BRISTOL, Tenn. - There's an empty seat at the Bristol, Tennessee City Council work session Tuesday night after Councilman Ben Zandi formally resigned his position via email.
"In his letter of resignation he indicated time commitments were such that it was best to go ahead and submit his resignation," said Bill Sorah, Bristol, Tennesse's interim city manager.
We learned some saw this coming before that letter ever made its way into the hands of city officials.
When we asked city council member Margaret Feierabend if she was surprised to learn about Zandi's resignation, she replied with a blunt, "No."
Feierabend told News 5 there's been a sea of speculation circulating Bristol as to why Zandi has been absent from city meetings and events for the past several weeks, but she had no answers as to why he left Bristol.
News 5 did some digging and confirmed with current owners that Zandi sold several of his Bristol businesses, including the Troutdale Dining Room, Blue Circle, and Burger Bar restaurants.
We also went by his home and found a 'For Sale' sign posted in the front yard.
Mayor Michelle Dolan told News 5 that it's her understanding Zandi took a job in Boston.
That was something Feierabend said she was never told by Zandi personally. "He didn't share that with everybody. When I talked to him a month ago, he said he wasn't planning on leaving," said Feierabend.
A few weeks ago, during his final city council meeting, former council member David Shumaker publically questioned the city attorney about Zandi's absence. "My hope in doing so was to make sure the press was aware so that the media could keep the heat on [him]," said Shumaker.
Shumaker's concern was that Zandi would be governing from out-of-town. "It could go on indefinitely as long as the members of the city council would allow it to go on," Shumaker added.
While no longer on the council, he's glad he spoke up. "People just need to be honest and do the right thing. The right thing is if you don't live in Bristol, you shouldn't serve on the city council," said Shumaker.
News 5 has made several phone calls to Ben Zandi in hopes of hearing from him personally, but those calls have to yet be returned.
In a news release Zandi said, "I have enjoyed serving others through customer service excellence. As a business owner myself, I have had a passion about supporting other local businesses and organization to create local jobs and to stimulate and promote local economic growth."
As for what's next, we're told the city council has 30 days to appoint a new council member at-large.
That person would serve until the next election in August of 2014 and would have to run again in May of 2015 to keep that seat.
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