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You might say that former East Ridge City Manager Tim Gobble has a gift. His impressive-looking government-service résumé—beginning with the Secret Service and ending last week in East Ridge—has been a game of leap frog characterized by his ability to woo voters and elected officials with smooth talk and what must be a persuasive interview. Doubtless, he has skills. But resumes are often conveniently swept clean of negativity, with the devil hiding in the details. Gobble fell on own his own sword this time after an almost two-year run managing a city that often appears unmanageable.
In a drama worthy of its own reality series—and one reported by the TFP’s Kate Harrison in a pilot episode-worthy account of his literal exit, complete with back-door escapes into a waiting car—Gobble resigned his post last week (rather than be ousted), taking with him a $79,000 severance package. According to Harrison in the TFP, East Ridge council members voted 3-2 to accept his resignation, granting him seven months of his $116,800 salary, likely to rid themselves of the controversy swirling about Gobble. Of that, there was much, and while the figure was high, the council did the right thing to remove the distraction. Sometimes it’s better to cut a deal and walk away, as many counselors and council-ers know.
You can follow Harrison’s account online—and it’s worth reading, as is her continued reporting on the funhouse that is East Ridge government—so we won’t bore you with the details here. That’s what daily newspapers are for and, with your help, subscribers—the rising rates should be coming soon, along with a copy of the publisher’s letter detailing the paper’s advertising woes—you’ll continue to receive this in-depth reporting.
What’s more worthy of an alt-weekly’s review is Gobble himself, his career hits and misses (of which there are now an equal number) and his Svengali-like ability to entrance voters and officials into voting for and/or hiring him. For this, we delved deep into the archives of hometowncleveland.com, the Cleveland “citizen watchdog” website which devotes an entire section to Gobble and tracks his every move.
To summarize, the site alleges Gobble’s government career snafus began with the Secret Service in 2004. While Gobble has said he left the Service rather than move to Washington, HTC says he was fired. Gobble was then elected to Cleveland City Council, but was forced to resign in his first year for, the site claims, violating the Hatch Act (created in 1939 to curb public employees and officials from engaging in partisan activity). Hired as Bradley County Emergency Management Agency director, he quit “under fire” within his first year, the site claims. All this behind him, voters elected Gobble sheriff of Bradley County, but he quit to run for Congress … and lost.
After seemingly exhausting his popularity in Cleveland, Gobble moved to Chattanooga and was hired as interim Hamilton County jailer, a position that, after having been a sheriff and would-be national political figure, must have seemed beneath him. He quickly moved on after being offered the East Ridge position in April 2011.
It’s worth noting that The Pulse doesn’t follow Chattanooga’s bedroom communities closely unless they engage in activities that rise to Onion-level humor (which happens quite frequently), when the parodies all but write themselves. But it’s clear that those who hired, or will hire Gobble—if he is not already employed—would do well to, well, Google him.
We have not personally encountered Gobble, but it appears from all recent and past reports that he’s a talented man who undermines himself with a clear pattern of either naked ambition, hubris or poor judgment—or all three—post-hire. Given the evidence, we might hesitate or at least perform due diligence. But that’s just us.
This scrutiny, along with accounting, are not, it seems, high on the agendas of governments or agencies in Cleveland or East Ridge. But don’t fret, ER—another worthy scandal will soon arrive to occupy your council. And really, what would the anonymous “wags” on the TFP’s website do with their time otherwise? The commentary is often so voluminous and venomous (if inevitably descending into “SNL”-worthy political and religious piety), maybe the paper should charge for commenting instead of raising the rates of loyal subscribers. Just a thought.
In the end, we are amused, but not surprised. The losers are all sitting around “revisiting” hiring procedures at the expense of taxpayers. Clichés abound at times such as these—”buyer beware” is one, “look before you leap” another—all worthy of consideration in these hindsight-is-20/20 situations. Good luck with that.
As for Gobble—whose recent sins include using East Ridge’s Facebook page as a personal platform and the hiring of a young protégé he is said to have referred to as a “Jedi Knight”—he’s counting the money and seeking greener pastures. In this case, to Gobble goes the spoils. Or as Gobble himself put it in the TFP: “I wish the city well, I sure do.”