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…]

Second Dragon Boat Festival scheduled for May 30

Four Dragon Boats

Dragon boats at the first Oak Ridge Dragon Boat Festival on May 31, 2014, at Melton Lake Park. (Submitted photo)


The second annual Oak Ridge Dragon Boat Festival will be held Saturday, May 30, at the Oak Ridge Marina and Pavilion in Melton Lake Park. The annual festival was launched a year ago by the three Rotary clubs of Oak Ridge.

This year, the festival will be preceded by an evening social event and beer garden on Friday, May 29, at the park. For the dragon boat paddlers and other visitors from out of town, the host hotel is Comfort Inn of Oak Ridge.

The festival’s organizing committee is headed by Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson, immediate past president of the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge. Chairs and members of the steering committee and subcommittees are members of this club, the Breakfast Club, and the Sunset Club. [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…]

Letter: Callison thanks supporters, says we need to promote city every day

Kelly Callison

Kelly Callison

To the Editor:

I would like to first thank all those who participated in the November elections. I believe it is the duty of every citizen to vote and make their opinion known.

I would, of course, like to thank all those who voted for me. Rest assured that I will truly represent the best interests of Oak Ridge.

Finally, I would like to thank my campaign committee, especially my treasurer Martha Wallus.

What I really like about campaigning is going door-to-door speaking to voters. I find everyone I meet welcoming and appreciative of my short visit. When you walk through a neighborhood, you get such a different sense then when you drive through at 25 mph. [Read more…]

City Council winners: Gooch, Chinn, Callison, and Smith

Five Oak Ridge City Council Candidate 2014

Three of the four candidates elected to the Oak Ridge City Council on Tuesday are pictured above during a September forum. Warren Gooch, second from left, was the top vote-getter, finishing ahead of Rick Chinn, second from right, and Kelly Callison, right. Incumbent Anne Garcia Garland, center, was not re-elected. Candidate Gary Love is also pictured.


Note: This story was updated at 1:28 a.m. Nov. 5.

Three newcomers and a former member were elected to the Oak Ridge City Council on Tuesday. The winners were Warren Gooch, Rick Chinn, Kelly Callison, and Ellen Smith.

There were four seats available, and two incumbents—Anne Garcia Garland and David Mosby—were unseated. Two other incumbents—Mayor Tom Beehan and Mayor Pro Tem Jane Miller—did not seek re-election, meaning a majority of the seven-member body will be new.

“It’s clearly a transitional election,” said Gooch, a lawyer and the top vote-getter. [Read more…]

Gooch, Chinn, Callison, Smith lead in early, absentee ballots

Warren L. Gooch

Warren L. Gooch

Oak Ridge City Council candidates Warren Gooch, Rick Chinn, Kelly Callison, and Ellen Smith lead in early and absentee ballots, according to early Anderson County and Roane County election results posted at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The Anderson County Election Commission and Roane County Election Commission have not yet posted precinct results from Election Day voting, so the leaders could change.

Gooch has 2,206 votes, which is several hundred ahead of Rick Chinn, who has 1,975.

Callison has 1,860, and Smith, a former City Council member, has 1,649. [Read more…]

2014 Election: Interest in mayor position, mall redevelopment, better ties with BOE

Oak Ridge City Council Candidate Forum

Nine of the 10 Oak Ridge City Council candidates are pictured above. From right, they are Kelly Callison, Rick Chinn, incumbent Anne Garcia Garland, Warren Gooch, Gary Love, incumbent David Mosby, Pedro Otaduy, former Council member Ellen Smith, and Eric Tobler. Not pictured is Aditya “Doc” Savara.


A majority of the Oak Ridge City Council candidates said they would consider running for mayor or vice mayor if elected on Tuesday, and almost all supported the incentives recommended for the proposed redevelopers of the former Oak Ridge Mall.

The candidates were mixed on whether to bring back red-light cameras, and most seemed to think the city’s property tax rate is about right, in light of current budget needs.

Asked to grade the current Council as leaders, the candidates handed out grades ranging from “A” to “F.”

In a series of recent forums, the candidates generally advocated for better communication between the City Council and Oak Ridge Board of Education and, for the most part, seemed to be in favor of taking over Clark Center Park in south Oak Ridge, although their approvals would hinge on factors such as cost and property restrictions.

There are 10 candidates running for four seats on the seven-member Council in Tuesday’s election. Two of the incumbents—Anne Garcia Garland and David Mosby—are seeking re-election—and two others—Mayor Tom Beehan and Mayor Pro Tem Jane Miller—are not.

Many consider it a critical election, with a business boom under way and major projects on the horizon, including the proposed redevelopment of the mall and the planned $6.5 billion Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12 National Security Complex.

The new Council is expected to elect a new mayor and mayor pro tem (like a vice mayor) during its next meeting after Tuesday’s election.

Here is a look at some of what the candidates said during the recent forums. [Read more…]

Progress PAC endorses three each for City Council, BOE

Kelly Callison

Kelly Callison

Ellen Smith

Ellen Smith

Warren L. Gooch

Warren L. Gooch


The new Progress PAC political action committee has endorsed three candidates each for Oak Ridge City Council and Oak Ridge Board of Education.

The three candidates endorsed in the City Council race are Kelly Callison, Warren Gooch, and Ellen Smith. The three endorsed in the School Board race are Bob Eby, Paige Marshall, and Laura McLean.

“PAC board members feel these candidates best support exceptional schools and jobs in Oak Ridge via teamwork between the Board of Education and City Council,” a press release said. [Read more…]

Letter: Urges voters to meet Callison, a ‘proven strong leader’

To the Editor:

I want to personally invite you to come to Razzleberry’s Ice Cream Lab and Kitchen in Jackson Square on Wednesday, September 24, from 5 to 7 p.m. to meet and support Kelly Callison, who is running for Oak Ridge City Council in the upcoming election.

I’ve worked personally with Kelly on the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission and on several boards in Oak Ridge. Kelly is a proven strong leader who understands the problems facing Oak Ridge. He is results-focused and has shown his ability to work with and lead teams of leaders to solve problems. Kelly is chief operating officer for Information International Associates here in Oak Ridge.

I’m convinced that Kelly will be a great asset for the City of Oak Ridge as a Council member. I urge you to come spend some time with Kelly on September 24, and I think you too will find him to be just the kind of Council member Oak Ridge needs.

I look forward to seeing you on September 24!

Austin Lance

Oak Ridge