Sunday, December 25, 2016

December 25, 2016 Merry Christmas

Peace, Joy, and Love...
merry christmas in red

Classical Christmas music: Celtic Woman.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

December 7, 2016 Pearl Harbor 75th Anniversary

dividing bar
December 7, 1941, started as a typical Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet Headquarters on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.  That is, until shortly before 8 a.m., when Japan launched roughly 200 planes from six aircraft carriers in its first wave of Operation Hawaii—forever to be known by Americans as “the attack on Pearl Harbor” or just “Pearl Harbor.”

dividing bar

The attack absolutely shocked the American public, as most of their attention was focused on Europe and Hitler’s two-year, two-front war of conquest.  The United States fleet at Pearl Harbor suffered severe damage or destruction of 18 ships, including the battleships Arizona, Oklahoma, California, Nevada and West Virginia—and more than 2,400 United States service personnel were killed.

Despite Japan’s initial success, it failed to deliver the knockout punch on the U.S. Pacific fleet that it had hoped for. What the attack did manage to do was rally Americans behind their government, which until that time was sharply divided between the pro-war “Hawks” and the anti-war “Isolationists.”

The day after Pearl Harbor, December 8, President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war, which was answered with resounding support by a vote of 82-0 in the Senate and 388-1 in the House.

The rallying cry throughout World War II was “We’re All in this Together."

Friday, November 11, 2016

November 11, 2016 Veterans Day

Thank you to all who served and are serving in the armed forces of the United States of America,

Monday, July 04, 2016

July 4, 2016. Independence Day

I found the following link to a video reading of the Declaration of Independence on an attorney's blog:

I enjoyed it, and I hope you do, too.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

May 19, 2016 County Commission Executive Session: Settlement?

County Attorney Chris Capps is holding an executive session with his clients (county commission) today at 4:15.

Best bet is that the major topic is a proposed settlement of the Sheriff's salary suit against the county.

After the trial of this matter, Brittain told Capps and the other attorneys hired to represent the county to file an appeal. That appeal has not been heard.

Because this is not a meeting open to the public, the commissioners can not deliberate, take a vote, or make a decision to accept or reject a settlement while in executive session.

If commissioners want to make a decision about a settlement, yes or no, they must come out into the "sunshine" of an open meeting.

Sheriff's Salary Suits: A Summary from CTAS (County Technical Assistance Services)

Sheriff's Salary Suits--Excerpts from CTAS Manual (County Technical Assistance Services):

"[T]he Sheriff has sole discretion to request the number of assistants he believes are ‘actually necessary to the proper conducting’ of his office, as well as the salaries he feels are necessary to attract and retain them.” [Cite]...

The petition must be filed by the sheriff within 30 days after the date of final adoption of the budget for the fiscal year...

In the petition, the sheriff must name the county mayor as the party defendant. The county mayor is required to file an answer within five days after service of the petition, either admitting or denying the allegations of the petition or making such answer as the county mayor deems advisable under the circumstances...

The court will develop the facts, and the court may hear proof either for or against the petition. The court may allow or disallow the application, either in whole or in part, and may allow the whole number of deputies or assistants applied for or a less number, and may allow the salaries set out in the application or smaller salaries, all as the facts justify...

Either party dissatisfied with the decree or order of the court in the proceedings set out above has the right of appeal as in other cases. Pending the final disposition of the application to the court, or pending the final determination on appeal, the sheriff may appoint deputies or assistants to serve until the final determination of the case, who shall be paid according to the final judgment of the court. T.C.A. § 8-20-106...

The cost of the suit is paid out of the fees of the sheriff’s office. The sheriff is allowed a credit for the same in settlement with the county trustee. T.C.A. § 8-20-107... 

Pursuant to T.C.A. § 8-20-105, it is the duty of the sheriff to reduce the number of deputies and assistants and the salaries paid them when it can be reasonably done. The court or judge having jurisdiction may, on motion of the county mayor and upon reasonable notice to the sheriff, have a hearing on the motion and may reduce the number of deputies or assistants and the salaries paid any one or more when the public good justifies.


Monday, May 02, 2016

Brittain Decides To Appeal Court's Decision in Sheriff Jarnagin's Salary Suit

Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain has decided to appeal the decision entered on April 14, 2016, in Sheriff's Jarnagin's salary suit.

