Monday, October 20, 2014

October 20, 2014 City Council Set To Vote on Changing Distance Requirement for Beer Sales

The Morristown City Council agenda for tomorrow includes a reduction in the distance requirement between businesses selling beer and schools, churches, and parks.

This latest change comes after the Popkin Food City (on part of the old Berkline property) was built and then "suddenly" Food City discovered that the building was too close to the City's Popkin Park to get a beer permit under the city's current distance guidelines.

No problem. Whenever a law inconveniences the City or certain well-heeled companies or  councilmembers, the solution is always the same: change the law.

[Remember the George McGuffin Law that LeBel, Senter, Bivens, Garrett, and Jinks passed overturning a referendum to help the LeBel Five put George McGuffin back on the MUS Board. Click here or here or on the label "McGuffin Law" at the side of this blog]

Now some of the changes being made tomorrow are general changes that need to be made. But the change in the distance requirement is specifically for Food City. 

Whether the distance requirement should be changed or not should not come up suddenly--particularly in response to a situation where a corporation that is very knowledgeable about beer permitting in localities throughout Tennessee and designs and builds a store in Morristown that is too close to a city park to qualify for a beer permit.

Food City already has numerous stores in Morristown that sell beer. Food City knows and knew the beer permit distance requirements when they bought the Popkin property (with City Councilman Paul LeBel involved in the sale) and when they located and began construction on the store.

So let's not act like, golly-gee, we're shocked and need to do something (change the law) to help these poor souls.

There will be lots of posturing tomorrow--and lots of claims about needing to take this action to "create jobs" or to help a business/corporate/friend. Plus there will be claims that the old distance requirements are "suddenly" out-of-date. See Gary Chesney's October 17 Facebook post here.

Job creation is extremely important, but there are some who say that "job creation by Food City" in Morristown is largely smoke and mirrors as Food City is opening two new stores (Masengill Springs on W.A.J. and Popkin on E. Morris Boulevard) with great fanfare---and with the help of millions of local tax increment dollars (TIF) used on each site--and then with far less fanfare Food City will quietly close down one or more of its other Morristown stores.

Watch what Councilmember LeBel, who was involved in the sale of the property to Food City and who profited by that sale, says and does.

Watch them all as they skirt around the fact that the major change being made tomorrow is a change to the beer permit distance requirement to accommodate Food City at Popkin Center--a corporate business that knows the local beer permit law, built its building too close to a park to get a beer permit under the existing law, and then turned to LeBel and company to have the law changed.

And when the law is changed tomorrow and customized for Food City, it is changed for all businesses. And if. in the future, another favored business builds its building too close to a school, church, or park to get a beer permit, we will go through this same customized change to the law, the same political charade.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October 15, 2014 Eight New Members Elected to Humane Society

In a two-minute meeting yesterday at high noon, Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society president Christine Coley announced the results of the recent special election for eight members of the Humane Society Board of Directors.

Newly-elected members of the Humane Society Board of Directors are: Susan Allen and Dr. Daniel Parks (one-year term); Dr. Michael Bratton, Bette Crawford, and Diane Lovejoy (two-year term); and Robin Robinson, Judy Stockard, and Susan Widener (three-year term).

It was a clean sweep for the eight new members as incumbents/those nominated by the prior board's nominating committee were defeated: Larry Baker, Christine Coley, Ruth Frederick, Diane Fox, Charlotte Long, Wally Long, Eddie Davis, and Frank McGuffin.

A number of issues loom before the eight new Board members who will be joining the full Board.

The Humane Society has had numerous financial issues over the past years, including alleged employee embezzlement and failure to maintain worker's compensation insurance. These problems resulted in substantial loss/reduction of available operating monies.

In addition to the above problems, there was the recent hiring of former Board member Larry Baker's friend as Director--an individual with lots of baggage who never should have been proposed or hired as the face of the Humane Society.  This individual may decide to pack up and leave/resign with the election of the new Board members.

Hopefully, there will be a smooth transition to a new Board that is accountable, that operates in a fiscally transparent manner, that works vigorously to promote low-cost spay and neuter clinics, that encourages local adoption as well as rescue adoption, and that supports fostering and volunteer activities.

