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Council Appoints Late Applicant

Posted on Thursday, June 6, 2024 at 2:52 pm

Citizen comes forward with new information

By: TRACY HARRIS – Staff Writer

Maybe you read last week’s article “Heated City Council Meeting” or maybe you didn’t. Either way, this is the follow up that no one saw coming.

One citizen comment does not bring much attention, normally. Maybe it’s a good thing when it does- people are paying attention. Are people expecting more from local government and elected officials? From the local press? Hopefully so.

City Council had a vacancy following Peggy Harwell’s death in March. Harwell was unable to attend for about two months before she passed due to her health. The City placed an advertisement in The Marshall County Post for two weeks (April 11 and April 18), extending the opportunity for “any citizen residing within the city limits of Ward 3 that would like to be considered to fill the vacant office of Councilman, Ward 3 for an unexpired term through August 31, 2026.”

To apply, interested candidates were instructed to submit the following to Gina Jones, City Recorder no later than Tuesday, April 30, 2024:

  1. Letter of interest – include physical address and phone number.
  2. Professional resume, to include any board memberships or community service/involvement.

April 19 at 10:31 a.m. email from Ronald “Ronnie” Robinson with a letter of interest, resume, and bio. His letter of interest expressed interest, said his resume was included which listed involvement in the City and County, and that his contact info was inside if the Council had questions for him.

Robinson’s resume includes 19+ years as Executive Director at Lewisburg Housing Authority, 12 years as Area Manager at Nissan, and 16 years as General Plant Maintenance at Dole Refrigerating Co. It has categories with objectives, experience, skills, education, and professional history.

His resume includes “over 12 years in positive management techniques and team building concepts” and “over 400 hours of employee relationship and managing skill training in sexual harassment, favoritism prevention, listening, and interpersonal skills.”

Robinson’s Bio includes volunteering and more than 10 boards he has served on or is currently serving on. He is a long-time member of Marshall County Voters Council and NAACP. He is a Certified Notary Public of the State of Tennessee. He served as District 7 Marshall County Commissioner, 1986 – 1992 (two terms). He was appointed as Ward 3 Councilmember in 2008. He was named 2021 Marshall County Outstanding Citizen of the Year.

April 26 at 11:42 a.m., email from David Perka with a “letter of intent.” His letter of intent was one page long expressing interest. It explained his family dynamic with his wife and two step-children and declared he is a voter (a requirement). It included, “Bark St. has the most curb appeal. At my own expense, I paint the sidewalk handicapped apron bright yellow.” The special needs community is a passion for Perka and his wife.

Perka’s letter includes one paragraph about “work history is mainly related to the bicycle industry.” He also “had positions in outside sales, store management, and ownership. Fiscal management is an important aspect of my background.” The closing of the letter includes a paragraph about Perka’s hobbies like gardening and fishing and a little about his son and daughter. He did not submit a resume.

Sidney Mayberry submitted a letter of interest on April 30 in person. The letter expressed interest, declared he is a voter (a requirement), and stated he is a business owner. The letter listed Mayberry as active on the Cemetery Board. He did not submit a resume.

April 30, by the end of the business day was the deadline to apply and the only candidate who met all requirements was Robinson.

Three business days (May 1 – 3) and a weekend (May 4 -5) passed.

Interviews were planned for 4:30 p.m. on May 6 at City Hall.

May 6 at 11:21 a.m., an email with “resume” in the subject line came in. There was no resume attached but the email contained the following information in the body of the email.  Addresses and irrelevant items are excluded:

“Dear Ms. Jones,

I looked over the Notice for the City Council position and realized that I may not have followed protocol with provision of a resume.”

Perka added education next, including graduating from Groveton High School in Virginia “a year early in 1972” and attending Virginia Wesleyan College for one year in 1974-1975.

Directly after college, the email has “1994-1999” and lists Perka as Owner-Operator of South River Cycles in Edgewater, Maryland.” Next is “1999 – 2009” with five companies. All companies are in Maryland and none contain exact dates of employment. They are: Jail Craft, Inc., Corman Construction, Walmart Supercenter, Altaquip, Inc., and City Group, Inc.

The final part of the email says, “2010-2017 Caregiver to Nancy Jo Platzer Cerebral Palsy patient and good friend. I retired at Age 62. Thank you for your time and consideration.” It closes with, “Sincerely, David E. Perka.”

Five hours and nine minutes later, interviews started.  The minutes show Bradford made a motion to appoint Perka and Burns seconded. Roll Call Vote was 3 -1 with Councilmember Vickie Michael as the “No” vote. Meeting adjourned at 6:12 p.m.

On May 6, City Council appointed their choice:

The person without a list of community involvement, any board memberships, a professional resume, or a list of community service.

The person who sent a “resume” after the deadline, typed in the body of an email, and five hours before their interview with the Mayor, City Manager, and Councilmembers.

