Tuesday, June 27, 2006

June 27, 2006 Tribune Announces Mayor's Withdrawal Before It Announced that He Had Applied

Well, well, well.

It looks like my post yesterday about Hamblen County Mayor David Purkey's application for the job of Tennessee Commissioner of Safety sparked some reporting action.

The Tribune ran an article this afternoon saying that County Mayor David Purkey says that he is "no longer in the running" for Tennessee Commissioner of Safety.

Now how does the Trib run an article saying that County Mayor David Purkey is "no longer in the running" for the job as Commissioner of Safety when the Trib had never reported that he had applied for this position in the first place?

Isn't that backwards reporting?

Isn't that backwards job hunting or double job-hunting?

How do you withdraw from a job search that you had never announced in the local newspaper to begin with?

June 26, 2006 County Mayor David Purkey Applies for Another Job

Hamblen County Mayor David Purkey has applied for another job: Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety.

[The Department of Safety includes the Tennessee Highway Patrol.]

The Nashville Tennessean reported this news last week. The Tribune hasn't reported anything.

I have waited several days expecting to see a front-page headline in the Tribune letting local folks know about the Mayor's job-seeking efforts in Nashville, but so far-- no front-page headline.

Recently, Purkey kicked off his campaign for County Mayor by stating that he wanted just one more term as County Mayor in order to "finish up" certain local projects.

Even though the projects haven't been finished, it looks like the Mayor has decided to apply for a state job at the same time that he is running for re-election as County Mayor.

Just which job does he really want?

Scroll down and check the four part (I-IV) posts of June 25 for information on how the Mayor has handled Hamblen County finances.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

June 25, 2006 Noe Statement Part I

Part I of the Statement that I made at the June 22 Hamblen County Commission Meeting. You can scroll down to view Part II, III and IV in order.

After I post the entire Statement (Part I-Part IV), I will add further clarification and additional comments in future posts to more fully explain the financial actions taken by the County Mayor.
DATE: June 22, 2006

TO: All Citizens and Taxpayers of Hamblen County
All County Commissioners
All Media Outlets

FROM: County Commissioner Linda Noe, 14th District

The County Mayor has been unable to contain his anger toward me over the past four years that I have served on County Commission. I have tried to work through channels to deal with problems of county procedures, and I have tried to promote accountability at every step of the way.

Quite frankly, I am sick and tired of his refusal to provide an accounting for county funds and for his actions. I am appalled that he has presided over the actions that led to the collapse of Hamblen County finances with the general fund going broke in 2003, the garbage fund going broke in 2003, and M-H Hospital unable to meet its debt payments in 2004.

Recent statements and actions by the County Mayor, along with constant public attacks upon me and upon anyone else who asks questions regarding county finances, require a response.

The following is only a partial list of violations of state law, selective favoritism toward certain non-profits, and a lack of accountability for county funds on the part of the Mayor, our chief financial officer.

1. The Mayor apparently created a false governmental record appropriating $20,000 (for a total of $120,000) as the county’s match in a federal CDBG grant approval. There is no record of this appropriation ever having been brought through county commission as required by law. Instead the Mayor created an “appropriation resolution,” did not bring it to commission for approval. Instead, he signed it, had his assistant finance director attest to it, and sent it to the state in August 2002 and told state officials that it was an official act of appropriation that had been passed by the county commission.

2. The Mayor placed a friend, who was neither a county employee nor a county official but was the head of a local non-profit, on the county’s health insurance plan for a lengthy period of time and allowed this individual to reimburse the county for the cost of his “county” insurance. No other local non-profit was offered this deal or arrangement.

3. The Mayor, the county’s chief financial officer, has switched money around from fund to fund without commission approval, all in violation of state law.

4. The Mayor and his Finance Department have overspent legally approved appropriations in numerous funds in numerous years, all in violation of state law. Fortunately, this situation has improved due to reported findings by the state auditors.

More in the next post (Part II)....

June 25, 2006 Noe Statement Part II

Part II Scroll up to see Part I of the Statement. Scroll down to continue with Part III and Part IV.

5. The Mayor and his Finance Department took actions in fiscal year 2001 to alter the expenditures in numerous funds, the result being that reported line item and department expenditures in the 2001 audit were not a true record, and in fact were an intentionally false and manipulated record, of expenditures. Result: Neither the officials nor county commissioners know the real costs for departments.

