chambers, by lambasting the calling of the special meeting while he was away. He said he had sent word in emails with City Manager Tim Gobble that he would call a special session as soon as he returned from vacation. He said he had asked "for that courtesy."
But he said he "got no response" to his emails and was informed the meeting was to be convened.
Mayor Lambert said the city mayor "is the gatekeeper" for the calling of council meetings.
He said City Attorney John Anderson and officials at the University of Tennessee's MTAS "agreed whole-heartedly that it was a wrong way of conducting city business."
Councilman Bethune said he did not get anything directly from Mayor Lambert on the issue, and said he never gets direct communication from the mayor. He said, "I've never gotten anything from you the entire time I've been in office. And I hate that. It's your fault and it's my fault."
He said the city charter reads that when the mayor is unavailable or unwilling to call a meeting that one can be called by the vice mayor or by two council members. He said he and Councilman Manning opted to do so because they were concerned that the work be resumed quickly at Cedar Glen.
Councilman Bethune said the meeting was "100 percent legal." He said Attorney Anderson "had total involvement" in the meeting, drawing up a resolution and attending and taking part. He said due to "ethics" involved he did not believe Attorney Anderson "would take part in an illegal meeting."
He said after the session Attorney Anderson told City Manager Gobble that the city could resume the work.
Attorney Anderson retorted that his presence at the meeting did not mean he was approving its legality.
Citing "commas" and "a conjunctive" in the charter section on calling a special meeting, he said the mayor's position was correct and the meeting was invalid.
Councilman Manning, a preacher, said, "I've never done nothing illegal in my life and I ain't going to start now."
Councilman Bethune said, in light of what had transpired at the meeting, he had decided to bring up something from the past he had not intended to bring up.
He said while he and Councilman Manning were headed to attend a meeting in Washington that Mayor Lambert had been involved in an effort to get up a special called meeting "to give $32,000 to Zaxby's - Shannon Brown."
He said the meeting fell through "when Vice Mayor (Larry) Sewell would have no part of it."
Councilman Bethune said he got reports from Vice Mayor Sewell and Mr. Gobble about the planned meeting of three. He displayed hand-written notes he said he made while in Washington. "I wrote it all down verbatim," he said.
Mayor Lambert said, "This is the same kind of malarkey that has gone on for two years."
The mayor then said, "You may curse the ground I walk on, but. . ."
Councilman Bethune said, "I don't think I want to listen to this."
He then proposed, "Let's talk it out. You and me. I don't want any animosity."
He said he would meet the mayor in a back room, and the mayor agreed.
Councilmen Denny Manning and Jim Bethune in foreground listen to Mayor Brent Lambert as City Manager Tim Gobble looks on