Wounds run deep at Martin Informal over Suiter’s immediate future

Wounds run deep at Martin Informal over Suiter’s immediate future
Wounds run deep at Martin Informal over Suiter's immediate future | Dennis Suiter, Cal Ripkin Tournament, Martin Informal Meeting

WAITING – Suiter listened to a member of the Martin City Board discuss his recent notice of retirement and his role in the Cal Ripken World Series scheduled for August.
Martin alderman David Belote summed it up. “There is more at stake here than a world series.” Tuesday night’s informal session of Martin’s June board meeting spent much of the evening focusing on many things unsaid about the current situation regarding Parks and Recreation Directors Dennis Suiter’s future with the city of Martin. Suiter gave his notice of retirement to the board at the May meeting, but last night the board entertained a discussion with Suiter and community leaders for him to continue in the position until the end of the Cal Ripken World Series, which will be held in August. He said in an interview Wednesday that he wasn’t retiring due to the results of a recent audit that has created a new purchasing policy for the city to begin at the start of the next fiscal year, July 1. “I am not bowing out due to the recent audit,” Suiter said. “It comes down to me losing my healthcare benefits.” The resignation coincides with the national baseball tournament which is slated to bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to the community. Suiter has requested to keep his position until Aug. 31, 2008 to continue the coordination of the Cal Ripken event. The board will consider extending his position until the end of August, working 20 hours a week until the end of the World Series or accepting his resignation with the end date of June 30. Nearly two dozen supporters showed up at the informal session to speak to the board on why they believe he needs to finish the project. “This tourney is not coming to Martin because we are the Las Vegas of west Tennessee,” David Hawks said, adding the event has to be coordinated and that Suiter knows what needs to be done. He reported that transportation has to be provided for coaches, hotel rooms booked and host families found for 120 children as well as the coordination of banquets, gates and the ballpark’s attendance. Bettye Giles added, “There are only two people I know of that can run this tournament. Dennis Suiter and David Belote.” “I don’t think it would be fair to throw someone else in to finish this World Series,” added Suiter supporter Cathy Barnett. Alderman Terry Hankins asked Suiter before discussion began if he would be willing to work at 20 hours a week until the end of August on a contract basis. Suiter’s supporters said that’s not enough. “There has been a lot of planning for this,” Linda Ramsey said. “Everything Dennis does is first-class. I know the quality of his work.” In December of last year, the city board changed aspects of the handbook that impact retirement but will grandfather in the fact that way employees could resign with benefits with a cut off date of June 30, 2008. The city offered the provision to employees who were 55 years or older and had ten years of service where those employees could resign with full benefits. After the end of this month, the health care provision will change. Suiter said that he would lose his healthcare if he stayed past the end of this month and has been focusing the bulk of his time in his last days as director on the World Series. Wounds have run deep if it is any indication of this week’s meeting. After Belote mentioned meeting with members of the Martin Parks and Recreation staff regarding some issues regarding Suiter, he commented that there were weightier issues which needed to be addressed. “For us to continue in this mode, we need a balance of people. Some of the staff considers this relationship dysfunctional. There has to be some coming together. We are dysfunctional at this moment. We need to get that fixed before we can fix this process,” Belote said citing a need for some “fence mending.” “This is deeper than allowing 20 hours a week or a full extension,” he added. Brian Moore, superintendent of athletics at Martin Parks and Recreation, said that certain personnel items “shouldn’t be aired at this meeting” and said some members of the department had been kept out of the loop regarding the Cal Ripken series. “There is some stuff going on in our department,” he said. “We are being made the bad guys here. The first I’ve heard of this was when you guys heard of it. This is a pretty emotional thing.” Moore said he has worked with Suiter 20 years and “this should have never come to this point.” Suiter said he was unaware that the meeting had occurred between his staff and Belote on Monday. The question perplexing board members is whether or not to change the policy for just one person. Alderman Johnny Tuck added that he had phone calls both ways regarding the Suiter situation. “I don’t think people understand what we are going though. Just to change one little thing.” Business owner Tracy McGehee responded, “One little thing? What if it’s a million dollar circumstance? For me this isn’t just about Dennis. I would support any department head on this.” Charles Latta broke down the issue of hurt feelings amongst the board and Suiter by saying, “If there is a personality problem here, we have to put our big boy panties on. It’s about the director and not the person.” The issue regarding Suiter’s role in the upcoming tournament will be addressed Monday night during the formal June session at Martin City Hall.

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