6. For many years, until arrival of the state auditors, the Mayor never even brought budgets for several funds (DUI, Sheriff’s Special Revenue, Drug Control) to county commission for approval. Instead, he just made whatever payments he chose to make out of those funds, all in violation of state law requiring that any county expenditure be made only after appropriation of funds by the commission.

7. In 2005, the Mayor had other elected officials in fee offices (Trustee and County Court Clerk) pay for two employees who did not work for the Trustee or County Court Clerk but who, instead, worked in the Mayor’s Finance Department during almost all of FY 2005. When the county auditors were informed about this, the Mayor brought a last-minute year-end amendment to commission to switch everything around and avoid an audit finding.

8. In the same way (as in #7 above) the Mayor has had his brother Sheriff Otto Purkey pay for the Mayor’s gas and car maintenance out of the Sheriff’s budget. In addition, the Mayor used the Juvenile Court budget to pay for the car he now drives. Result: Juvenile Court paid for the Mayor’s car while the Sheriff maintains the Mayor’s car and keeps it gassed up. Result: Neither the officials nor county commissioners know the real costs of any office. It’s all just one massive shell game.

9. It appears that false 2001 expenditure figures were provided to the local newspaper during the 2002 election or the local newspaper created its own false facts and figures of county spending for a page one news story. The Mayor has repeatedly refused to provide information about what the correct 2001 audited expenditure totals were.

Scroll down to Part III

June 25, 2006 Noe Statement Part III

Part III

10. The Mayor’s constant response to any question is to issue vicious, unrelenting personal attacks.

Why is there such anger and invective at the slightest request for information? It is my opinion that the Mayor resists every effort to promote accountability because he is desperately trying to cover up for the fact that he has presided over the collapse of Hamblen County finances.

a. He was County Mayor when the county spent $923,000 more than it took in (fiscal year 2002) and when the general fund went broke (fiscal year 2003). Only the new auditors’ actions in allowing money to be moved from 6-7 small funds into the general fund kept Hamblen County from being officially broke as of June 30, 2003.

b. He was County Mayor when the garbage fund went broke in 2003 and last-minute monies had to be switched around to keep that fund from being insolvent.

c. He was serving on the Board at Morristown-Hamblen Hospital when the Hospital failed to recognize its financial problems until it reached the point that it couldn’t meet its debt payments.

11. In addition, the Mayor has made intentional misstatements of fact in order to smear me or anyone else who dares to ask questions about county finances or property.

a. I suggested and the full commission approved placing Hamblen County decals on all county vehicles with the exception of undercover vehicles. Mr. Purkey refused to place a decal on his taxpayer-provided vehicle. Mr. Purkey then went a step further and stated that putting a decal on the Juvenile Court transportation vehicle for dependent and neglected youth would be a violation of state law. I called a state official and found out that not only are decals acceptable for such use on county vehicles, but they are used by the state itself for juvenile transport.

b. The Mayor falsely told all commissioners in a letter that I had made a document request that would endanger the safety of law enforcement personnel. That was absolutely untrue. The open records law provides that redaction, or marking out, of certain confidential information is to be made when an otherwise public record is requested. I never asked that the Mayor ignore the open records law and provide non-public information or information that would endanger anyone.

c. The Mayor refused to meet with me in early 2004 when I had questions about a committee meeting I chaired.

1. At the meeting, there was a quorum present when certain votes were taken but not a quorum when other votes were taken.

2. Instead of meeting with me or discussing this situation with me as I requested, the Mayor refused to do so and instead went to every other commissioner one by one and accused me of taking illegal votes.

3. The Mayor refused to call everyone together, refused to discuss this openly at a committee or commission meeting, and refused to discuss this with me despite my request to meet with him. I received an e-mail saying that neither he nor his staff would meet with me even though I had set up an appointment to discuss the quorum question.

4. Since the Mayor wouldn’t talk to me, I asked the county attorney who agreed with me that the votes taken when a quorum was not present should not be reported in the committee minutes. [Of course, when the previous commission had committee meetings without a quorum, Mr. Purkey did not question their actions.]

Scroll up for Part I and Part II. Scroll down for Part IV

June 25, 2006 Noe Statement Part IV

Part IV Scroll up to see previous posts for Parts I-III

12. When I recently asked for an accounting of revenue and expenditures for our two 5-year capital improvement plans, the Mayor said he provided updates regularly.