Brittain is appealing the Circuit Court decision to the extent it authorizes Jarnagin to hire additional deputies, with equipment, and awards attorneys' fees to the sheriff.

The appeal was filed April 22, 2016.  

Tomorrow's post will have more on sheriff's salary suits and a link to CTAS (County Technical Assistance Services) information. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Public Services Committee Rejects Ford's Resolution Asking that MUS Build-out in Populous Areas of Hamblen County Before Going into Other Counties

At the March 7, 2016, Public Services Committee meeting, Hamblen County Commissioner Stancil Ford introduced a resolution to request that MUS build out its Fibernet service in Hamblen County before entering into a plan to provide Fibernet outside of Hamblen County.

The resolution asking that MUS build out in Hamblen County before jumping county lines was voted down in a 6-3 vote. 

Commissioners Stancil Ford, Tim Goins, and Johnny Walker voted FOR the request.

Commissioners Howard Shipley, Rick Eldridge, Randy DeBord, Hubert Davis, Joe Huntsman, and John Smyth voted NO to the request.

Here are videos of the discussion:

Part 1

Part 2

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Tennessee Coalition for Open Government (TCOG) Blogs on Hamblen County Government

The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government has a blog post about Mayor Brittain's action in censoring and editing public comments OUT of the videotape of the January 2016 Commission meeting,
Here is the link to the TCOG post:
TCOG supports transparency and open government at all levels.

Hopefully, Mayor Brittain and Chairman Eldridge and those unnamed and so-far "silent" commissioners who want to censor and edit tapes of Hamblen County Commission meetings are having second thoughts.

When you start censoring and editing tapes of public meetings, you are starting down a slippery slope.

When your first censoring and editing adventure is to edit public comments out of tapes of public meetings, you are on the most slippery slope of all! What is next?

Stopping the taping altogether?
Stopping public comments altogether?  
Censoring tapes of public meetings is not just a problem in itself. It is a symptom of a deeper problem and attitude toward the public.

There was never, to my knowledge, any censorship or editing of tapes of commission meetings during the past 12+ years of taping.

Why did Mayor Brittain decide in January 2016 that it was suddenly time to censor and edit public comments out of the tape of the meeting?

First, it's not his meeting.
Second, it's a meeting of a public body and public comments are on the published agenda of that public meeting.

Some commissioners may not like certain members of the public who speak at meetings.
Some commissioners may not agree with some of the public comments that are made at meetings.   
The Mayor may not like some members of the public and may not agree with some of the public comments that are made at meetings.

That's fine. That's understandable.

But that is not a justification for the Mayor and (some) Commissioners to decide to censor a tape of a public meeting in a misguided attempt to get back at those members of the public whom they personally dislike or who express opinions with which the Mayor and (some) commissioners disagree.

This is America. 

Public officials should not be promoting government editing and censorship of tapes of public meetings.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

February 21, 2016 Mayor Brittain Directs That Tapes of Commission Meetings Be Censored To Remove Public Comments

Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain and every County Commissioner will say (I hope) that they believe in open and transparent government.

The local media says that it supports open and transparent government, running editorials every March supporting "Sunshine Week," a statewide celebration of Tennessee's Open Meetings and Open Records Acts.

After the January 14, 2016, commission meeting, I received information that Mayor Brittain had told the individual taping the meeting to cut the camera off during the portion of the meeting when public comments were made. I was very concerned about this, and I explained what I knew about this censorship to the commission at its February 18, 2016, commission meeting.

The video shows Mayor Brittain admitting that he asked the individual taping the January 14, 2016, commission meeting to censor the taping of that meeting by turning the camera off during the public comments portion of that meeting. 

Commissioner Johnny Walker asks if Brittain has the authority to direct that the camera be cut off during public comments. Walker then asks Brittain why he ordered the editing of the tape. Brittain responds: "I thought that it was in the best interest of the meeting."  Walker responds: "That portion of the meeting is not important? I didn't hear you." 

Commission Chairman Rick Eldridge then states that removing public comments from the tape of the public meeting was some sort of "compromise." Eldridge does not state who was involved in the  "compromise," when discussions about the taping/censorship occurred, or when the "compromise" was voted upon.

Why is this commission secretly agreeing to some sort of "compromise" to censor the tapes of its public meetings to edit public comments out of the tapes?  This type of censorship and editing of a public meeting is something you would only expect to hear about in a third-world country.

