The city of Rhome has hired a public works director – the last position to be filled after a mass exodus of department heads two weeks ago.
Sam Dorsett, public works director in Boyd, was hired for the same job in Rhome and will start Thursday.
The decision was confirmed Tuesday by Rhome city secretary Ramah Burns, who said Dorsett had previously worked for the city 10 or 11 years ago.
Former Public Works Director Preston Gilliam resigned June 23, along with Police Chief James Rose. Municipal court clerk Sherry Taylor retired the week of June 16-20.
The only department head who did not leave was Burns, who is married to Mayor Louis Godfrey.
Within days of Taylor’s retirement, Godfrey had hired Sherrie Dast to replace her. Dast, who had previously worked as a court administrator, had filled in for Taylor on occasion.
Godfrey also moved quickly to replace Rose, hiring former Rhome city councilman Brandon Davis the day after the chief resigned.
Rose has declined to comment on his resignation, but Gilliam said the way things were handled with the chief – coupled with a growing uneasiness about how city business was being conducted – led to his resignation. He declined to elaborate but said he was not forced to resign.
Rumors have swirled that Rose was forced to resign by Godfrey, but the mayor has denied those allegations. He told the Messenger June 24 that no one was forced to resign or retire, although he was given the authority just the week before to hire and fire department heads independent of the city council.
Gilliam said his decision was made after much thought and consideration.
“When I lost the desire and felt like I wasn’t working for the citizens of Rhome and just watching personal agendas fly instead of taking care of city business, I just washed my hands of it,” he told the Messenger June 26.
Gilliam was contacted for a June 25 story, “City of Rhome officials jump ship,” but he did not respond by press time, saying later in the week that his city phone had been shut off and he never got the message.
Gilliam, who had been with the city eight years, offered in his resigation letter to work six more months with his last day being Jan. 9, 2015. In the meantime, he would help the council with the budget for his department and help them find a replacement.
In the June 23 letter, which he brought to the Messenger June 27, he said, “I have taken this decision after thorough deliberation and assessment, and I believe it’s in my best interest to move on.” He ended it with, “This decision is not negotiable!”
Gilliam also provided the Messenger with a copy of Godfrey’s response, which is also dated June 23.
It reads: “I spoke with the council concerning your resignation. Neither the council or myself know why you’re wishing to resign, but you have indicated quite clearly that you do not wish to talk or negotiate why you’re leaving.”
Godfrey went on to say that he was sorry to hear Gilliam was leaving, but he and the council felt it was best for him to resign immediately instead of waiting until January.
In the letter he says Gilliam will be on vacation until June 27 because he had already been paid for that week, and on the 27th he was to turn in his keys, cell phone and vehicle.
“You will also pick up your check for any monies owed to you by the city and leave,” the letter says. “Friday is your last day here. This too is not negotiable.”
Gilliam said he felt like Godfrey already had a replacement lined up for his position, and “what happened would have happened anyway … just a little farther down the road.”
“I put the gun to my foot,” Gilliam said in reference to his resignation letter, “and Louis pulled the trigger. And I’m fine with that.”
Rhome City Council’s next regular meeting is 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 105 E. 1st St.