I only know of a small number of times that we have gotten any kind of written itemized report on the spending of millions of dollars on county buildings, jails, libraries, cupolas, dental clinics, and the county courthouse.

One recent report on a single project, the cupola, showed $150,000 budgeted and $215,000 spent. This was provided after I asked for it.

An earlier report that showed “spending” on various building projects (including some that were not a part of either 5-year plan) was incomplete and misleading.

The column marked “spent” was misleading because not all spending was included in the “spent” totals. Some projects were over the “5-year plan” budgeted amount, but the report said they were within budget because the report just ignored any costs that were paid for by anything other than bond money.

That’s like me paying for a building partly in cash and partly by check and then saying the only amount I “spent” on the building is what I paid out in cash.

Commissioner Osborne has said it, I have said it, and despite a fearful silence in this room, I think every commissioner up here knows that there has been, and still is, no accountability for capital improvement dollars.

When you ask how much was spent on a project, you may get 2, 3, or 4 different answers. On the Russellville sewer grant, there were at least 3 spending totals given. On the Courthouse addition, there was a “spent” total of exactly $2.5 million provided. Upon further questioning, it was said that really $2,670,000+ was “spent.”

What has really been spent for each building project and out of what funds?

It seems that it all depends on what the meaning of “spent” is.

What is left out of the capital improvement bond issue? No one will say.

There may be nothing left. There may be a lot left. There is no accountability for these funds.

Surely, someone has a complete itemization of what has been spent on each project and where that money came from.

With problems ranging from violation of state law to apparently creating a false document and passing it off as an official governmental record to secure release of CDBG sewer grant funds, one thing is quite obvious.

The Mayor will do anything—absolutely anything-- to try and get the heat off of himself.

And that, in a nutshell, is why Mayor David Purkey becomes upset and reacts with emotional outbursts at every financial question.

He can not and will not answer for the above abuses of his office, favoritism shown to certain non-profits, and for his failure to provide an itemized accounting for the use of county funds on capital improvements.
He reacts with invective for the following reasons:

Because I said that county spending was out of control and that there was no accountability for county finances, and I was right.

Because I spearheaded the initiative to bring in the state auditors who issued more findings citing problems in Hamblen County finances in 2003 than in any other county in the state (and the written findings were just the “reported” problems).

Because I have verified information and found out that many misstatements of fact have been made and that the Mayor has taken it upon himself to act as a dictator in selecting certain non-profit friends to cover under the county’s insurance plan, creating false documents, approving change orders and releases of liens without getting commission approval, and shifting money wherever he chooses without the required approval of county commission and without even the courtesy of notification after-the-fact.

Mr. Purkey’s anger and vindictiveness are typical of many, but thankfully not all, of those in positions of power.

The Mayor says that he is the county’s chief financial officer. Well, it’s time for the County Mayor to take care of the county’s finances.

The devil is in the details.

Obviously, in looking at the details of county finances and sorting things out and exposing a lack of accountability, I have angered Mayor Purkey.

Well, my loyalty is to the taxpayers and citizens of Hamblen County, and I will continue to serve them as I complete my term of office and as I return to private life.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

June 24, 2006 Financial Accountability? Not in Hamblen County

Yesterday's post (June 23) ended with the statement that the County Mayor, who proclaims himself the county's chief financial officer, needs to deal with, instead of trying to avoid, financial questions.

His favorite tactic for avoiding giving answers about the county's finances is to say, "I've already provided that." Yeah, right. Let's look at what he provides.

In regard to building projects, what he has "provided" is often some useless sheet of paper and that useless sheet of paper is all county commission and the taxpayers will get---no explanation, for sure no questions, take-it-or-leave-it.

Example: The Mayor gave Commission a report on county building projects about a year. One of the projects on the report was the Courthouse Addition.

Well, one column showed that the "capital plan" budget for the Courthouse Addition was exactly $2.5 million. Another column was labeled "contracts" --- exactly $2.5 million. A third column was labeled "spent" --- exactly $2.5 million.

If you looked at the labels for each column and the figures, you would probably think that the amount "spent" on the Courthouse Addition was $2.5 million dollars. You would be wrong.

When I asked about the strangely exact "spent" amount for the Courthouse Addition, I found out that the word "spent" on this report only meant the amount of bond money "spent" on this project.

