Council approves ORHS stoplight contract in 4-3 vote

Oak Ridge Turnpike Stoplight at Oak Ridge High School

In a 4-3 vote Monday, the Oak Ridge City Council approved a contract to install a traffic signal at the Oak Ridge High School on Oak Ridge Turnpike.

 

Note: This story was updated at 8:42 a.m. April 15.

The City Council approved a contract to install a stoplight on Oak Ridge Turnpike in front of Oak Ridge High School in a 4-3 vote on Monday.

Public Works Director Gary Cinder said the light will be green most of the time on Oak Ridge Turnpike. But it will turn red when cars are leaving the High School, giving those drivers a green light.

And the traffic signal lights will turn all-red when pedestrians are crossing, Cinder said. [Read more…]

Council rejects ORPD investigation proposals, approves MTAS review

Oak Ridge City Council on Feb. 9, 2015

On Friday, March 27, the Oak Ridge City Council agreed to use the Municipal Technical Advisory Service at the University of Tennessee to conduct a 30-day review of turnover, morale, and administrative policies in the Oak Ridge Police Department. (File photo)

 

Note: This story was last updated at 12:30 p.m. March 30.

Despite calls for an investigation, the Oak Ridge City Council on Friday approved a proposal from a University of Tennessee agency to review—rather than investigate—the Oak Ridge Police Department, focusing on turnover, morale, and administrative policies.

A series of motions by City Council member Trina Baughn, who has pushed hardest for an investigation of the ORPD and its police chief, were rejected. Among other things, Baughn’s proposals would have required all Police Department employees to spend at least 10 minutes with the investigator, regardless of whether they wanted to say anything; sought to interview all former workers who have left since May 2011, when Police Chief Jim Akagi was hired; given those interviewed a chance to participate in a “no confidence” vote against the chief; and look into Akagi’s previous history, including his prior employment with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Council also rejected a motion by Baughn to investigate the allegations included in a grievance filed by a former police officer and claims made in letters by former officers.

The 30-day review that was approved Friday was first proposed as a general concept by Oak Ridge City Council member Kelly Callison during a February meeting, with more detail added since then.

[Read more…]

Council to consider reviewing, investigating ORPD in special meeting Friday

Oak Ridge City Council on Feb. 9, 2015

The Oak Ridge City Council on Monday, Feb. 9, agreed to a third-party review of turnover and morale in the Oak Ridge Police Department but rejected requests for two other probes. On Friday, March 27, the Council could consider reviewing or investigating the ORPD—there has been a dispute over which term to use—placing the police chief on administrative leave, or accepting a proposal from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service to conduct a 30-day review. (File photo)

 

The Oak Ridge City Council will consider whether to review or investigate the Oak Ridge Police Department during a special meeting on Friday, March 27. The Council will also consider whether to place the police chief on administrative leave during the investigation, if one is conducted.

City Council members Trina Baughn and Rick Chinn called for the special meeting earlier this month, and it was set for this Friday, March 27. Baughn and Chinn asked to set the parameters of an investigation and possibly select an investigator during the special meeting. They also asked to discuss and possibly vote on placing the police chief on administrative leave during the investigation.

Once it became clear that the special meeting would be called, Council members Ellen Smith and Charlie Hensley asked to consider selecting a reviewer to conduct the police review, as opposed to an investigation, approved in February. [Read more…]

City Council schedules special meeting for ORPD review, investigation

Oak Ridge City Council on Feb. 9, 2015

The Oak Ridge City Council on Monday, Feb. 9, agreed to a third-party review of turnover and morale in the Oak Ridge Police Department but rejected requests for two other probes. On Monday, March 9, the Council did not consider a proposal from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service to conduct the 30-day review, but members did call for a special meeting on Friday, March 27, to consider a review or investigation. (File photo)

 

Note: This story was last updated at 8:20 p.m.

Despite concerns about the timing, the Oak Ridge City Council later this month will consider steps that could be used to help review or investigate—there has been a dispute over which word to use—the turnover, morale, and administrative policies in the Oak Ridge Police Department.

City Council members Trina Baughn and Rick Chinn requested the special meeting, and they asked that it be held at 6 p.m. Friday, March 27. They said the meeting could be used to discuss and vote on the parameters of an investigation and possibly select an investigator. The two members also want the Council to consider the merits, and possibly vote on, placing Oak Ridge Police Chief Jim Akagi on administrative leave while the investigation is ongoing.

Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch expressed concern about having the special meeting that week because officials from the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of Energy are expected to be in town. Gooch, who would prefer to discuss the issues in a regular meeting, said he thought it would be a mistake to have a special meeting like this that could interfere with the visit by NPS and DOE officials. [Read more…]

Council OKs review of ORPD turnover, morale; rejects other probes

Oak Ridge City Council Crowd

Many of those in this standing-room-only crowd that spilled out into a lobby Monday night turned out for an Oak Ridge City Council debate on whether to open an investigation into Police Chief Jim Akagi or, alternatively, reprimand City Council member Trina Baughn for the way she’s publicly handled concerns about the Police Department and its chief. In the end, Council approved a third-party review of ORPD turnover but rejected requests for two other probes.

 

Note: This story was last updated at 11:45 a.m.

After hearing from two dozen residents and a few former officers, the Oak Ridge City Council on Monday agreed to conduct an independent third-party review of turnover and morale in the Police Department. But members rejected a proposal to investigate the relationship between the police chief and city manager, and they declined to look into possible violations related to an order of protection issued against the police chief in Blount County in 2012 and dismissed in 2013.

The outcome appeared to generally please all sides, even if the process used to get there didn’t. It seemed to be a largely peaceful resolution to two weeks of divisive community debate and intense public scrutiny.

“I think we’ve taken a step in the right direction for addressing the concerns within the Oak Ridge Police Department,” said City Council member Trina Baughn, who first raised the issue publicly in a January 25 email about the turnover rate and other ORPD issues.

“I think it was a fair outcome, and one that came about as a result of the process working the way it was actually supposed to,” said Tasha Blakney, attorney for Oak Ridge Police Chief Jim Akagi, the subject of most of the allegations raised during the past two weeks.

The resolution to conduct an independent third-party review of the ORPD turnover was proposed by City Council member Kelly Callison during a five-hour meeting Monday night. It passed 7-0 after being amended to include a study of morale issues and administrative policies. [Read more…]

Two more Council members object to process used by Baughn

Chuck Hope

Chuck Hope

Kelly Callison

Kelly Callison

Two more Oak Ridge City Council members last week expressed regret about the process that was used by fellow Council member Trina Baughn to raise concerns about the Police Department and its chief.

Council members Kelly Callison and Chuck Hope said that Baughn could have first brought the issues regarding the Police Department and Police Chief Jim Akagi to the City Council in a work session or special meeting. That would have allowed all seven Council members to hear the information and work together to determine any next steps, they said.

But instead, Callison said, the issue was sent in parallel to City Council and the media, which bothers him.

“I feel that the process that she’s using is wrong,” Hope said. “It’s kind of circumvented the process. It’s all out there, across the press and across the social media.” [Read more…]

Former officers ask for investigation, hearing of officers’ concerns

Oak Ridge City Council November 2014

Four former Oak Ridge police officers have asked the City Council to investigate some of the concerns recently raised about the Police Department and its chief, or to hear the concerns of officers. The City Council will consider what to do next during its regular meeting on Monday. Pictured above from right in November 2014 are Kelly Callison, Charlie Hensley, Rick Chinn, Mayor Warren Gooch, Chuck Hope, Trina Baughn, and Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Smith. (File photo)

 

Four former Oak Ridge police officers have asked the City Council to investigate some of the concerns recently raised about the Police Department and its chief, or to hear the concerns of officers.

The officers were responding to recent news reports about the police department and concerns raised about its turnover rate, as well as alleged policy violations included in a mid-January grievance filed by former Oak Ridge Police Department Officer Christopher Bayless. A few also cited letters written to the media by former Police Chief David Beams and former Lieutenant Jack Mansfield.

The officers expressed a range of concerns that include the alleged policy violations by Police Chief Jim Akagi and a Blount County order of protection in effect from April 2012 to June 2013, questions about the turnover rate and the chief’s leadership, and decisions about promotions, spending, and weapons. [Read more…]

Letter: Hensley wants to deny Baughn the right to serve, represent

To the Editor:

I was surprised to hear that Charlie Hensley even has a voice.

That when issues arise and he is not in charge of public discussion of important issues, he tries to silence or sweep things under the carpet.

