Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 29, 2009 Crumley Leaves with $145,000+; Mayor Barile Claims It's a "Railroad" Job But Doesn't Have the Guts to Vote "No"

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly. Macbeth.

At yesterday's city council meeting, the removal/retirement of Jim Crumley was "done quickly" and with little of the bloodletting that marks Shakespeare's Macbeth. The vote was 6-1 to approve the agreed severance package that provides $145,000 to Crumley plus certain other benefits in return for his exit-stage left.

Voting in favor of the removal were Gene Brooks, Bob Garrett, Claude Jinks, Kay Senter, Doc Rooney, and Mayor Sami Barile.

Voting against removal was Frank McGuffin.

Prior to casting her vote to join with five others in removing Crumley, Mayor Barile had some choice words for those in favor of getting rid of the City Administrator. She said that this was a "railroad" job. Then she promptly voted for the railroad job to remove so the city can "move forward." If she thought this was a railroad job and if she really felt it would be best for Crumley to stay, she should have voted her convictions.

I have heard several well-founded rumors that Mayor Barile contacted other councilpersons prior to yesterday's meeting to try to convince them in one-on-one meetings to let her favorite City Administrator stay.

It didn't work. Crumley is packing and will be gone by Friday.

In line with the Macbeth theme of stabbing/backstabbing, Mayor Barile showed her anger toward and resentment of councilwoman Kay Senter later in the meeting. Shortly after Crumley was removed, Barile seized the opportunity to remove Senter as chairman of the Finance Committee and appointed Frank McGuffin (the lone vote in support of Crumley) in her stead. Barile also appointed Doc Rooney and Claude Jinks to the Finance Committee.

Kay graciously said she had enjoyed working with the Finance Committee under former Mayor Gary Johnson and current Mayor Barile.

It will be interesting to see to what extent Barile controls McGuffin going forward. The first indication of how open the Barile/McGuffin duo will be will be found in the scheduling of future Finance Committee meetings.

If meetings are scheduled when the public can attend, that will show a degree of openness and a willingness to encourage and permit public participation. If meeting times are 10:00 am or 12:00 pm or 2:00 pm, that will be a sign that discussion of public business is essentially closed to the working public/taxpayer.

[This blog post was delayed by a 1-2 hour power outage that was followed by an 8+ hour internet outage]

Friday, July 24, 2009

July 24, 2009 City Council To Move Forward With Termination of Crumley While Negotiations over Price of an "Agreed Retirement" Continue

After budget discussions concluded yesterday afternoon in the tiny Conference Room at City Center, frank discussion of City Administrator Jim Crumley's exodus began.

The City initally offered Crumley approximately $110,000 to leave. Crumley recently countered with a proposal to "retire" at a cost to the city of a $129,000 severance payment, $43,000 more for accumulated sick leave and vacation pay, plus continuation of health insurance on the same terms as other city "retirees."

Yesterday, Councilmembers Kay Senter, Bob Garrett, Gene Brooks, and Claude Jinks decided to expedite Crumley's exodus one way or the other. A little after 11:00 yesterday morning, just beating the 12:00 deadline, Kay added the matter to council's agenda for next Tuesday's 4:00 PM meeting.

Mayor Barile, who has been totally dependent on Crumley ever since taking office in 2007, doesn't want to see Crumley go. Doc Rooney, who has been in office almost continuously since who knows when, doesn't want to see Crumley go. [Frank McGuffin was not present yesterday.]

The council appears to be taking a two-pronged approach at this time: proceeding with forced termination for stated reasons on one track and discussing the terms of a negotiated exit on the other track.

City attorney Dick Jessee will prepare the official removal document and then send it to the mayor and councilmembers who can state their reasons for removal, if any, in time for Tuesday's meeting.

Fireworks--or a series of little bombs and sparklers-- erupted over Reporter Bob Moore's article stating that Crumley "has a tape that appears to suggest that at least one councilmember had a 'hit list' that targeted one or more city employees' jobs." In his July 22 article, Moore added that "The city administrator has declined to publicly discuss the details of the tape or which councilmember is on the tape."

Councilmember Claude Jinks was ticked off, to say the least, at the reporting that hinted at a hit list and the rumors that swirled about saying that Claude Jinks was the councilmember who was "taped" and who had the employee "hit list." Jinks wanted this straightened out.

Yesterday, Jim Crumley provided additional information about the "tape" and the "hit list" mentioned in Bob Moore's Wednesday article. Crumley said that the tape, contrary to the newspaper article, was not of any councilmember. Crumley said that the tape was of Clifford Jinks, a relative of councilmember Claude Jinks.