The Humane Society receives its primary funding from the City and County governments--about $270,000 total per year.

An all-out effort to get the Humane Society back on track in caring for the animals of this community is needed. The new Board has a great opportunity--and many challenges--in front of it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

October 7, 2014 No Motion and No Vote at County Commission Public Services Committee on Humane Society Contract

Some background regarding the MH Humane Society:

1) The city and county provide the majority of funding for the MH Humane Society--just over $130,000 from each government

2) The Humane Society was asleep at the wheel for the past several years during which their non-profit status was lost and only recently re-established, approximately $50,000 was lost through alleged embezzlement by an employee, insurance coverage was not maintained and a large payout to an employee who was purportedly injured on the job had to be made from operating funds, a new "Director" (with close connections to former county commissioner/current Humane Society member Larry Baker) was quickly hired with poor results as an employee and disastrous results as the public face of the Humane Society; a new election for board members was totally botched and new ballots were sent out recently; and it goes on and on.

A few months ago, County Mayor Bill Brittain along with County Attorney Chris Capps and County Commissioner Doe Jarvis met with City Mayor Danny Thomas, City Administrator Tony Cox, and City Attorney Dick Jessee to iron out a contract with the Humane Society.

This contract was brought to the county commission in August by Mayor Brittain. At that meeting, Mayor Brittain and Attorney Capps proposed one change to the contract. The contract was approved with the change and the Humane Society was given until November 1 to approve the contract.

Shortly after presenting and getting approval by commission of a proposed City/County/Humane Society contract, Mayor Brittain--who is a member of the Humane Society Board--began working with the Humane Society on a contract that is different in many respects from the one that he brought to county commission in August and asked commissioners to approve.

Yesterday, Mayor Brittain sought approval from the Public Services Committee of his 2nd Humane Society contract.

There were comments and extended discussion at and after the meeting about the Humane Society and the current situation.

The frustration of commissioners is evident.

When Public Services Chairman Herbert Harville asked if there was a motion to approve Brittain's newest Humane Society contract, there was silence. Finally, Harville declared that there was no motion and he moved on to the next item.

When all this mess started out, it seemed like it was primarily a financial/bookkeeping issue and that the treasurer should step down and there should be additional oversight of the Humane Society finances.

As more information has emerged and as I have attended Humane Society "board" meetings and have stepped in to foster animals as well, it is evident that the problems go way beyond just treasurer/bookkeeping issues.

The Humane Society was started decades ago by dedicated individuals who worked with care and concern for the animals uppermost. Some of those individuals are still on the Board and are good people who didn't intend for this mess to happen. They assumed and trusted that everything was being done correctly, but they didn't verify.

The mess did happen, and it hasn't been cleaned up. In fact, it has been made worse by the hiring of the current "director" months ago with continuing problems with shelter operations and then improper attempts by the existing Board to influence an election for board members by sending out a ballot declaring that certain candidates on the ballot were ineligible to serve on the board.

After several of these individuals provided proof of their Humane Society membership and eligibility, the votes from the first election were never counted and a new ballot prepared. The new ballots are to be counted on October 9.

In all of this, Diane Fox, current Humane Society secretary, showed the most common sense at the September 23 meeting of the Humane Society Board.

When the contract that County Mayor Bill Brittain, City Mayor Danny Thomas, and Humane Society Attorney Scott Reams had drafted was presented to the Board, Fox voted "no."

Her reasoning and her statement was that any contract decision should be made by the Humane Society Board which would be elected and known by October 9.  Common sense.

 It appears that there is common sense on the part of commissioners as well to wait for the election results on the Humane Society Board. And with the City as a party to the contract, why are all these contracts being drafted by certain officials and attorneys but no contract has been presented to or even discussed at a City Council meeting or work session?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September 24, 2014 MH Humane Society with Two New Members Approves Contract with City and County

The Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society Board gave its approval yesterday to a proposed contract with the city and county.

And the Humane Society apparently has two new members--Sonya Shipley who was appointed by County Mayor Bill Brittain and Wayne Nesmith who was appointed by City Mayor Danny Thomas.

The city already has a contract with the Humane Society. The County makes an annual donation of  over  $130,000 for the operation of the animal shelter but has no contract with the Humane Society.

