Manning says Godsey 'instructed' him to fire Sullivan highway workers

J. H. Osborne • Feb 15, 2014 at 12:15 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Bobbie Manning got more specific Friday about his allegations that Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey’s advice has played a role in decisions at the Sullivan County Highway Department in recent weeks.

Manning, leading the highway department as temporary successor to former Interim Highway Commissioner Terry Shaffer, issued a short written statement to news outlets Friday morning.

In it, he states point blank that he was “instructed” to dismiss seven employees last month.

“If Mayor Steve Godsey would be more concerned about the betterment of this county and less concerned with trying to get ahead of popular opinion, and his re-election campaign, he would remember advising me on important decisions affecting the highway department,” Manning wrote in the statement. “Now he conveniently ‘forgets’ our discussion on the morning of Jan. 30 when I was instructed to dismiss the seven employees and ‘clean up the mess’ at the highway department. All I want to do is my job and keep the roads safe during these winter storms.”

Godsey has vehemently denied giving Manning any advice about any employees — other than to tell Manning he should rehire the seven who were terminated.

On Wednesday, after being told by the county attorney that he was breaking the law by continuing to perform official duties, Manning issued the following written statement to news outlets:

“The purpose of this correspondence is to clarify the events as they’ve unfolded since early December 2013.

“I have acted in what I firmly believe to be the best interest of the county in every decision I have made thus far. There are two factors that seem to be intertwined as it relates to my position as successor to the highway commissioner. First, there is the question of my status of being bonded. I am bonded. The bond was received by the county attorney’s office Feb. 11. I paid the entire $9,000. Second, there is the question of firing seven highway department employees. These are separate factors but have a common denominator in how I was advised to handle each one.

“Consistently this advisor has recommended me to take a position that may have been for reasons other than the county’s best interests.

“While I completely accept any and all responsibility for decisions I have made, I want to clarify that my advisor in these matters has been Mayor Steve Godsey, and now his position seems to be completely opposite.”

“I don’t know why he would say that,” Godsey told the Times-News in response to Manning’s written statement. “The highway department doesn’t answer to me. I didn’t even know these seven people. I’ve been trying to encourage Bobbie to bring those men back, because of all the controversy it has caused. I don’t know why he would say that unless he is trying to cover for himself. I did not advise him to get rid of those people. I’ve said the best thing to do is back up and start over, but he doesn’t want to do that. I did advise him to not pay $9,000 for a bond. I have nothing to do with him letting those people go. That has nothing to do with me. I could care less whether they work for him or not.”

As of Friday evening, Manning remained on the job.

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