Wednesday, November 28, 2007

November 28, 2007 Florida Governor Promotes "Sunshine" in Government

Ben Cunningham has an excellent post and a link to a media article about Florida Governor Charlie Crist's actions to spread SUNSHINE in the Sunshine state with an "Open Government Bill of Rights."

Shelby County is also spreading some sunshine with several proposals--one of which is to make the business packets that commissioners receive available online to the public.

Hamblen County should follow suit in making its business packets accessible online.

Commissioners in Hamblen County receive monthly committee and commission packets with information about finances, contracts, checks issued, appointments, civil service changes, budget status, school quarterly reports, budget amendments, trustee's reports, and on and on.

These packets could easily be made available online before the meetings. The technology to scan documents onto the Hamblen County website is available. The Hamblen County Court Clerk has recently scanned several years of county commission minutes onto the county website.

[Although the minutes are not in chronological order, some of the pages have been scanned upside down, and minutes of a few months have been left off, County Clerk Linda Wilder is to be congratulated for starting the process. The kinks need to be worked out, but the first steps have been taken.]

While serving as a commissioner, I pushed first for creation of the Hamblen County Government website and then for expanded use of the website to provide online access to public information.

The website needs to add a link now to provide easy public access to Hamblen Commission packets so that citizens can see and review the same information that commissioners receive before monthly committee and commission meetings.

Putting Hamblen Commission packets online would be another step in putting more "sunshine" in local government.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

November 18, 2007 Sen. Cooper Fined $120,000

Sen. Jerry Cooper (D-Morrison) dodged a bullet in his federal fraud trial; however, evidence presented in that trial was used to load another gun.

The other gun was "fired" by Drew Johnson, director of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. The bullet included the numerous campaign checks written by Cooper moving $95,000 from his re-election campaign account to his personal bank accounts.

Phil Williams of Channel 5 in Nashville does extensive investigative reporting and did another great job on this.

Early on, the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance knew about the testimony and the campaign finance violations, but the Registry refused to take any action against Cooper unless a private individual filed a formal complaint.

That's where the Director of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research stepped in. If you click on the TCRP link, above, there are several excellent articles about the November 14th fine and events leading up to it.

The evidence was solid---so solid that Cooper didn't even show up at the Registry hearing for the decision.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

November 7, 2007 City Councilman Mel Tucker Wants To Address ILLEGAL Immigration

At yesterday's city council meeting, Councilman Mel Tucker cited statistics showing the dramatic and often detrimental effect of illegal immigration on Morristown, Hamblen County, and across the nation.

Tucker then proposed that the council take four actions:

1. Draft a resolution to send to Senator Bob Corker, Senator Lamar Alexander, and Congressman David Davis requesting that ICE (Immigration and Custom Enforcement) receive additional funding and do its job enforcing the federal immigration laws.

2. Draft a resolution to send to state Senator Steve Southerland and Representative John Litz asking that they push legislation in Tennessee similar to Oklahoma HB 1804. This recently enacted Oklahoma law prohibits the issuance of government ID's (such as licenses) to illegal immigrants; prohibits public assistance to illegal immigrants; makes it a felony for a U.S. citizen to transport, harbor, or employ illegal immigrants; and requires that illegal immigrants be detained without bond until deportation.

3. Authorize city attorney Dick Jessee to research the issue and advise council of all legal means available to identify and take action against illegal immigrants.

4. Fund Hamblen County Sheriff Jarnagin's expenses for 10 "deputies" to attend ICE certification training that is reserved only for those agencies, such as Hamblen County, that operate jails. Among those ten would be 5 Morristown Police Department officers who would be deputized by the Sheriff.

November 6, 2007 The Hearing That Wasn't Heard

The Morristown City Council---after months and months of repeated postponements---belatedly scheduled the Koch Foods appeal hearing for 6:00 PM earlier tonight.

Three or four residents of the Roe Junction area that is most affected by sewer odors and overflows were already there when I arrived about 5:55 PM.

Shortly afterwards, the council adjourned, and the entire council left the room. We waited and waited and waited.

Then City Attorney Dick Jessee came out and motioned for the attorney for Koch Foods to come back with Jessee.

Finally, roughly around 6:40, the council came back to the meeting area with City Administrator Jim Crumley and City Attorney Dick Jessee.

The meeting came to order, and Jessee announced that there was an agreement between the parties. Mel Tucker made a motion to accept the agreement, and the vote was 6-0 to accept.

[Councilman Frank McGuffin had left earlier and didn't take part in the hearing]

Without admitting guilt, Koch Foods dropped its appeal, and the long-awaited appeal hearing was over.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

November 5, 2007 Ted Mitchell Trial

Ted Ray Mitchell wanted to attend an anti-illegal immigration rally at the Hamblen County Courthouse on June 24, 2006.

He had an American flag with him---a flag that he wanted to wave on the Courthouse lawn.

MPD officers stopped Ted and told him that he couldn't take his American flag on the pole onto the Courthouse lawn. Ted objected, loudly. Ted was taken down to the ground by several MPD officers. He was tasered and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Today a jury found Ted Mitchell not guilty of resisting arrest but guilty of disorderly conduct for shouting and arguing with the officers over the flag.

He was fined $25 and given a 30-day sentence that was suspended.

Ted never got to the rally. Those who did attend the rally were greeted by an unbelievably massive presence of law enforcement.

The local criminal trial is over.

Still pending, however, is a civil lawsuit that Ted filed in federal court against the City of Morristown, Hamblen County, and several elected officials.

In his civil suit, Ted has also named the officers who arrested him, tasered him, and refused to let him take his American flag on an aluminum pole to an anti-illegal immigration rally on the Hamblen County Courthouse lawn.