There was other money ($171,000+) "spent" on the Courthouse, but that wasn't put on this report. And, no, there wasn't any asterisk or any note on the report explaining that "spent" only meant the amount of bond issue money spent on this project.

Evidently, everything in the report depends on what the meaning of "spent" is.

So now we have to ask for a definition of the word "spent."

Does "spent" mean all money spent on this project, does "spent" mean only the amount of money spent out of the bond money, does "spent" mean only the amount of money spent out of the general fund!

I'll post the entire Statement that I made to Commission in a four part (I-IV) post with a date of June 25. If you begin with June 25th, Part I, you can then scroll down from I to IV in order.

Friday, June 23, 2006

June 23, 2006 Silence in the Courtroom

June 22, 2006
County Commission Meeting

I have been attacked unrelentingly and incessantly by Hamblen County Mayor David Purkey---almost from the moment I took office on September 1, 2002.

If I walk in the room, you can sense his blood pressure rising. If I speak, the attacks begin.

At yesterday's meeting of the Hamblen County Commission, I asked for permission to address my fellow commissioners.

I handed my statement to all commissioners and to the County Clerk, and I asked that it be placed in the record.

I gave a copy to the Citizen-Tribune reporter. Then I stepped up to the podium.

Right after I made my brief introductory comments, Chairman Joe Spoone tried to stop me from continuing.

Joe, of course, kept looking over to the jury box for signals from Mayor Purkey and others about what he should do.

Joe asked if I could back up my statement. I said "Yes."

Then Commissioner Larry Baker tried to delay or postpone my statement to a later time. I insisted on the right to address the commission and to proceed.

Things got quiet and I resumed my remarks.

My comments were lengthy, and I will include the full text on this blog in several postings this weekend.

While I have been extremely patient in the face of a never-ending barrage from the County Mayor, it's time for the personal attacks to stop.

The County Mayor needs to quit trying to divert attention from the county's finances and his own actions with constant public outbursts. He doesn't like me. So what?

He needs to stop the whining, deal with the financial questions, and explain how and where and how county money has been spent.

One example: He needs to stand up and explain what has been spent on each capital improvements project---where the money came from, what was paid out, and, yes, attach an itemization showing who got what.

I ran on accountability, and I am disgusted by the Mayor's attacks on anyone and everyone who asks for financial information.

In his own words, he is the county's "chief financial officer."

Then deal with the financial questions.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

June 21, 2006 First Day of Summer--Budget Process Slows

What a beautiful (and hot) first day of summer!

The budget process in Hamblen County has slowed as the Commission now waits for the arrival of the School Board budget. It was scheduled for June 13th, postponed to June 20th, and then postponed again to June 27th.

Updated calculations and revisions are apparently being made to the original draft of the school budget.

Today, commissioners received information in the mail on the amount of state BEP funding for the 06-07 school year.

For 06-07, state BEP funding will be just over $29,000,000.

During last year's 05-06 budget sessions, state BEP funding was reported as about $27,000,000.

That means that $2,000,000 more state dollars will be coming in for Hamblen County Schools.

Federal funding and local funding (primarily through property taxes, wheel taxes, and sales taxes) make up the balance of school revenues.

I wish I could report that this year's county and school budgets can be found on the county's website, but it seems that we can't do that yet. I will keep pushing for expanded use of the county's website to get budget and other information available to the taxpayers---at no cost.

It would also be helpful to the public if we televised Budget Committee meetings, just like we televise regular monthly commission meetings. The Budget Committee is made up of all commissioners---so Budget meetings are a lot like a regular commission meeting.

Budget Committee meetings--- where major taxing and spending decisions are discussed---could be taped and televised at no cost to the county. We just turn on the camera and leave it set at a wide-angle view.

The public should be able to see and hear what's going on.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

June 20, 2006 Tennessee Trivia was a Toughie!

The June 15th Tennessee Trivia Question was indeed a toughie.

What is Tennessee's state flower?

Did you say the iris? If so, you were correct but only partly so.

According to the Tennessee Blue Book, Tennessee has two state flowers!

The state wildflower is the passion flower. The cultivated flower is the iris.

The history behind this is interesting. In 1919, the General Assembly provided that a state flower would be chosen by the school children of Tennessee. The children "voted" and the passion flower was selected.

Later, in 1933, the General Assembly adopted a Joint Resolution that designated the iris as the "State Flower of Tennessee." When legislators adopted the iris in 1933, they forgot to formally rescind the earlier selection of the passion flower.