The person with no personal references in this city, county, or state; professional references in this city, county, or state; or job history in this city, county, or state.

May 14 was City Council meeting. Perka was sworn in.

Robinson spoke during Citizen Comments: “I’m one of the candidates. Obviously Mr. Perka was chosen and I congratulate him. But, I’m also here to thank a couple of people. I want to thank Joe Bradford and Tommy Burns. I’m not going to preach, but God’s in control of everything – what goes on and what’s done. God saw I needed time with my grandchildren and my children. They needed someone else on their list to make sure I wasn’t chosen; so, I thank y’all for that. I thank y’all for calling around and getting someone else to run against me. When this position comes open again in 2026 – I’m not sure if I’ll be here but if God’s willing, I will be – I may decide to run then. The only part about it is, neither one of y’all will get to vote yes or no for me. So, I appreciate what you’ve done. Thank you for this time.”

Burns responded immediately, “I would like to respond to Mr. Robinson’s comment. I did call around to a couple of people but that was before anybody [um] before we received any applications or anything to see if anybody was interested. It was not to run against anybody.”

May 23, LaDelle Smith spoke with The Post to advocate for what she believes in – what is right. That is who she is. The Council’s decision not to appoint Robinson surprised her. She came forward with this information because she wants the truth to be known.

Smith considered being a Councilmember and went back and forth in her head about it. “The more I thought about it, I decided that I didn’t want to get involved in politics. I’m not a politician. I hadn’t thought much more about it ‘til Tommy called. Now, I’ve known him for a while. He was in the same class as my brother,” she said.

Smith added, “When Tommy Burns called me and asked me if I would consider running for City Council, I told him, ‘well yeah I’ve considered it but the more I thought about it, the more I don’t want to.’  Now, this is where I myself brought Ronnie’s name up. When he kept going on about it and was saying he thought I’d be a good fit for it, I told him I appreciated it; but, I told him I was going to call someone to see if he would put his name in the pot for it. I told him I knew someone who would be a really good representative for Ward 3. And Tommy said, ‘OK that’s great. Who is it?’ and I said Ronald Robinson.”

Smith continued, “I told him, ‘I’ve actually got a note right in here in front of me to call him [Robinson] to see if he’ll apply’ and Tommy said, ‘Oh, well we’ve already got a letter of application from him.’ So, I told him, ‘well if that’s the case, then you don’t need me because I wouldn’t run against Ronald for anything in the world. You’ve got the person you need already.’”

This statement contradicts Burns’ statement about him only “calling….before we received any applications.”

She told Burns, “As far as I’m concerned, Ronald would be the most fair person you could have. He can represent all people, Black and White. That’s the person I would want representing me.”

She said Burns told her to “let him know if she changed her mind” and then asked her about Robinson leaving the Housing Authority. For seven years, Smith served on Lewisburg Housing Authority Board of Directors. Robinson left his position as Executive Director of Lewisburg Housing Authority in 2023 after almost 20 years.

“It was a mess the way they treated him when they let him go. There was some things going on behind the scenes that I wasn’t aware of. We were advised not to talk to him at the time. It ate at me because I’ve known him for a long time and at one point I just went and talked to him. I knew I could get in trouble for doing it but I did it. I just directly asked him a few questions. Now, I didn’t like some of the answers but I knew things weren’t adding up before that” said Smith. Things made sense after their conversation and Smith resigned at the very next board meeting.

From 1979-1986, Smith taught Special Education in Marshall County. She also taught it in Maury County from ‘86 until she retired in ‘09. She was recognized as TEA Distinguished Classroom Teacher of the Year for Marshall County, the State of Tennessee, and for Maury County (three times). She is a very active member of the Marshall County Retired Teachers’ Association. Her first year and a half of teaching was in the original Jones School building when it was one classroom made up with children of all ages with all levels of both physical and mental impairments.

Bradford responded to Robinson at the end of May 14 meeting: “I didn’t know the man’s phone number until it came in on the letter of interest. I never called him about this position. I’ve known Mr. Perka for several years. In the course of being around town, with several people I said ‘hey ya know they’re advertising for Ward 3 right now if you live over around in there.’ If he ran with that, he ran with that. But I don’t know Mr. Robinson. I don’t have anything against him. Same as Mr. Mayberry, that was not anything intended to be against anyone. So, I didn’t appreciate that comment. I think it put a taint on Mr. Perka. I also feel like the thinly veiled attack makes me more confident that we made the right choice.”

Perka spoke after him. “[Robinson] has been a very compassionate and kind person to me and to my former girlfriend, Nancy Platzer, bless her heart. He gave us a place to live. I have nothing but respect for the man; and I wish him well in his campaign in 2026 if that’s what he would like to do. I hope to consider him a friend, because he always has been. Thank you.”

Most information for this article is public record and is available to the public.