With the uproar at the shelter including alleged embezzlement of funds, poor record-keeping, a lapse of workmen's comp insurance that resulted in a large payout to an individual that had to be paid with animal care funds, and the questionable hiring of a close associate of Board member Larry Baker as shelter director, the Board has hunkered down and fought to retain control of animal care in Morristown and Hamblen County.

The County Commission approved a contract with the Humane Society several weeks ago and gave the Humane Society until Nov. 1, 2014, to approve the contract as drafted or county funding would cease.

County Mayor Bill Brittain, County Attorney Chris Capps, Commissioner Doe Jarvis, City Mayor Danny Thomas, City Attorney Dick Jessee, and City Administrator Tony Cox worked on that contract. County Commission made one change to the contract before passing it.

The Humane Society, on which Mayor Bill Brittain serves an ex officio member, balked.

Mayor Brittain and Mayor Thomas  worked with Humane Society Attorney Scott Reams to draft another contract that the current Humane Society Board has indicated it is willing to sign---albeit reluctantly.

And amid all this uproar, the current Humane Society Board is sending out ballots (2nd time) on Friday (Sept 26) for the election of a new Board with both current members and challengers on the ballot. Ballots are due back at the offices of Purkey, Carter, Compton, Swann & Carter, CPAs, on October 8. 

One current Board member. Diane Fox, made an interesting and important comment yesterday. She noted that with the upcoming election of a new Board--which may or may not include members of the current Board--why the rush by the current Board to approve the contract.

Why indeed?

Her very logical thought was that the new Board that will be in place shortly after October 8 and well-before the Nov 1 county deadline should make the decision on any contract.

Friday, September 05, 2014

September 5, 2014 Ford Calls Special Meeting Without Authority, Adjourns Meeting When Objection Raised by Commissioner

County Commission Chair Stancil Ford issued the call for yesterday's special meeting of the Hamblen County Commission.

Ford, however, had no authority to call yesterday's meeting.

Under state law, T.C.A. 5-5-105(a)(2), the chair can only call for a special session if the Mayor or a majority of commissioners apply in writing to the chair for such a meeting.

Neither the Mayor nor any commissioner had submitted such a request to the Chair. Ford had just taken it upon himself to call the body into session.

[Under T.C.A. 5-5-105(a)(1), the County Mayor also has the authority to call a special session but only if, in the mayor's opinion, the public necessities require it. Mayor Brittain did not issue the call for the special meeting.]

During public comments, I provided information regarding the above state law and an email exchange with an attorney in the Comptroller's office confirming the very clear requirements that must be met before the chair can call a special session of the commission.

County Attorney Chris Capps admitted that Ford had called the meeting without authority--that there had been no written request for this meeting. 

Brittain recommended that the meeting continue saying he and Stancil had "discussed" a meeting.

Attorney Capps recommended that the meeting continue while acknowledging that it was a technical violation of the statute. Capps added that it should only go forward if no commissioner objected.

Commissioner Johnny Walker objected.

A few commissioners were willing to go on with a meeting that had been called by the chair without authority to do so.

Ford, while serving as chair, entered into the discussion and said he thought the meeting should go on.

Walker said what kind of precedent does that set if we are not doing what we are supposed to.

Ford then asked Capps to explain what CTAS (County Technical Advisory Services) had said about the situation.

Capps said that his conversation with CTAS (County Technical Assistance Services) was not actually a specific discussion of T.C.A. 5-5-105 (a)(2) but was a "general" conversation. Capps added that he and Brown painted it "with a broad brush" in that conversation, and she did not consider it a "real big deal so to speak"

Commissioner Joe Huntsman then stated that he wanted to do what was right and he didn't want to set a precedent by breaking the law on their first day there. 

Stancil Ford again asked Walker if he objected. Walker said yes.

Ford closed the meeting.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

September 3, 2014 City Council's Super Short Meeting; Chesney and the Sunshine Law

The Morristown City Council met yesterday, and it was over almost as quickly as it began.

If you blinked, you pretty much missed the meeting.

But don't worry. You didn't miss much.
A truck was purchased and some outdated language in the sign ordinance was deleted.

In the work session that followed the meeting, Parks and Rec Director Craig Price presented information on a playground for Wayne Hansard Park on the west end of the City.

