By Jim Young
Crossville city manager Jack Miller almost became the only city manager fired twice by the city council after a surprising discussion came up under the city manager's report including a claim by city clerk Sally Oglesby of harassment and hostile work environment.
The discussion started with Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham relating a story about stopping by city hall the morning of Friday, June 7, to pick up mail from his box and he heard voices from a staff meeting that was being held in the third floor conference room.
Graham said to Miller, “I overheard your voice and I overheard Sally's voice for a while. Later on I heard someone say to shut the door, that someone was out there.” Graham continued, “Well that was me that was out there and I was listening to your tone of voice and I was trying to hear some of the things that you were saying to Sally. I believe, Dr. Miller, that the time and place for any comment or criticism to an employee ought to be done in your office and not in a so-called staff meeting.
“I'm very disappointed in you doing that,” concluded Graham. The mayor then opened the floor for other comments.
Councilman Danny Wyatt began, “I'm not only disappointed, I'm not going to put up with it sitting down to any of 165 employees. It's not going to happen.” Wyatt then made a motion to dismiss interim city manager Miller effective immediately. The motion raised an objection from councilman Pete Souza who felt the matter needed to be amended on to the agenda.
Graham asked the city attorney who said the matter could be handled under the city manager's report item.
George Marlow commented that he supported Sally “110 percent.” He added that she is a very hard worker and a very important part of the city of Crossville. Marlow continued that the only information he had on the matter of the meeting was second hand and he was uncomfortable voting based on hearsay. Marlow concluded, “I don't think I have enough information to make that vote.”
Councilman Souza remarked that he felt that Mayor Graham and councilman Wyatt have been unhappy that Miller was here. “I look at this as more of a witch-hunt than anything else,” added Souza.
Interim manager Miller began to speak, “Mr. Mayor, I've got to address this. My honesty and my integrity is being impugned by this council member (Wyatt). He lit into me like a savage the night I was appointed and he hasn't let up yet. I’ve never been treated
so rudely as I have by this council member.”
Miller than accused councilman Wyatt of spreading rumors about his ability to get along.
"Do you know of one I spread,” asked Wyatt, or anyone I've spread it to?”
“Well you or Mrs. Oglesby one did,” answered Miller.
Mayor Graham seconded the motion and a vote was called for the vote that ended in a tie with Graham and Wyatt in favor and Souza and Marlow opposed.
Mrs. Oglesby then asked to make a statement. “Gentlemen, I’m the victim of abuse that started in the last term of Jack Miller. Just like most abuse victims I kept quiet and endured for fear of more abuse. In 2007 only two members of council knew about the abuse because they had heard from others and came to talk to me. I never said a word to the remaining three until after Miller was fired for a serious violation of policy.
"Following that meeting I did inform two of the other members who were horrified that I had not confided in them. This time I will not allow it to continue without taking action. If this council is willing to allow the abuse to continue, by June 27 I will meet the deadline in the personnel manual for filing a grievance and I will also consider remedies through the court system for harassment and hostile work environment.”
Mrs. Oglesby's statement continued, “I have never filed a grievance or a lawsuit and I really don't want to now, but the situation can not go unaddressed. The conduct of the interim city manager last Friday was the most humiliating experience I have ever endured. He has stated many times that he is a professional with the highest of integrity. I can assure you that no professional manager would berate, accuse and harass an employee in front of others.
"At the staff meeting on June the 7th, over 90 percent of the time I was on trial in front of my colleagues. One described it to his staff as 'a Sally bashing.' I was told that I was hated by city employees. As opposed to being a bureaucrat as he would like us to be, I prefer to be a public servant.
"Gentlemen I assure you, as you would expect of a city clerk for 28 years, I have complete documentation of all the events that have transpired since (Miller's) arrival this year and from his previous tenure. I have witnesses, and other indisputable evidence ready. If you allow this abuse to continue I will have to hold you accountable as well.”
Mrs Oglesby went on to say she had worked under nine city managers and all who are still alive would come to her defense if she called them. As she concluded, Mrs. Oglesby received a standing ovation from most of the audience present.
Miller responded, “The appropriate thing to do is to consult with the employees who were there and see what was said."
Councilman Souza said that he found Mrs. Oglesby “very competent and a very big asset to the city of Crossville."
Mrs. Oglesby said she would be glad to provide a tape of the meeting in question. The meeting was not taped officially, but Mrs. Oglesby had recorded it herself.
Councilman Danny Wyatt asked police chief David Beaty to come forward and he was asked about the meeting.
Beaty responded, “I thought about twice getting up and leaving, to be honest with you.” When asked if it had been his wife, Beaty responded he had told his staff later that if it had been his wife, his daughter, his mother or his sister, “They'd have probably been some trouble.”
The next time the council is scheduled to meet is the week of June 24 to complete the third and final budget reading. The matter of Jack Miller's tenure as interim city manager is expected to be on that meeting's agenda as well.