For decades politics in East Ridge has been one of the most talked about subjects in the city. Everyone has their own thoughts and ideas as to who is best to run the government. Some say I have known “Bob” for 30 years and find he is a great man and would be a great councilman or mayor, but then you find out that “Bob” took a bribe for a vote to change a zoning ordinance. In the eyes of some, this is just business as usual, while others see this as unethical and corrupt.
I moved to East Ridge in 1969 and I have seen my share of bad things happen in our city.
In March of 1970 the Concerned Citizens for East Ridge Committee was formed with a goal to expose irregularities in city government in order to develop a better municipality.
In April of 1985 the East Ridge Informers Group called for removal of all incumbents. This group formed several years before to serve as an information circuit between voters and the candidates. The organization claimed the commission had allowed nepotism, taxation without consent and callous handling of their departments.
Here is where things got really bad in East Ridge. On May 9, 1987 my brother Greg was pulled over for speeding and got into a verbal confrontation with a cop. Greg was taken to jail and not charged with any crime, but two hours after he was taken to jail he was found hanging in his cell with his hands tied behind his back with his shirt. Greg died 19 days later in the East Ridge Hospital. Now to tie all of this together I want to say that I knew my brother better than anyone and I know he did not do this, but I have always questioned what happened, and to this day I have never talked to any one of the seven people involved that were at the jail. This was investigated only by East Ridge and no other agency was involved.
Richard “Cubby” Owens and Wayne Thompson were employed by the East Ridge Police Department when this incident happened.
After this happened in May, fast-forward to June 24, 1987 when Mayor G.W. White and Public Works Commissioner L.B. “Red” Hadden were arrested by the FBI and charged with extortion for soliciting $1,500 in bribes in exchange for votes on rezoning a trailer park on Ringgold Road so a shopping center could be built there. Both men were convicted of the charges. White was sentenced to four years, while Hadden served six months.
On March 1, 1988, former Fire and Police Commissioner Charles H. Gass was indicted by a federal grand jury for extorting $3,000 from a developer in return for a controversial rezoning request so the property developer could build a $7 million apartment complex. The prosecutor also said that Gass may be tied to other bribes on two occasions in 1986. Charles W. Gass was found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison.
On October 12, 1988 two contractors alleged that Fire and Police Commissioner William Haisten took money in the same bribery/extortion case where Mayor White and Commissioner Hadden were indicted.
Where does all of this tie into East Ridge as of today?
Let’s look at who is running this year. Jim Bethune is running for Mayor. As a City Councilman, Jim Bethune took money as a campaign contribution from a property owner/developer and voted to rezone property for this developer within two weeks of getting this money. Jim Bethune also threatened to shut down the East Ridge Neighborhood Watch Group because I am the one that created it and operates it. Jim Bethune got into a heated verbal attack with my then 80-year-old aunt over him lying to her and threatening her as well as me.
Jim Bethune in past elections (2014) encouraged his friend Richard “Cubby” Owens to run for Court Clerk in East Ridge, but he lost to Patricia Cassidy. Now we have Wayne Thompson, also a friend of Jim Bethune, running against Patricia Cassidy. The problem with this is Patricia Cassidy is the only person that is qualified and has years of experience in this field. She has a great bond with the judge and officers as well as she is well liked and very honest.
Jim Bethune is also friends with Denny Manning and Jacky Cagle and they do not need to be voting on anything in East Ridge again.
I have personally met and have spoken to Brian Williams running for mayor. He is very strong in how a business needs to operate.
I have personally met with Mike Chauncey, who is running for council. He has strong real estate business experience. Both men know my stance on this election as well as what I would like to see in government and what I do not want to see.
East Ridge has only 21,000 citizens. We are a small town, but we have big issues with transparency, communications with citizens, trust in our government and entirely too much division in the different departments, especially police and fire.
I am good friends with many police and many fire personnel. I hold absolutely no hatred or anger with our police department of today. I feel East Ridge is still an incubator for bribery, corruption and issues of questionable ethical behavior that seems to be the norm. The only way to stop this is to deny access to the power that creates these issues.
Get out and VOTE but know who and what you are voting for…
My vote position Yes No
Brian Williams Mayor YES
Mike Chauncey Council YES
Jeff Ezell Council YES
Jim Bethune Mayor NO
Jacky Cagle Council NO
Denny Manning Council NO
_ Mark Brandt