The work session is where information is shared and items are discussed but no votes are taken.

During Price's presentation, however, Councilmember Paul LeBel decided to request a "show of hands" in support of the proposal.

This isn't the first time, LeBel has requested a "show of hands" at a meeting or work session.

LeBel requested a "show of hands" from councilmembers who would support CPA Glenn Thompson's appointment to the MUS Board at a council meeting in July. 

Six hands went up. LeBel's "raise your hands" vote came just two weeks after Councilmember Chesney announced on his Facebook page ( that Thompson was the "consensus" of a majority of councilmembers.

How Chesney knew that a majority of councilmembers were in favor of Thompson raised the question of whether Chesney had been discussing the vote on the MUS appointment with fellow councilmembers in violation of the state "Sunshine" law that requires that all deliberations on public business occur in public.

Other posts by Chesney on the recent MUS appointment process also hint at possible "Sunshine" law violations.

In a recent (August 27) post, Chesney denied any Sunshine Law violations and said he got his information about councilmembers' preference for Thompson from MUS Board members and not from other councilmembers.

A little more information would clarify whether there was, in fact, any Sunshine violation.

Which MUS Board members discussed a possible Glenn Thompson appointment with Chesney? 

Who brought up Glenn Thompson's name? Chesney? Or the Board member(s)?

Who did Chesney talk to in order to get a "count" showing that a majority of council supported Thompson?

Who did the MUS Board member(s) talk to in order to get a "count" showing that a majority of council supported Thompson?

Was someone taking a "count" for Chesney in order to try and prevent a Sunshine violation by Chesney? 

Oh--and Gary decided to delete his post of July 2 that mentioned that a majority of council supported Thompson. Why?

To help Gary's recollection of his July 2 post, Attorney Link Gibbons re-posted Gary's July 2 entry as part of Gibbons'  "comments" on Chesney's August 27 post.

Link Gibbons Gary, I assume I am the concerned citizen you are addressing above regarding a possible violation of the Sunshine Law as I questioned how you seem to have knowledge of other council members' votes before the issue is addressed publicly. I also specifically asked how you knew a "majority" of council members' preference for Glenn Thompson for the MUS board as stated in the last paragraph of your July 2nd facebook post, some two weeks before the informal show of hands at council's July 16th meeting. Since this post appears to have been deleted from your facebook feed, I will repost it in full for your recollection:

COUNCIL REPORT: The Industrial Development Board (IDB) is good-to-go with a complete set of members, but the Morristown Utilities System (MUS) Commission has work to do.

Tuesday's Council meeting saw Dr. Jack Campbell, Tim Coley, Joel Hice, and Andy Smith reappointed to six year terms on the IDB. Terry Ball's term was also expiring but he withdrew his name from reappointment consideration after legal research determined Ball's recent appointment to the city's Planning Commission made him ineligible to also serve on the IDB.

IDB nominations traditionally come from the Chamber of Commerce, however, Council can make its own nominations - and did, by voting in local building contractor Ed Hale. The vote was 6-1 with Mayor Thomas dissenting.

Raul Rangel will fill another IDB slot created when banker Jennifer Schuchart vacated. The 15 board members are required to be city property owners. It was recently discovered three did not which delayed the reappointments by two weeks while corrections were made.

The vacancy on the MUS Commission will remain empty a while longer. Mayor Thomas nominated Max Biery from the three names served up for consideration by MUS. Council voted 6-1 against. The process repeats with three new names at either at the next meeting, or could be delayed until the first August meeting.

CPA Glenn Thompson appears to be the preference of the majority of Council members.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August 26, 2014 Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society Cancels Today's Meeting WIth Little or No Notice

With a mid-morning call to County Mayor Bill Brittain's office, Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society President Christine Coley cancelled today's monthly meeting of the Executive Board of the beleaguered group.

The meeting had been scheduled for today in the West Wing Conference Room of the Courthouse. The Executive Board was expected to vote on accepting or rejecting the animal control and fiscal accountability contract drafted by the City of Morristown and Hamblen County and approved last Thursday by the County.

I was planning to attend and found out about the cancellation when I called the Mayor's office a little after 9:30 to check on the meeting time.