From what was said yesterday, it appears that Clifford Jinks left a message or voicemail for Claude Jinks and Crumley had somehow gotten hold of it. Clifford Jinks' message apparently voiced support for getting rid of Crumley and expressed support for getting rid of assistant City Administrator Buddy Fielder as well.

Claude Jinks said he wanted it known that he did not have an employee "hit list." He added that the newspaper report that implied that a councilmember had been taped talking about a "hit list" made it sound criminal and stirred rumors that it was councilmember Claude Jinks on the tape when it was actually his relative Clifford Jinks who had left a message for Claude that was somehow obtained by City Administrator Jim Crumley.

Bob Moore, who was present at yesterday's meeting, did not comment.

The question that was not asked nor answered is, How did Crumley get a tape of a voice message that had been left for Claude Jinks?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 22, 2009 Crumley: Where's The Tape? Senter: It's My Tape, But I'll Play It For You and the Mayor

The City Council meeting was over quickly, and then the work session began. Work session agenda topics: Chief Overholt's proposal that city council set a fixed price that tow trucks can charge when they are called to a wreck by a police officer on a rotating basis and a wellness proposal for city employees.

Although it was not on the agenda, the work session ended with City Administrator Jim Crumley hurriedly passing out his proposed severance package/contract. Crumley didn't discuss the terms of the proposal that he passed out, and neither did any councilmember.

Councilmember Senter said that Crumley's contract needed to be reviewed by city attorney Dick Jessee, Crumley said he had provided the contract to Jessee when Jessee left the work session earlier...and then the fireworks started.

Crumley told Senter that he wanted a copy of the audio tape that she made at Thursday's Finance Committee meeting. [Crumley missed the Finance Committee meeting while on a sand/surf/turf vacation but listened in via telephone. Mayor Barile, Crumley's most vocal supporter, was out-of-town and did not attend.].

During the Finance Committee meeting at which Senter made her tape, discussion took place regarding moving forward with removal of Crumley---with Senter throwing out four possibilities. (1) Approve the council's removal agreement that provides for a severance package of $110,000. (2) Continue to negotiate a removal amount with Crumley. (3) Fire Crumley "for cause" with stated reasons for the firing. (4) Let Crumley remain as City Administrator.

Now back to the tape: Senter said it was her personal tape. Crumley said he wanted a copy and added that they could do it the hard way or the easy way. Senter said she would meet with Crumley and play it for him. Crumley said that Mayor Barile had also asked for a copy and had been refused. Senter said she would meet with the Mayor, Crumley, and Crumley's attorney and play the tape for all of them. She added that she would be e-mailing the minutes of that meeting to everyone.

There was no public discussion about the price of Crumley's "retirement." Among the major items in Crumley's proposal are that he will leave/retire if the council agrees to give him around $129,000 in severance pay and around $43,000 for sick leave plus Crumley wants the city to pay for his health insurance for several months after his semi-voluntary "retirement."

Citizen-Tribune reporter Bob Moore left the work session before Crumley passed out his proposed contract and price for retirement. Like he did for Jessee, Crumley had probably given Moore a copy of his severance proposal even before it was given to Mayor Barile and councilmembers. Because he left early, Reporter Moore missed the exchange between Crumley and Senter.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 14, 2009 It All Depends on What the Meaning of "Repairs" Is...

County Commissioners and the School Board met on July 7 regarding East High repairs.

Weeks ago, the Commission offered the Board $5.3 Million to spend on repairs at East High.

According to news reports, the Board's proposed "repairs" (dubbed Phase I) included buying more property around East High, adding eight new classrooms, and putting a new roof on the existing building (with the exception of the new library and the old 1923 section. )

[The Board plans to continue patching the roof on the 1923 section and then come back and tear the 1923 section down altogether in Phase II of its 3-phase plan. ]

Tuesday night the commissioners said "whoa" and told the Board that buying property and building new classrooms and patching part of the roof doesn't match the commission's definition of repairs. Commissioners are saying that they're not handing over money intended for "repairs" to be used for other purposes.

Apparently, some commissioners learned something from the school board's gross mismanagement of the last big ($35 Million) building program (1998-2003).

The last building program was a total fiasco. The school board thumbed its collective nose at the commission (and taxpayers) and awarded around 35 one-bid construction contracts totalling millions. The Board also paid out more than a million dollars to its two construction managers whose biggest job was managing themselves. The Board hated the phrase, but it was clear that they were "paying people to manage themselves."

