Hendersonville Public Works Director Chip Moore was suspended without pay for three days late last week, according to a letter dated May 23 from Mayor Jamie Clary.
In the letter, Clary says the disciplinary action is due to Moore’s performance in addressing traffic and safety issues.
“Several items have been awaiting your action for long periods of time or have been unnecessarily delayed,” writes Clary. “Those issues include traffic signal synchronization; a traffic study for Imperial Boulevard and Rockland Road; researching setting additional signals to flashing yellow overnight; responding to a request for traffic calming in the Indian Ridge subdivision; and implementing recommended changes in the Wynbrooke subdivision.
“These items and some others have been awaiting your action for months,” writes Clary. “We have communicated about the need for them to move forward, but there has been little or no progress.”
Moore’s suspension started May 23 and ended Monday, May 28, after a half day according to the letter. Monday was Memorial Day, a paid holiday for city staff.
Moore said Clary knew he had already scheduled a vacation to begin on May 24. Moore will return on June 4 and plans to appeal the matter, he added.
“I said you’ll hear from my attorney and I ended the meeting,” said Moore, adding he believes the suspension is more about personal feelings Clary has towards him rather than his job performance.
The traffic signal synchronization project, for example, is finally moving forward after years of delay from the state and the previous public works director, Moore added.
Moore hired legal representation earlier this year, according to a letter dated March 16 to city attorney John Bradley from Brandon Meredith of Phillips & Ingrum in Gallatin.
In the letter Meredith said he was retained by Moore because of a document Clary made him sign on Jan. 18. The document says that Moore acknowledges Clary is his supervisor and thus has supervision over public works projects. The document also states that Moore will not contact aldermen proactively and will notify the mayor of conversations “as soon as practicable.”
The prohibition is in direct violation of TCA 8-50-602 which says that “no public employee shall be prohibited from communicating with an elected public official for any job-related purpose,” according to the attorney’s letter.
Moore said he’d rather solve the issues without taking legal action against the city.
“I don’t want to cost the city any more money,” he said. “I don’t want to impact the city any further negatively.”
Moore was named in 2016 Municipal Public Servant of the Year by the Sumner County Council of Governments. The Hendersonville Standard named him a Person of the Year that same year – in part for his work turning around the battered department following the firing in 2014 of his predecessor, Jerry Horton for mismanagement and safety issues. Horton subsequently sued the city for wrongful termination in federal court. That lawsuit is pending.