Hopefully, most of the other people who were going to attend also called or found out by word of mouth that the meeting was cancelled.

I asked the lady at the Mayor's office if Christine Coley. the president of the MH Humane Society, had given a reset date. No. 

The only thing that the Mayor's office knew or would say was that the meeting was "off."

Monday, August 25, 2014

August 25, 2014 Morristown City Council Spends Taxpayer Dollars for 2-day Workshop Get-Away in Gatlinburg

The Morristown City Council met at the Edgewater Hotel and Convention Center in Gatlinburg on Friday, August 22 and Saturday, August 23.

Lots of interesting discussions and comments from the Mayor and councilmembers.

Zero "press" present.

For some reason, the local "news"paper chooses to give the councilmembers privacy in these retreat meetings--even though these meetings, called strategic planning workshops, are public meetings in which public business is discussed.

It is a shame that the council often chooses to meet away from Morristown for these workshops. Mr. Cox has previously scheduled overnight workshops at the Carnegie Hotel in Johnson City and at the Meadowview Resort Center in Kingsport.

There will be more on the "retreat," but here is a starter video where the council--that has been condemning and demolishing substandard houses for several years now--discusses two downtown eyesores that have been ignored.  

Click on the link for the video of LeBel discusses giving TIFs (tax increment financing) to the owners as an economic incentive; Chesney proposes new city "Belk and Bradley's" city ordinances; and Garrett mentions the city condemning and tearing the buildings down.

Friday, August 22, 2014

August 22, 2014 The Industrial Board Elects Officers--New City Landowner Marshall Ramsey Becomes Secretary-Treasurer

At Wednesday's special called meeting of the Industrial Development Board of the City of Morristown, the previous officers were re-elected.

Jack Fishman will continue as chairman.
James Craine continues as vice-chairman.
Marshall Ramsey was elected as secretary-treasurer.
Anderson Smith apparently continues as "assistant" secretary treasurer.

Prior to July 1, 2014, Marshall Ramsey acted as secretary-treasurer of the IDB and signed documents on behalf of the Board although he was not qualified to serve on the Board.

He was not qualified to serve on or be an officer of the Industrial Board of the City of Morristown because he did not live in the City of Morristown nor did he own property in the City of Morristown.

Luckily, Ramsey had friends in high places.

Ramsey finally became a "legal" member of the Industrial Board on July 1, 2014, when George (MUS) McGuffin, Don "TIF" Bunch, and Wayman Skelton deeded him a city lot in Hampton West Subdivision and a few hours later the City Council appointed him to the IDB.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August 20, 2014 City Council Unanimously Approves the Mayor's Appointment of Rod Isaacs to the MUS Board To Replace Gene Jolley

The latest MUS appointment saga/fiasco is over.

Yesterday, Mayor Thomas nominated Rod Isaacs to the MUS Board. Bob Garrett seconded the appointment, and the full council unanimously voted "yes."

Previously, the council rejected the Mayor's nomination of Max Biery and Jack Kennerly from three-person slates sent to the Mayor by MUS.

Then the MUS Board (George McGuffin, Harold Nichols, Gene Jolley, Lynn Elkins, and Bryan Dickerson) sent two slates to the Mayor that included individuals who were not qualified to serve on the MUS Board because they served on other city boards.

Finally, MUS figured out the qualifications for service on the MUS Board and sent the three-person slate of Jolley, Rod Isaacs, and Jay Smith to the Mayor.

On the surface yesterday, the six city councilmembers (LeBel, Garrett, Bivens, Senter, Chesney, and Alvis) had a different attitude and tone toward the Mayor and in regard to the Mayor's nomination of Isaacs.

Just a few weeks ago, these same six rejected the Mayor's nomination of Jack Kennerly.  LeBel then asked all those in favor of Glenn Thompson to raise their hands. Six hands went up. LeBel asked City Administrator Tony Cox to send a letter to MUS telling them that council supports and wants MUS to include Glenn Thompson on its slate of MUS nominees.

MUS ignored LeBel's suggestion--or maybe Thompson didn't want to be involved in the whole MUS mess and declined to let his name be included.

August 20, 2014 Industrial Board Elects Officers Today

At the Morristown Industrial Development Board meeting this morning, the IDB will be electing "officers."

