COPPERAS COVE — City Council members unanimously accepted Councilman Kenn Smith’s resignation letter at Tuesday’s regular meeting.
Smith, who gave officials his resignation letter March 17, said he resigned because a senior city staff member raised questions about his ethics and integrity.
In a letter Smith personally delivered to council members, Smith said he resigned after the city attorney questioned his ethics following a conversation Smith had with City Manager Andrea Gardner.
“At this point, I’m at peace with my decision. ... When I was first accused by the city attorney of doing something I did not do, I was outraged,” he said.
Smith said the trouble began when the city began considering renewing or negotiating its contract with Full Throttle Grill, the current concession providers at Hills of Cove Golf Course.
“(Gardner) was in negotiations with them for weeks, and as I remember her telling me this — they were down to two sticking points,” Smith said, explaining that it was an alcohol licensing issue and an issue with how much the city would receive in alcohol sales revenue.
Shortly afterward, the council approved a motion to put out bid requests for the contract in January. Before they went out, however, Smith said he went to Gardner, suggesting she press negotiations with the Full Throttle Grill to ensure the golf course wouldn’t be left without a concessions provider.
“She had indicated to me that they were pretty close to an agreement, so my suggestion was: why don’t you put a full-court press on this, and solve your couple of remaining differences, get a contract, and that’ll save everyone a lot of time and effort and money,” he said.
After the bids went out anyway, he didn’t give it another thought, he said.
But on March 11, City Attorney Habib Erkan asked him if he asked Gardner to “pull” the city’s request for bids.
“It’s interfering with the public bidding process,” Smith said. “That’s an abuse of an elected office. And you can’t do that, and I wouldn’t do that.”
After a cooling-off period of several days, Smith said he phoned Gardner to ask if she told Erkan that he’d requested she pull the bids, and if she had not, would she verify he had not requested it.
Gardner said she had not told Erkan, and she would not verify that he did not request her to pull the bids, Smith said.
Smith said he realized he was in a no-win situation, and decided to resign.
In response to accusations that Smith stood to benefit financially from Full Throttle’s continued contract, Smith said he and Danny Palmer, a former councilman, were planning to give the restaurant a personal $2,000 no-interest loan, but they were not going to make any money from it.
“He and I both believe that the couple (who own Full Throttle) is a good, hard-working couple ... we wanted to give them a hand up not a hand out,” he said.
Council members who responded to phone calls would not comment on the matter.
“Mrs. Gardner’s recollection of events vary from Mr. Smith’s and she will not entertain a ‘he said/she said’ debate,” said Kevin Keller, the city’s public information officer.