Denny Manning is out as the City of East Ridge’s Chaplain after he spoke out at a recent City Council meeting calling Mayor Brent Lambert a “chicken.”
Manning was terminated from the volunteer, non-paying position on Friday by City Manager Scott Miller. In a letter documenting the termination Miller referenced Manning making a statement before the April 26 City Council meeting in which Lambert was absent: “To start with, Mr. Sewell, I appreciate you stepping in because our Mayor was chicken not to come.”
“I’m deeply hurt,” Manning said on Friday afternoon. “I’ve served as chaplain off and on since 1984. I love my job.
“I didn’t say anything out of hatred,” he said. “People wanted to know where the mayor was. I said he was chicken and stayed at home.
Lambert was absent, he said, because of a stomach illness. At the meeting dozens of citizens were angry and protesting their homes being included in the East Ridge Housing and Redevelopment Authority’s boundary map, making their homes subject to seizure by the City.
In the termination letter Miller wrote that Manning’s conduct at the meeting was “entirely inappropriate and out-of-line and represents disrespectful and discourteous conduct on your part as the City’s Chaplain.”
During a telephone interview on Friday, Miller said he took this action entirely on his own. He has had no contact with Mayor Lambert or any other elected official concerning firing Manning.
“(Manning) did a great job,” Miller said. “He cares about people. I like the man.
“As a religious representative of the city he needs to respect everyone, including elected officials, employees and citizens.”
Miller said that Manning was the city chaplain when he assumed the job as city manager two years ago. When Manning left the position of City Councilman after 12 years, he asked Miller if he could continue serving as the city’s chaplain. Miller said he issued him a city identification designating him as chaplain.
Manning said he never was told of any “rules or regulations” concerning his position as chaplain, which included giving spiritual counsel to employees and organizing police escorts for funerals. Manning said that on Friday he removed the license plate from the front of his vehicle which identified him as Police Chaplain/City Chaplain.
“I thought my job was to stand up for the public and as chaplain to help in any way I can,” Manning said. “I just tried to tell the truth about (Lambert).”