The current officers are Chairman Jack Fishman, Vice-chairman James Craine, and Secretary Marshall Ramsey.

It appears that the IDB is holding an election right now because one of its current officers (Marshall Ramsey) has been serving on the Board and has been signing legal documents for the Board for nearly two years without even being qualified to serve on the Board.

The most basic qualification for IDB membership is that an individual has to be a city voter--i. e. they reside in the City or they live outside the city but own property in the city. [This came from a discussion I had with IDB Attorney Bill Foutch about IDB qualifications several months ago]

Another requirement is that an IDB member can't serve on any other city board.

Ramsey lives in the county.

When questions about Ramsey not meeting IDB qualifications were raised recently, George McGuffin (of MUS and McGuffin Law fame), Don "TIF" Bunch, and Wayman Skelton came to Ramsey's rescue. They deeded a city lot in Hampton West to Ramsey on July 1, 2014, which made Ramsey a city property owner. With that freshly-signed July 1, 2014, deed in hand, Ramsey was re-appointed by city council to the IDB on---yep---July 1, 2014.

Now to tidy things up, the IDB is electing officers so its newly-qualified member Marshall Ramsey can be officially elected as secretary to the Board and can legally sign IDB documents.

And, yes, it is possible that someone else could be elected secretary or to any of the other offices today.

Another item of interest for future posts: Ramsey was not the only member of the 16-person Industrial Board who had been serving without being qualified to serve on the Board...more on the others later.

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18, 2014 Industrial Board Meets This Wednesday (8/20/14)

This week, the Industrial Board holds a special meeting on Wednesday, August 20, at 7:30, in the basement of the Chamber building.

On the City website, it says the meeting is for the election of officers, more action on the TIF at Popkin Center (the Food City on part of the Berkline site), and any other business that may properly come before the Board.

In addition to placing notice of this meeting on the City website, the Industrial Board put notice of this meeting in the "news"paper owned by the Industrial Board Chair Jack Fishman.

Let's see if the "news"paper changes its practice and sends one of Jack's reporters to cover this meeting.

More on the Industrial Board later---what you don't see in the "news"paper that is controlled by the IDB Chair Jack Fishman.

It was interesting to read the "news"paper's report on the special MUS meeting last week. The meeting was described as being the "second revision" of the third list of nominees for the Board seat currently held by Gene Jolley last week. Why an original list followed  by two revisions?

Because the MUS Board with five members with over 80 years experience apparently didn't know that MUS Board members can't serve on any other city board and/or didn't bother to check (TWICE) whether its nominees were on other Boards.

Scroll down for the two posts on the MUS nominees. The second revision of the third list goes to the Mayor and council tomorrow.

Friday, August 15, 2014

August 15, 2014 Hopefully, MUS Now Understands the Qualifications for MUS Board Membership

The Morristown Utilities Systems (MUS) Board held a special called meeting yesterday (see post below) and nominated Gene Jolley, Rod Isaacs, and Jay Smith for the Board seat currently held by Gene Jolley.

Four members were present (McGuffin, Jolley, Nichols, and Dickerson). Jolley abstained from the vote, and Lynn Elkins was absent.

These names will be sent to Mayor Danny Thomas who will submit one of the names to the full city council for approval or rejection.

The MUS Gang That Can't Shoot Straight thinks it finally has a three-person slate where all three are qualified to serve.

The next hurdle for any nominee is city council which has the ultimate decision on approval or disapproval. 

In a council meeting weeks ago, Councilman Paul LeBel stated that Glenn Thompson was council's choice. LeBel then asked for a "show of hands" of those in favor of Thompson. Six hands went up--LeBel, Senter, Bivens, Alvis, Garrett, and Chesney. 

The Council Gang of Six asked City Administrator Tony Cox to send a letter to the MUS Gang of Five letting MUS know of council's preference. Apparently, the Gang of Five didn't get the memo from the Gang of Six or decided to ignore it.

That leads us to another twist to the MUS saga. This is MUS' third submittal of three qualified names to the Mayor. The 2012 (George) McGuffin Law provides that if Council rejects the Mayor's third nominee, then MUS and the Mayor are out of the picture, and Council can make its own nominations.