Forty years later, the General Assembly decided to straighten everything out.

In 1973 with supreme political correctness, the Tennessee General Assembly in 1973 designated the passion flower as the state's official wildflower and the iris as the state's official cultivated flower.

Friday, June 16, 2006

June 16, 2006 The Sheriff says "NO"

A blog reader was talking to me recently about the June 9 and June 13 posts (scroll down to see them).

His simple question was "Why won't the Sheriff provide mileage information for the county vehicles in the Sheriff's department?"

My simple answer was I don't know. The Sheriff has never said why his mileage records, unlike those of every other county vehicle, are a county secret.

While my friend thought that the Sheriff's refusal might be connected to problems with the mileage records and gasoline usage, I pointed out that the reason might be as simple as just showing that the Sheriff's Department doesn't answer to anyone.

Or maybe it's because Sheriff Otto Purkey has been told by his brother County Mayor David Purkey not to respond since the Sheriff's vehicle list (and any mileage records that the Sheriff would provide) would automatically include County Mayor David Purkey's vehicle (and mileage). [Note: The Finance Director took the Sheriff's asset listing and did provide the mileage for the Mayor's car in one year but reported nothing for all other Sheriff's vehicles.]

Or maybe it's something else altogether.

Now for the humor (and irony) in all this stonewalling. At the same time that I asked for mileage records here in Hamblen County, I also asked by phone for the same records from a Sheriff's Department in middle Tennessee.

After a week, a follow-up e-mail, and a follow-up phone call, the Sheriff of Hamblen County responded: "NO."

Within 24 hours, a Sheriff's Department in middle Tennessee sent me a complete list of all their vehicles and the mileage for each one.

So why is it that the Hamblen County Sheriff won't provide mileage information just once-a-year? What would that information show?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

June 15, 2006 Tennessee Trivia Quiz

It's Tennessee Trivia Quiz time again!

What is Tennessee's state flower? Be careful on this!

E-mail your response to noe4accountability@yahoo.com

The answer will be here on June 18.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

June 13, 2006 Open and Fair Process for Hiring Architects and Engineers

The Construction Oversight Committee voted yesterday to recommend to the full commission that the county use a Statement of Interest and Qualifications when hiring architects and engineers to work for the county.

[Each firm's Statement of Interest and Qualifications would include information about the firm, licensing and insurance data, experience, references, etc.]

Over the past several years, the county has "picked" an architect or engineer without advertising that a project is planned and without looking at the qualifications of all interested architects and engineers.

If the proposal that I put forward yesterday passes in the full commission on June 22, the process will change and become more open and fair.

In the open and fair process, the county will send out letters to local architects and engineers and advertise in the newspaper with notification that a project is planned.

If an architect or engineer is interested in being considered for the work, he or she will send back a Statement of Interest & Qualifications to the county.

I'm cautiously hopeful at this point, but I know that there are some individuals who want to be able to pick whomever they want without even considering anyone else who is qualified.

Making this change reflects a desire to be fair to all qualified professionals in these fields when the county needs these services.

Two words sum it up: openness and fairness.

Open the process up and let interested architects and engineers know when a project is planned and invite them to participate in a fair forum.

There are many qualified architects and engineers. They all deserve an opportunity to submit their qualifications to the county for consideration.

I think the turning point in the discussion came when each commissioner was asked to put himself or herself in the shoes of an architect or engineer.

If you are an architect or engineer in Hamblen County, if you pay taxes in Hamblen County, and if you are well-qualified, shouldn't you be notified when architectural and engineering services are needed? Shouldn't you be allowed to participate?

The answer, I think, is "yes." I hope that many other commissioners will think that the answer to those questions is "yes" on June 22 so we can have an open and fair process.

June 13, 2006 Vehicle mileage information

An earlier post reported that Sheriff Otto Purkey refuses to provide mileage information for his department's vehicles once-a-year.

Why is county vehicle mileage information important to have?

To help in planning for short-term and long-term replacement needs.

Commissioner Joe Spoone once pointed out that two vehicles of the same year can be very different. Anyone who has looked at used cars or traded a car knows this, too.

The value and continued usefulness of a sheriff's vehicle--or any other vehicle-- depend largely on the mileage and condition.