What is it about a three-minute comment by a citizen that terrifies the mayor and at least some county commissioners to the point that they secretly reach an agreement outside of a public meeting to censor public comments out of the official tape of a public meeting of the Commission?


Hamblen County Commission meetings have been taped for the past 13 years.

When I ran for county commission in 2002, taping and airing public meetings was a key part of my platform.

Upon taking office in September 2002, newly-elected Commissioner Nancy Phillips and I pushed for the taping. Ms. Phillips took the lead in working with Charter to get cameras and related equipment donated. She and I obtained a local donation of microphones, a soundboard, and related equipment. 

For nearly 13 years, the entire meeting was taped from start to finish, including public comments which were and still are part of each meeting.  The local cable providers then aired the tape of the entire meeting on the local PEG (public, education, and government) channel(s).

Sometimes I agreed with a citizen making a public comment. Sometimes I disagreed. I never attempted to restrict a citizen's right to speak, nor did I ever propose secretly or openly that the tapes of commission meetings be edited to remove public comments by anyone.


Monday, January 11, 2016

January 11, 2016 Hamblen County Audit Findings for Fiscal Year 2015

The Hamblen County audit for fiscal year 2015 (7/1/14-6/30/15) is on the State Comptroller's website.

Click here to see the audit.

Findings are reported on pages 212-215.

The Mayor's office had two findings:

2015-001 Accounting records were not maintained on a current basis for the audited year FY 2015 and beyond.

The Mayor's office did not reconcile general ledger cash accounts with the Trustee's office from March 31, 2015-June 30, 2015 on a timely basis as required by Tennessee Code Annotated 9-2-138.

The Mayor's office did not post revenues to the general ledger for July and August 2015 until October 2015.

2015-002 Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS) payments were not remitted timely resulting in the assessment of penalties. 

Retirement contributions for the month of May 2015 were not remitted to TCRS timely as required by Tennessee Code Annotated 8-35-206(g) resulting in the assessment of $5,038.00 in penalties.

There was a finding involving the Highway Commission:

2015-003 A county road list was not submitted to the county commission for approval at its January 2015 meeting as required by Tennessee Code Annotated 54-10-103.

There is a finding involving the Trustee's Office:

2015-004 Certain accounts maintained by the Trustee were not adequately collateralized/secured.

The Trustee was not able to provide documentation that funds exceeding $1,034,000 in a brokerage account were adequately secured in May, June, and July 2015.

There were two certificate of deposits totaling $495,544 at one financial institution. This amount exceeds FDIC insurance limits of $250,000 by $245,544. The trustee provided a list to the depository with directions not to deposit more than $250,000 in one financial institution but did not monitor the subsequent report which showed $495,544 in one institution.

Friday, December 25, 2015

December 25, 2015 Merry Christmas!

Luke 2  King James Version

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Monday, November 30, 2015

November 30, 2015 City Council Holds "Special" Meeting For One Item: To Increase City Administrator Tony Cox's Compensation Package Again

Below is a video of City Council in a "special" called meeting on November 24 voting to increase City Administrator Tony Cox's contract compensation package yet again.

The Council met on November 17 (one week before the special called meeting) and is scheduled to meet in regular session again on December 1 (one week after the special called meeting).

Apparently, someone decided there was an emergency at City Hall that required that council run a newspaper ad so it could meet in special session at 11:00 AM on November 24 for 12 minutes with its attorney present and with no public comments ----to talk about the "urgent situation" involving revisions to Cox's contract. And these revisions won't take effect until January 1, 2016. 

Sort of odd how this urgent situation arose and someone decided consideration of the proposed salary and benefit increase absolutely could NOT wait 7 days for council's next regular meeting day (December 1) and time (5 PM) when the public that foots the bill could be present and when the regular agenda would provide an opportunity for public comments.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Nov 29, 2015 Solid Waste Board Asks DA To Seek Restitution from Ronnie Brady

The Hamblen County/Morristown Solid Waste Board was asleep at the wheel for the 3-plus years during which its Director Ronnie Brady stole nearly $225,000 from the Hamblen County/Morristown Solid Waste Authority.