So, if the Gang of Six really wants Glenn Thompson, the Gang just has to reject the nominee that the Mayor selects, and then the Gang can nominate and appoint Thompson.

[Scroll down for yesterday's post on how the self-nominating MUS Board twice nominated unqualified persons for the Board and had to back up and revise its slate of candidates.]

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August 14, 2014 Morristown Gang of Five That Can't Shoot Straight

Thank you to the many people who kept coming to the blog during the past 9-month hiatus and who called periodically and asked when I would post again.

It's time to start posting again and we'll start with The Gang That Can't Shoot Straight (aka the Morristown Utilities System Board). The 5-member MUS Board is having a special called meeting today at 11:30.

They have to have a special called meeting to see if they can finally come up with THREE names of QUALIFIED individuals to nominate for the board seat now occupied by Gene Jolley whose term expired a few weeks ago.

You would think that would be easy. Not for MUS. In their previous two attempts at the three-person nomination process, they have selected two qualified individuals and one unqualified individual.

The nominees have to meet the very simple and basic qualifications to serve on the MUS Board, but the MUS Board (a) doesn't know that you can't serve on the MUS Board if you are on any other City Board and/or (b) doesn't bother to ask their proposed nominees if they serve on any other Board.


Especially since the MUS Board is made up of 5 individuals who have collectively served on the Board for over 80 years and the nominees they are proposing are friends and business associates.

The five current members are Chairman George McGuffin (with 40 years on the MUS Board) along with Harold Nichols (over 20 years on the MUS Board), Gene Jolley, Lynn Elkins, and Bryan Dickerson.

In their previous two strike outs:

1) MUS nominated Gene Jolley, Ray Campbell, and Jerry Isaacs. Problem: Isaacs serves on a City Board and so was not able to serve on the MUS Board, too. New meeting required.

2) MUS then held a special meeting with its attorney Dick Jessee present and nominated Gene Jolley, Rod Isaacs, and Joel Hice. Problem: Hice serves on the Industrial Board for the City and was ineligible to serve on the MUS Board, too. [Jessee is also the City attorney and is McGuffin's brother-in-law.]

So, MUS is holding another special called meeting today to see if they can possibly come up with three nominees--all of whom are not serving on another City Board--to send to the Mayor who will then select one name for consideration by the full City Council.

It's good to be back...Enjoy! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November 19, 2013 Another Clue in the Kalitta Hangar Deal

It's the deal that has been on the City's agenda twice recently. There has been discussion at council but never with any public mention of the people involved.

It's the Airport-Kalitta contract, termination, buyout-- it has been described in lots of different ways.

Soon the revised deal and the name(s) of the people involved in the new hangar lease at the Morristown Airport will be public.

Since Councilmember Chesney started giving clues on his Facebook website a few weeks ago, I gave a clue yesterday morning.

Here's another clue: RJ

As an aside, Chesney's Facebook page is very nice. You can click here to see his City Hall site,

Monday, November 18, 2013

November 18, 2013 Chesney's Guessing Game

At the last city council meeting, there was discussion, sort of, about a person or persons (never named) who were interested in taking over the airport hangar lease between the City and Kalitta Air.

It seems City leaders approved a contract with Kalitta years ago without reading it or asking questions of the City attorney.

Evidently, council decided they had to pass the contract to find out what was in it!

Fast forward to today. Kalitta decided to pack up and move on and sent the City a huge bill for getting out of/buying out the contract.

Presumably, tough negotiations followed and the City decided several weeks ago to settle the matter and buy the hangar from Kalitta for $975,000.

At the last council meeting before a vote was to be taken on approval to take the $975,000 out of fund balance to pay Kalitta, it was revealed that a third party was interested in taking over the lease. The vote was postponed to see if a new lease can be worked out.

That's all well and good. 

But no one at the City would mention the name of the persons with whom the Airport Commission was negotiating. Never mind that this was a city contract and public business. The public will be told what's going on----sometime-----usually right before or after it's a done deal.

On Councilman Gary Chesney's City Hall Facebook page someone asked about the secrecy. Gary said "some" people already know and then he decided to turn it into a guessing game with a clue for his reader: " is a local person who has an office near the airport and has a vested interest in air travel."

Well, let me throw out another clue: LM

Soon, very soon, we'll know.