A 2001 patrol vehicle that has 175,000 miles on it and a lengthy history of repairs may need to be replaced. A 2001 patrol vehicle with 75,000 miles on it and no major repairs may be good for several more years.

It is important to have mileage information---and asking that mileage information be provided once-a-year along with the required vehicle listing is about as simple a request as one can make.

There are counties in Tennessee that update the mileage information on their vehicles at least monthly.

There are counties in Tennessee that can, and will, provide a printout that identifies every patrol vehicle by VIN number and shows the mileage for each vehicle within a few hours of the request.

If you ask for mileage information in Hamblen County, you will get it from every official or department head except Sheriff Otto Purkey and his brother County Mayor David Purkey (who drives a vehicle that is listed in the Sheriff's Department).

June 13, 2006 Will the Sheriff provide mileage records once-a-year? "NO"

The previous June 9 post ended with the question "Will the Sheriff provide mileage records for his department's vehicles once-a-year?"

A simple request to all departments and elected officials in a resolution passed by the Hamblen County Commission.

Would it be difficult to provide this information?

No. The Sheriff and all other departments already have to provide a list of vehicles and VIN numbers. The Hamblen County Commission just asked that each department include with that list the mileage of for each vehicle.

It was such a simple request that every department--except the Sheriff's Department-- provided the information when I asked for it last year.

The garbage and highway departments (with large numbers of vehicles like the Sheriff's department) had no trouble providing it.

Will Sheriff Otto Purkey provide the mileage data this year?

The one-word answer arrived in a recent e-mail: "NO"

A simple answer.

Friday, June 09, 2006

June 9, 2006 The Sheriff and Accountability (TPTS Part V)

The Perfect Tax Storm (Part V):

A previous June 1 posting (scroll down to see the post) dealt with the Sheriff's Department budget request. During that meeting, Commissioner Joe Spoone decided that the gas line item for the Sheriff's Dept. was too high. He proposed cutting the gas budget by $30,000 (from $170,000 down to $140,000).

Following the exchange between Commissioner Spoone and Capt. Moore over gasoline, I asked Capt. Moore if he would request that the Sheriff provide the mileage records for all Sheriff's Dept. vehicles (with the exception of undercover cars).

Mileage information for all taxpayer-funded county vehicles is something that the commission asked all departments to provide---just once a year.

Each department was asked to jot down the mileage and condition (poor, fair, good, excellent) for each vehicle once a year and include this information on its state-required asset listing.

When the asset listing for 2005 was assembled by County Mayor David Purkey's office, it did not include the mileage information that commission had requested for any vehicles.

When I then requested the mileage/condition information from each department, every department--except the Sheriff's Department-- was extremely co-operative in providing mileage/condition data for their vehicles.

The Sheriff's response, however, was a very clear "no" to my request for this information. Click here or click on the October 2005 archives (bottom right of this page) and then scroll down to the October 27 post to read the Sheriff's comments.

Taking a mileage reading once a year and recording it is not a difficult thing to do to promote accountability and to provide a record for determining short and long-term replacement needs.

The Commission made a simple request, but with the Sheriff's "track record" (no pun intended) on vehicle information, the outlook for a positive response this year is probably no better than it was last year..

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

June 6, 2006 Tennessee Trivia: Quick answer

The first correct answer to the Tennessee Trivia question came quickly from Jeff.

Question: Which is the only county in Tennessee named for a woman?

Answer: Grainger County

The Tennessee Blue Book notes that Grainger County (in East Tennessee) is named for Mary Grainger.

She was the daughter of Kaleb Grainger who came to TN from North Carolina. She married William Blount who was the first governor of the Territory South of the River Ohio (later Tennessee).

Saturday, June 03, 2006

June 3, 2006 Tennessee Trivia Question

Periodically, I want to pose a Tennessee Trivia question on this blog.

Here's the first one:

Which of Tennessee's 95 counties is named for a woman?

E-mail your answer to noe4accountability@yahoo.com

June 3, 2006 Quickie "votes" protect sitting incumbent legislators from write-in candidates

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen needs to get out the "veto" pen.

Dead people vote in Memphis. Absent Tennessee Representatives vote in Nashville.

The first is illegal. The second is normal in Naifeh-ville.

The first resulted in the voiding of an election (Ophelia Ford in Memphis).

The second resulted in the last-minute passage of a new law dubbed the "Incumbent Protection Bill."

