Arlene Walker addresses council

Fort Oglethorpe police chief David Eubanks (left) and public works director Jeff Long (second from left), both recently rehired by city manager Ron Goulart (seated at desk) following his own reinstatement, attended the second council meeting of the year. Citizen Arlene Walker (at podium) questioned the rehire of those employees without advertising an opening and prior to finalizing the reorganization of city department. (Catoosa News photo/Natasha Colbaugh)

The Fort Oglethorpe city council, with two new members on board, continue to reverse changes made over the past year by former council members, starting with bringing back city manager Ron Goulart at the first meeting of 2014.

New council members Paula Stinnett and Craig Crawford, elected in November to replace Clay Kissner and Louis Hamm, both agreed to bring Goulart back as city manager. What has followed is a strategic move to reverse the changes set in motion by the council since they asked for Goulart’s resignation 10 months earlier.

Goulart rehired public works director Jeff Long and police chief David Eubanks the same night as he was reinstated. Goulart was back in his seat during the Jan. 27 council meeting. Eubanks and Long attended as well in their new capacities. In order to have Jeff Long return to his same position as public works director, the council has to reverse another change implemented by the council over the summer.

Council members removed the streets department from public works and gave the responsibility of streets to director Phil Parker over the water and sewer department. The new council heard the first reading of an ordinance to switch back the departments. Two ordinances were read, one to separate water and sewer from the public works department (streets) and another to combine streets with the parks and recreation department. The council will vote on both ordinances at the third reading following a public hearing at the end of February.

Goulart made a public statement during the Jan. 27 meeting and explained some of the changes that have taken place.

“I wanted the public to know that I have rehired former police chief David Eubanks and former public works director Jeff Long to their old positions,” Goulart said.

Goulart said the city has been able to get a $100,000 grant reallocated to the city due to bringing Jeff Long back as director of the public works department.

While Goulart was excited to announce the accomplishments of Long in such a short time, citizen Arlene Walker questioned the steps taken to bring Long back as an employee.

“I have much concern for the liability we have placed on the city for the order in which we have done things,” Walker said. “We have a reading tonight to change positions and add positions, but we have already hired this person back. According to HR (human resource) and workman’s comp and laws, does that not in fact put our city at risk for liability? We hired a position back that doesn’t exist until the proper readings. They are not officially an employee.”

Walker questioned why the city did not post the openings, conduct interviews for the positions or even wait until the final readings of the ordinances to rehire for positions.

The council fell silent as Walker asked for an answer. Goulart addressed Walker’s concerns at last, saying the details involved personnel— and the council earlier in the same meeting in executive session discussed those details.

Walker shortened her questioning, asking simply if hiring for a position that does not exist put the city at risk. Goulart said he did not share that same belief.