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Obion councilman claims mayor should pay $26,500 settlement

Obion councilman claims mayor should pay $26,500 settlement
Staff Reporter
A recent out-of-court settlement between the Town of Obion and its former public works director, Charles Steffen, prompted Obion councilman Bob Anderson to make a surprise, and bold, couple of motions Monday night to make Obion Mayor Glen Parnell responsible for the city’s portion of the $105,000 settlement.
Under the agreement approved by the Obion City Council earlier this month, the city agreed to the $105,000 settlement that resolves three lawsuits filed by Steffen. Two of the lawsuits were for workers’ compensation claims and the third lawsuit was filed for wrongful discharge.
The TML Risk Manage-ment Pool will pay for $78,500 of the settlement and the city is responsible for the remaining $26,500. It was Anderson’s contention that the city’s responsibility to pay the $26,500 was due to the actions of the mayor.
“I make the motion to enter into the minutes as public record the following: The settlement of $26,500 reached in recent litigation with a former employee was a direct result of action taken by Mayor Glen Parnell without prior knowledge of, consent of, or participation of the city council. This expenditure of taxpayer money rests solely as his responsibility,” Anderson said.
His second motion stated in part, “that the city of Obion send Glen Parnell a bill for $26,500 as the taxpayers should not have to pay for his unauthorized actions.”
The first motion passed by a 6-1 vote, with the mayor voting no. The second motion passed by a 5-2 vote, with the mayor and councilman James Depriest voting no.
Anderson’s motions and the council’s action make a strong political statement but will have little authority as far as forcing Parnell to pay the $26,500.
In fact, the mayor openly stated at the meeting he had no intention of paying the $26,500.
Also during Monday night’s 90-minute meeting, the council discussed another legal matter currently being handled by the city’s attorney — an overdue bill from Elite Electric Co. for work done at one of the city’s water wells.
After a lengthy and heated discussion, it was decided to give the city’s attorney a chance to settle the bill.
Monday night’s meeting covered a wide range of issues, including several concerns that will be addressed at a police committee meeting set for 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.
The council’s police committee consists of council members Polk Glover and Renee Webber, Jimmy Gatlin and Jason Moore. The meeting will be open to the public and will address concerns over recent thefts in town, a complaint from Susie Evans that she is being wrongly pulled over by a specific officer for driving her golf cart on city streets and a third issue involving problems with stray dogs in Obion.
In other action, the council:
• Agreed to have Police Chief Royce Aker contact a property owner on Palestine Avenue concerning complaints over trash and debris in his yard. Mrs. Evans told the council a shed was recently torn down on the property and there is also trash she described as “raw garbage” on the property.
“It’s ridiculous. There’s no sense in it,” she said.
• Approved the second and final reading of an ordinance increasing the city’s monthly garbage collection rate from $15.20 to $18.
• Agreed to seek bids for an hourly contract for backhoe work for the city. The action was taken following a brief discussion about a ditch on the south side of town that needs to be cleared out to prevent drainage problems in the neighborhood.
• Agreed to have Parnell check into refinancing some of the city’s debt finance notes. Under the current debt service plan, the city is paying $33,629 this year for debt service, with $15,840 of that going to interest payments. From 2011 to 2050, the city is responsible for $640,182 in debt service, with $281,694 going to interest payments.
• Discussed high electric bills for the city’s public safety building. The meter has already been checked by Gibson Electric Membership Corporation and now the city will request Vaughn Electric Co. of Union City check the circuits at the building.
“It seems like we’re spending way too much money over there,” public works director Randy Evans told the council.
• Established May as Emergency Preparedness Month in Obion. Mrs. Webber proposed the observance and will work on promoting emergency preparedness during the month.
“As a town, we can do as much as possible but we can’t do it all,” she said.
•  Agreed to have GEMC install lights at the basketball courts in town.
• Was advised by Evans that he has handled a series of pressing problems with the city’s water system, including a clogged water main, a broken vacuum pump, a bad check valve and a bad blower motor. He advised the council the expense to replace and repair all the problems has been significant.
• Agreed to advertise for mowing bids for the city’s three parks — the city ballpark, Eddie Huey Park and Indian Park.
• Discussed and debated several changes made by the County Commission to the interlocal fire protection agreement. There were several concerns raised by members of the council about liability issues raised by the changes to the agreement. No action was taken on the new agreement.
Monday night’s meeting was opened in prayer by Glover and the Pledge of Allegiance led by Parnell. Published in The Messenger 3.20.12