The "Incumbent Protection Bill" raises the bar---nah, let's be honest about it--the "IPB" makes it virtually impossible for a write-in candidate to qualify to run in a general election race against a sitting (incumbent) legislator.

The "IPB" would require a write-in candidate to get 5% of the total registered voters in his/her district instead of the current 5% of the actual primary votes cast in order to qualify for the November general election.

The IPB passed in the Tennessee House with the "votes" of absent legislators.

Only a veto by Governor Bredesen can stop this bill now!

If you think that the Governor should say "No" and veto this bill, call 615-741-2001 and leave your name, city, phone number, and a simple message like "Please veto the incumbent protection bill."

I did.

PS: If you hate message machines, send an e-mail to phil.bredesen@state.tn.us

Friday, June 02, 2006

June 2, 2006 Quickie "votes" to protect incumbents and give automatic pension increases to TN legislators


Blogs and newspapers are a-buzz about the last-minute "votes" in the Tennessee Legislature to pass self-serving legislation with little or no public discussion.

A lot of newspapers are calling for the Governor's veto on some of the last-minute measures and rightly so.

One bill increases the governor's salary from $85,000 to $155,000. It makes adjustments in state employee benefits, raises the pay for former governors, and links future pension increases for lawmakers to cost-of-living increases.

According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, that last item (pension increases for legislators) isn't spelled out on a General Assembly Web site that is supposed to include pertinent information about legislative decisions.

During the last minute flurry of vote-taking, members of the legislature also decided to make it harder for write-in candidates to qualify for a spot in the general election.

Currently, write-in candidates have to get 5% of the total votes cast in the primary (with a minimum of 25) to qualify for the general election. The new "incumbent protection" bill says that the write-in candidate has to get 5% of the total number of registered voters!

The Commercial Appeal in a June 1 Editorial, "A nest gets more comfy" points out that whether these changes are appropriate or not, Tennesseans deserve prior notice and a chance to express their opinions on such important bills.

Significant changes shouldn't be rushed through both chambers--particularly when some legislators got to cast two or three votes for the proposal!

In the Tennessee House, some legislators pushed their own button to vote for the "incumbent protection" bill and then they reached over to another (absent) lawmaker's desk and cast another vote in favor of the bill.

We always laugh when we hear someone say "vote early and vote often." In the Tennessee House, it's no laughing matter. For some Representatives, it's "Vote at the last-minute and vote at every button you can reach!"

These bills shouldn't be signed by the Governor or even allowed to become law without his signature. A VETO is the proper answer here.

A session that began with an ethics bill sure doesn't need to end like this---even if it's always been done this way before!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

June 1, 2006 Commission Looks at the Sheriff's (Captain's) Budget (TPTS PArt IV)

Hamblen County Commission Budget Meeting on May 30, 2006.
(The Perfect Tax Storm TPTS Part IV)

Circuit Court, General Sessions, Drug Court, and Work Program budgets were presented, and then the Sheriff's Department budget was on tap.

The two big budget items were the Sheriff's Administrative Budget (patrol officers and detectives) and the Sheriff's Jail Budget. Unfortunately, neither the Sheriff nor the Chief Jailer came to talk about their $3,500,000+ combined budgets.

Captain Hugh Moore addressed the Sheriff's Administrative Budget and apologized for not being able to answer certain questions. As he put it, he was sort of "winging it."

The Sheriff's budget was taken under advisement with changes to be made to certain line items (gasoline and travel) and more information to be requested about how department uniforms are purchased.

The uniform issue involves whether employees should receive separate payroll checks to be used to buy their uniforms individually (and requiring the county and the employee to pay social security taxes, retirement, etc. on that money) or whether there are other ways to purchase uniforms that would save the tax and retirement expenses.

At the start of the 2006 fiscal year, uniforms were about a $25,000 line item in the Sheriff's budget.

Uniforms have to be purchased and are a big ticket item. Making the purchase in the most economical way for the officers and the taxpayers is important.

That's why I asked May 30th, as I had before, that we look for the best way to get the uniforms we need without burdening the officer or the county with social security taxes and retirement costs on the uniform purchase. Other counties do this.

Purchasing the uniforms through competitive bidding would save even more money. Other counties do this.

The county specifies the appearance and quality requirements (garment weight, etc) for each uniform and then all uniforms are put out to bid. This would results in competition among vendors and the lowest possible price.

More on the Sheriff's budget to come....raises, mileage records, jail costs.