Brady was indicted after a special investigative audit was completed by the State Comptroller's Office. Click here for a prior post with links to the State Investigative Audit. Tracing the money that Brady took back to its source, the money came out of the pockets of the taxpayers and residents of Morristown and of Hamblen County as the City and County paid monthly garbage disposal/tipping fees to the Solid Waste Authority and Brady, in turn, siphoned a lot of these taxpayer dollars/public funds for his own use.
Recently, the Board voted to ask DA Dan Armstrong to request that Brady make restitution to the Hamblen County/Morristown Solid Waste Authority for the insurance deductible and extra audit expenses that the Authority incurred when the theft was finally discovered. Here is the SWB on November 20, 2015, voting to seek restitution for extra audit services and the insurance "deductible." There are rumors afloat that this restitution is part of a plea deal that has been offered to Brady. It remains to be seen if DA Armstrong plans to let someone steal nearly $225,000 in public funds and only have to make restitution for an audit and an insurance "deductible."

The Board's former chairman Stancil Ford was an "in-law" of Brady up until Stancil's divorce years ago. Ford and the rest of the Board apparently had such great faith in Brady that they didn't bother to make sure that all payroll and other checks that Brady was writing on the City/County Solid Waste Board checkbook were legitimate.

For years, while the SWB did nothing, Brady helped himself to an extra $190,000+ in payroll checks AND paid some of his car repair and credit card expenses (including a trip to Disneyworld) with public funds. Brady apparently felt that his $80,000+ salary along with car allowance and insurance benefits was not "enough." The SWB's former auditor Craine-Thompson-Jones didn't catch the theft until after several years had passed and Brady had helped himself to nearly a quarter million dollars --or more-- of public money!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

November 11, 2015 Veterans Day

vetsday HONOR VETS with wreath and flag.gif
In honor and in remembrance of all who have served the United States of America in the armed forces at home and abroad...

In honor of all who currently serve the United States of America in the armed forces at home and abroad...

Americans owe a special debt to veterans of all branches of the armed forces. Our freedom has been bought and maintained with their sweat, blood, and devotion to duty.

Many have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Freedom is not free.

The American Soldier

It is the soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us freedom to demonstrate.

It is the soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who gives us freedom.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

July 12, 2015 Former MPD Officer Michael Hurt Charged with Theft and Official Misconduct

The Tennessee Watchdog has an article about allegations and an investigative audit by the State Comptroller alleging that MPD Officer Michael Hurt pocketed and used public money for his own personal use.

From the Watchdog:

"In Morristown, Tennessee, police seized cars and demanded cash, which a police sergeant allegedly kept for himself — $6,000 in all, a state Comptroller’s report says.

According to the audit, a Hamblen County grand jury indicted Hurt on charges of two counts of theft over $1,000, one count of theft over $500 and one count of official misconduct.

District Attorney Dan Armstrong told Tennessee Watchdog on Wednesday he had no comment beyond what was in Wilson’s report.

Hurt, the report went on, 'altered records, failed to record or receipt the majority of the cash and made a false entry in police department records in an apparent attempt to conceal his activities.'"

Click here for the full Watchdog article.

The Comptroller's Audit/Special Investigation on this matter was released on July 8, 2015. 

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

July 8, 2015 Brittain Proposes 20-cent Property Tax Hike to County Budget Committee

All the talk about conservatism in county government was just that---talk, meaningless babble.

At yesterday's budget meeting, County Mayor Bill Brittain pulled out the old shell game--moving taxpayer/public money from one pile to another and then from another to another.

Since this shell game and exercise in money-shifting accomplished nothing, Brittain then proposed a 20-cent property tax "solution." A10-cent hike for the General Fund (sheriff, courts, mayor's office, county clerk, Cherokee Park, etc) and a 10-cent hike for the Highway/Road Department (paving projects).

And even that huge 20-cent property tax hike didn't take care of the Brittain spending budget, so Brittain also proposed that the county appropriate the spending of $447,000 from the county fund balance (savings/reserves). Sort of like a person getting a hefty salary increase and then still having to dip into their savings account to meet their proposed spending plan.

Brittain then distracted commissioners with some "pick your poison" options for the Highway Department---instead of a 10-cent property tax hike for the Highway Department, he said commissioners could enact a $22 increase in the wheel tax OR they could do a 3-cent property tax increase and a $16 wheel tax increase,

Brittain saved any mention of the school budget to the end of his presentation. The school budget is primarily a function of State BEP money and local money which can not decrease from year to year.