And maybe Gary will give another clue about this and other public business.

Monday, November 11, 2013

November 11, 2013 VETERANS DAY

History of Veterans Day

Excerpts from U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs website
World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France.
Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities.  This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

On May 13, 1938, a Congressional Act was passed making the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day."

In 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history and after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

For more on the history of Veterans Day, click here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

November 10, 2013 Captain Justice Wins Over General Rettig

This is too good!

The Government's attorney doesn't want to be referred to as the government's attorney because such a reference might "inflame" the jury! The prosecutor files a motion asking the Judge to order that she be referred to by only four "acceptable" (to her) names.

The reply by the attorney for the Defendant has made news in Tennessee and beyond. Click on each image and see if you can keep a straight face as Captain Justice responds.

Wondering how it all came out?

Well, the Judge tossed General Rettig's motion in the trash--figuratively speaking, of course.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

October 1, 2013 Councilmembers Violate Open Meetings Act at Kingsport Retreat

The City Council held a special workshop or "retreat" at the luxurious Meadowview Convention Center in Kingsport on Friday, September 13, and Saturday, September 14. Six councilmembers attended the retreat. [Mayor Thomas was present briefly on Friday but left and did not return.]

It appears that the six councilmembers attending the Kingsport retreat violated the Open Meetings Act by discussing, deliberating, and actually making a decision to give City Administrator Tony Cox a $7,000 increase to his deferred compensation package.

When you hold a "special" called meeting or workshop, there are special requirements for the public notice that is provided. The notice must include the agenda for the meeting and each item that will be deliberated on or on which a decision will be made.

According to the September 6, 2013, public notice for this special workshop/retreat, the council was going to Kingsport to work on "strategic planning" with MTAS facilitator Pat Hardy. 

Apparently, they did more than just strategize in Kingsport. In this video taken at the Finance Committee meeting on September 17, 2013, Councilmember Gary Chesney, who is chairman of the Finance Committee, admits that the six councilmembers discussed and deliberated and reached a decision on additional compensation for the City Administrator--even though this was not an agenda item on the public notice for the special workshop meeting.

You might ask whether council could have amended the published agenda to add the deferred compensation item for discussion and deliberation. The short answer is "no." A special called meeting is just that---it is called for a special and specific purpose. The public must be notified of the purpose or purposes and no other item(s) may be considered. [At a regular meeting, agendas typically can be amended to add items but special called meetings are different]

There is another irony to this violation of the open meetings act. Chesney has recently been posting on his City Hall website about being a "firm believer" in Tennessee's Sunshine laws. (1) The Open Meetings Act which calls for open meetings and adequate public notice of those meetings, and (2) the Public Records Act which requires that public records be available to the public. 

Click here to see what Mr. Chesney had to say about Tennessee's Sunshine laws right before he violated the Open Meetings Act as admitted in the video. 

Mr. Chesney was not alone in this violation. Councilmembers Kay Senter, Paul LeBel, Chris Bivens, Bob Garrett, and Dennis Alvis were present in Kingsport as well and, according to Chesney, all discussed and "agreed" on the additional compensation.

Today, the full council will try to "cure" this particular violation by taking up the deferred compensation issue at its regular council meeting.

[As a sidenote, I find Mr. Chesney's City Hall website very informative. I recently commended him at a public meeting for taking the time to post about city business and meetings. I wish other councilmembers would do the same and, as always, I continue to ask that the council put its council packets online so that the public can see the contracts, the resolutions, the ordinances, and background information for council actions]

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August 21, 2013 Council Approves Mayor's Nomination of Bryan Dickerson to MUS Board

There is a new member on the five-person MUS Board of Commissioners.

After councilmembers rejected the first two mayoral nominations (Max Biery and Jim Sexton) to the Morristown Utility System Board of Commissioners,  Mayor Thomas made a third pick yesterday, and the full council then approved his appointment of Bryan Dickerson to the MUS Board in a 7-0 vote.

Dickerson will take the seat currently held by Max Biery who was nominated by the Mayor from a list of three persons provided to him by MUS but whose re-appointment to the MUS Board was rejected by a majority of councilmembers (Garrett, LeBel, Alvis, and Bivens) on July 16.