Mayor resigns; battles continue

Town of Cleveland

An empty seat at the head table was quite noticeable as the Cleveland Town Council meeting was called to order Monday night. Everyone was present for roll call except Mayor Larry Longshore. His letter of resignation was first on the evening’s agenda.

Longshore cited difficult financial times and the need to devote more time to his business. The council unanimously accepted the resignation effective April 14.

Town attorney Stan Glasscock recommended that a temporary mayor be appointed immediately until the position can be filled permanently. With the floor open for nominations, councilman Doug Hill nominated Jerry Wayne Thomas. This motion, with a second from councilman Glenn Puckett, was overruled. David Grigsby then nominated councilperson Kandy Little as mayor pro tem and this motion was passed.

The next hour was occupied with the approval of the Revised Employee Handbook for the Town. Specifically, it was put into place so that in the event of a lay-off the order would begin with temporary and part-time employees, followed by probationary, and ending with full-time town employees.

Also mentioned was the use policy of the town’s vehicles. Councilman Mike Evans said he had been asked several times why town vehicles were seen in the parking lots of restaurants outside of Cleveland. Little stated she had been asked the same.

Steve Pass, superintendent of the utilities board, replied that at times, “we’re (the utility board) asked to assist in other towns and drive one mile to go eat dinner rather that drive four miles to Cleveland to eat and four miles back to work.” Evans suggested that to reduce “talk on the street” it would be better to drive the extra miles.

As usual, the “4th Quarter” was full of emotion and tension and began with a motion for the council to go into executive session. The session was to discuss pending litigation by the merit board. As the council stood to exit the room, an unknown voice shouted, “Hey, council! Wait a minute! I want to know. What about the fraud and lying? You’ve violated my civil rights!” With that, all council members, along with attorney Glasscock and Wayne Owens, head of parks and recreation, went behind closed doors. Only Pass remained seated.

Following the 10-minute session, it was time for the citizens to speak. First on the agenda was Jerry Wayne Thomas. “It looks like this is the same topic that this gentleman had on the agenda three weeks ago,” Evans said.

Evans then questioned the attorney, “I don’t know, Stan. Do we have to listen to the same topic week after week?”

Glasscock, quoting one of his law school professors, replied, “Everyone has a right to be a royal pain in the neck.” Kandy Little, presiding mayor, then gave the floor to Thomas saying “OK, Jerry Wayne, you have three minutes.”

Questioning the council, Thomas first asked, “What exactly was the lawsuit? You’ve always said Wayne (Owens) filed a claim and a settlement was made to avoid court. Don’t we have insurance for that?”

There was no reply.

Moving ahead, Thomas mentioned that at the council meeting on March 23 (then mayor) Larry Longshore said that all information concerning the rehire of Wayne Owens and possible litigation “is a matter of public record.” According to Thomas, on March 24 he went to the town hall to read the public records himself. “I met with the clerk,” he said, and the records could not be found. “I was told the mayor probably had them.”

Referring to the funds given to Wayne Owens, he asked the council, “Where did the $4000 come from?”

Little replied that it was voted on and approved by the council. “This is old business and it will not be discussed,” she concluded.

Cleveland’s previous mayor James Sullivan had the floor next. He too was given the three-minute warning. “Who fired Mr. Owens?” Sullivan asked. He was answered by councilman David Grigsby saying, “You never said he (Owens) was fired. You said he resigned.” Sullivan, denying the contradiction replied, “I never said he resigned. I said he just walked away.”

Sullivan then informed the council that he had notified state authorities in Montgomery of the town’s alleged wrongdoing. Sullivan claims the $4000 (given to Owens) is not mentioned anywhere in the council’s records or minutes as has been claimed. “It’s not in the minutes anywhere that this was voted on by the council,” he said.

Sullivan’s opinion that the $4000 was illegally dispersed was apparent.”I just want ya’ll to know I’ve notified Montgomery and I have every intention,” to pursue this, he stated.

In reply, Mayor pro tem Kandy Little was brief. “I motion this meeting be adjourned,” she said. It was.