Board votes to replace town attorney, recorder; ‘dissolve’ HR positions

The Oakland Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted last week to replace the town’s attorney and recorder and to “dissolve” the two Human Resources positions.
Board members took the actions Thursday night during their regular monthly meeting on separate motions offered by Alderman Chris Goodman and seconded by Alderman Billy Ray Morris.
Pursuant to Section 16 of the Oakland Town Charter, Chris Patterson of the Wiseman Bray law firm in Cordova was “immediately removed” as town attorney and replaced with Richard Myers of the Apperson Crump firm in Memphis. Myers previously served as Oakland’s attorney during the administration of former mayor Bill Mullins.
“During the transition,” Goodman said, “all materials and matters of the town interest will be transferred as efficiently as possible.”
His motion was passed by three affirmative votes, with Alderman Karl Chambless the lone dissenter.
Pursuant to Section 15 of the Charter, Pam Walker was immediately removed as town recorder. She had also served as Oakland’s finance director.
Noting that Walker should receive her “two weeks’ severance package,” Goodman said all other policies, procedures, “documents and guides” should be followed, and the town equipment returned.
His motion was passed by three affirmative votes, with Chambless abstaining.
The Human Resources positions of Director John Cox and Specialist Dustin James were immediately “dissolved” from the current budget, as well as “any new positions” that have been added.
“The positions should receive two weeks’ severance,” Goodman said, “and all town equipment should be returned immediately.”
His motion was passed by three affirmative votes, with Chambless abstaining.
Goodman said the actions are designed to reduce the administration’s workforce because of the “current situation” with the town’s General Fund. Noting that he examined it in January, he said the fund was “quite a bit less” than what the monthly budget is.
Although he declared that Oakland will benefit from having the new town recorder assume all the Human Resources positions, Goodman said it is no reflection on Walker.
“She’s done a great job,” he noted. “She’s helped me out. But I just think, at this point in time, that’s something the town has to do in order to get fiscally stable and moving in the direction that we need to.”
On a motion offered by Goodman and seconded by Alderman Kelly Rector, the board voted unanimously to ask the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office to conduct an audit of the town’s financial records.
Goodman told Mayor Scott Ferguson that this action is not because he believes “anything unlawful” has been done.
“The citizens have shown some concern about our general budget and the activities,” he noted. “And with that concern, I want to make sure to protect you as well as the board. Anyone who has touched those books previously or will be, just to make sure there’s nothing that would surprise us or put us in a compromising position.”
On a motion offered by Goodman and seconded by Morris, the board also voted unanimously to immediately implement a 60-day “hiring freeze” on town employees.
At Goodman’s request, the board scheduled a special called meeting at 7 p.m. March 4 to consider a replacement for Walker and receive an update on Myers’ transition into his new position.

Mayor Scott Ferguson fields questions from a local television news station Friday after Oakland’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted on Thursday to replace the town’s attorney and recorder and to “dissolve” two Human Resources positions. Alderman Chris Goodman also made a motion Thursday night during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting to ask the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office to conduct an audit of the town’s financial records.

Mayor Scott Ferguson fields questions from a local television news station Friday after Oakland’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted on Thursday to replace the town’s attorney and recorder and to “dissolve” two Human Resources positions. Alderman Chris Goodman also made a motion Thursday night during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting to ask the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office to conduct an audit of the town’s financial records.