To his credit, Stancil Ford asked Brittain about the state BEP money. Brittain stated that the schools are getting 2 million in new state BEP money for the next budget year.

Then the discussion turned to local money for the schools. Last year, the schools received $25,736.740 in local money. That amount can not decrease, but there is no requirement that it increase. Despite the county's and the taxpayers' economic situation and despite the fact that the schools are getting a 2 million boost in state money, Brittain proposed that the local money for schools be increased by $515,987 to $26,252,727.

Ford pointed out to commissioners that the local money did not have to increase. With the schools already set to get 2 million more from the state, the local money budgeted for education could stay the same as last year ($25,736.740) and the $515,987 could be moved to the county general fund or highway department.

It was an amazing presentation from the conservative Mayor of Hamblen County who handed out his budget changes and sweeping "spend and tax" proposal(s) at the beginning of the meeting, leaving commissioners little time to read and study the different scenarios. Of course, making budget changes and tossing out multiple proposals at the last minute gives a distinct advantage to the Mayor in that most commissioners are not prepared to ask questions right after they get a new 19-page document outlining convoluted revenue and spending changes.

Just like Washington DC, the game is the same in Morristown and Hamblen County, Tennessee.

Grow government. Hide the ball. Make a few token budget "cuts"--"cuts" that are not really cuts but are simply reductions in the previously proposed increases. Then increase taxes and spend other people's money to grow the little kingdoms at the courthouse and at the city center.

Hire and make jobs for relatives and friends. One-bid contracts. Boards that provide zero oversight so that $225,000 can be stolen (Solid Waste Board).  And while salaries and benefits are the largest component of the county and school budgets, don't provide a list of employees by name and position with 4-year historical data on hourly rates or salary.

And then let the chest-thumping begin as all proclaim themselves the most conservative people on the planet. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

June 18,2015 SWB Committee To Recommend Rodefer Moss as New SWB Auditor Replacing Craine-Thompson-Jones

Three Hamblen County/Morristown Solid Waste Board members (Bob Garrett, Doe Jarvis, and Tom Rush) met this morning and reviewed proposals for auditing services from three CPA firms.

The members rated each proposal and decided to recommend that the full board approve Rodefer Moss as the new SWB auditor--replacing longtime local auditor Craine-Thompson-Jones.

The recommendation will apparently go to the full board for action at its meeting tomorrow at 9 AM at the Health Department.

For a brief history of the SWB saga and theft of over $220,000 by its former director Ronnie Brady, click here, here, and here.

June 18, 2015 Hamblen County/Morristown Solid Waste Board Theft and Trip to Disney World Comes in Third Place in Beacon Pork Contest

Hamblen/Morristown former landfill director Ronnie Brady's theft of over $220,000.00 from the local Solid Waste Board garnered third place in a "government pork" poll by the Beacon Center.

Click here for the poll results.

Brady's theft was beaten out for the top "pork" spot by the transfer of $165,000,000.00 of taxpayer dollars to VW in Chattanooga and the $46,000.00 spent by Governor Haslam to come up with a new state "logo."

Brady's theft was accomplished primarily by issuing LOTS of "extra" solid waste payroll checks to himself and also using solid waste funds to pay his personal bills.

The theft went undetected for at least 3-1/2 years even though there was a nine-member board with oversight duties, even though the SWB was audited every year, and even though SWB chairman Stancil Ford was supposed to physically sign or personally stamp his signature on checks along with Brady's signature.

Most businesses and governmental entities require TWO signatures on all checks to try to prevent exactly what happened at the solid waste board.

Ford, however, was not personally signing or personally stamping the "extra" checks. Ford apparently had given Brady access to Ford's signature stamp which, of course, defeated the whole purpose of having two signatures on checks.

After all, it's not really a "check and balance" against potential theft when one person (Brady) can sign his signature to checks and can also stamp the signature of the other person (Ford) on the checks.

Giving someone your signature stamp or access to your signature stamp opens the bank door for theft. 

And the door to the SWB bank account was left wide open by Stancil Ford failing to physically sign SWB checks or at least go and use HIS signature stamp on the checks HIMSELF.

Maybe Stancil deserves an "assist" in helping Ronnie Brady win 3rd place in the Beacon pork and waste (and theft) contest!