This is so: That issues have no governing decision to bring the issue into a final end.

That’s like hiring a design firm for a Senior Center, then doing nothing.

The City Council wants everything to be status quo. [Read more…]

Baughn asks for investigation of police chief; Hensley seeks reprimand of Baughn

Trina Baughn

Trina Baughn

Charlie Hensley

Charlie Hensley

Note: This story was updated at 7:08 p.m.

On one hand is Oak Ridge City Council member Trina Baughn. She’s called for an investigation of the police chief.

On the other is City Council member Charlie Hensley. He wants the seven-member Council to reprimand Baughn.

It’s not clear which side, if either, will prevail during the Monday night meeting of the Oak Ridge City Council.

The two Council members, who have a strained relationship, have dueling resolutions that could be considered on Monday. Either one would require a second from another Council member to be discussed and four votes to be approved.

Both resolutions follow more than one week of accusations and allegations that have roiled and divided the community. They have focused, in particular, on the management of the Oak Ridge Police Department by Chief Jim Akagi and raised questions about the turnover rate and whether it is high. Some of the most blistering criticisms have come from former Oak Ridge Police Chief David Beams, who said he still visits the city. [Read more…]

School Board could make Preschool recommendation tonight

Charlsey Cofer and Oak Ridge City Council and School Board

Principal Charlsey Cofer, left, discusses the Oak Ridge Schools Preschool with Oak Ridge City Council members and City Manager Mark Watson, seated at table, during a Jan. 15 work session with the Oak Ridge Board of Education.

 

Note: This story was last updated at 12:25 p.m.

It’s been on the city’s wish list for decades, but city and school officials now appear closer to finding a solution to repairing or replacing the city’s preschool.

Officials said they’ve “kicked the can down the road” for years, but the discussion gained urgency after lead-based paint was found on the exterior of the 70-year-old building during a routine inspection in the spring of 2014. It could cost up to $150,000 to make repairs. Officials have characterized that as a Band-Aid or “last investment.”

“We’re going to have make a decision now, unfortunately, because of the paint,” said Keys Fillauer, Oak Ridge Board of Education chair. “The bottom line is: How are we going to pay for this?” [Read more…]

Gooch elected mayor, Smith mayor pro tem

Oak Ridge City Council November 2014

The new Oak Ridge City Council is pictured above. From right they are new member Kelly Callison, continuing member Charlie Hensley, new members Rick Chinn and Warren Gooch, continuing members Chuck Hope and Trina Baughn, and new member Ellen Smith. Council members are elected in staggered terms, so Baughn, Hensley, and Hope won’t be up for election until 2016. Callison, Chinn, Gooch, and Smith won their seats in the November 4 municipal election.

 

Note: This story was last updated at 9 a.m. Nov. 25.

New Oak Ridge City Council member Warren Gooch has been appointed mayor, and returning City Council member Ellen Smith has been elected mayor pro tem.

The two were appointed to serve two-year terms by the seven-member Oak Ridge City Council during a Monday night meeting, the first after the November 4 municipal election.

It’s the first elected office for Gooch, a lawyer, although he previously ran for Anderson County mayor in August 2012. Gooch was the top vote-getter in the November 4 municipal election, and he is the city’s 10th mayor, according to City Council member Chuck Hope, who also sought to be mayor.

“I do think our best days are ahead of us,” Gooch said after two members switched votes and cast ballots for him, breaking an impasse that had lasted through five rounds of voting. “Great things happen here every day, and they have for 70 years.” [Read more…]

Four City Council members say they’d like to be mayor

City of Oak Ridge Seal

Note: This story was updated at 3:03 p.m.

Four members of the new Oak Ridge City Council that starts Monday have announced that they would like to be mayor. One would like to also be considered for mayor pro tem.

The seven-member City Council, which has four new members, will appoint a mayor and mayor pro tem during its Monday night meeting. The City Council picks two of its members to serve as mayor and mayor pro tem after each municipal election every two years.

In letters to Council, current member Chuck Hope said he is interested in serving as mayor and so did City Council members-elect Rick Chinn and Warren Gooch.

Former City Council member Ellen Smith, who regained a seat in the November 4 election after an election loss two years ago, said she would like to be considered for mayor or mayor pro tem. Under the City Charter, the mayor pro tem presides at meetings when the mayor is absent or temporarily disabled. [Read more…]