On top of the one-bid contracts, self-management payments, and waste, the Board was so inept that it couldn't calculate a management fee properly and ended up paying "fees"' and "fees on fees" to its builders/construction managers.

Yes, the Board of "Education" designed or got duped into a construction management contract that paid contractors fees to manage themselves AND also provided for payment of fees on fees. Sort of like having to pay sales tax on an item and then having the store charge you sales tax on the sales tax. This "fee on a fee" deal resulted in around $100,000 tax dollars being wasted because the Board didn't have a clue what it was doing and then didn't want to admit and correct the error when it was pointed out.

Math is pretty straight-forward. When I exposed this little School Board mathematical gem to county commissioners during 2000 and 2001, even Maudie Briggs, Commission Chairman at the time, couldn't ignore it. Maudie didn't DO anything about the fees on fees, but she did write the funniest line ever in a letter to Roger Greene (who was School Board chairman and STILL serves on the Board) about the school board's mathematical prowess.

Maudie told Roger that the Board's calculation of fees on fees was "mathematically impossible correctly (sic)," and she then encouraged the Board to avoid this. Sadly, her scolding didn't deter the school board at all from continuing to shovel out boatloads of taxpayer dollars to pay those "mathematically impossible" fees.

The whole deal was pathetic from start to finish. But then, as now, the School Board had lots of cover in the many family relationships and conflicts of interest among school board members and county commissioners. Commissioners Herbert Harville and Joe Spoone are numbers people. Herbert has headed up the Finance Committee in prior years and Joe is chair of Finance now. During 2000 and 2001 and 2002, neither of them would say anything about the fees on fees. Why? Herbert had, and still has, a son working for the school system. Joe had, and still has, a wife and brother working for school system and a sister who was, and still is, on the school board.

The last school building program was known for millions of tax dollars wasted on one-bid contracts, huge payments for self-supervision, and payment of fees on fees. Its crowning glory, however, was the fact that state law was changed as a result of the outrageous actions of the little old Hamblen County School Board.

While the locals hid and protected one another, I packed up all the information and went to Nashville to see the State Comptroller. I laid everything out. Two construction management contracts. Every no-bid contract. Every conflict of interest. Every self-management fee.

I answered every question, and within a few short months a revised state law was introduced.

The 2002 clarification of state law passed UNANIMOUSLY in the state house and state senate and made it crystal clear---to even the Hamblen County Board of Education---that school construction managers are supposed to manage and supervise only and they don't need to be paid to manage and supervise themselves.

At the time, the school board's attitude was "give me the money and get out of my way." Because of their bumbling of the last building program, the current commissioners realize that you better not hand over the money until there is a satisfactory plan in place.

Of course, the commission's insistence on seeing the plan first also means that commissioners will hear mighty screams and loud complaints emanating from the HCBOE's offices at 201 E. Morris Boulevard.

Speaking of HCBOE's renovated offices, a lot of East High parents and others have begun to notice that while the Board has let East High go to pot, they have spared no expense in upgrading Director Lynch and Company's digs in the old Junior High Building near East High at 201 E. Morris Boulevard.

If Dr. Lynch and staff really wanted to do something "for the children," they could move the Board of Education offices into a portion of the old section of East High and let the uber-nice HC Board of Education building be used for East High classrooms.

After all, the Board's current offices were originally classrooms (Junior High School) and this would be a perfect location for East High classrooms or the freshman academy. WARNING: Do not hold your breath waiting for Dr. Lynch to move out of his office suite for the children.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

July 8, 2009 City Council Avoids Discussion about Its "Policy" of Automatically Doubling Sewer Rates for Outside Customers

City Council met yesterday at 4:00. It was a short agenda that was dispensed with quickly.

During the public comments portion, I asked the council about the double rates charged to outside sewer customers. I asked if they have any cost study or any report by anyone showing that it costs twice as much to provide sewer service to customers who live outside the city limits. They do not.

[The sewer consultant who came up with the new increased sewer rates lumped ALL sewer customers (inside and outside) together to come up with a single new rate structure. Then the council, pursuant to "policy," automatically doubled the consultant's new rate structure for outside customers.] See my previous post.

With no cost study for outside customers, the next question was why do you arbitrarily and capriciously charge outside customers twice as much? City attorney Dick Jessee advised the Mayor and council not to respond to that question, so I rephrased it "why do you charge outside customers twice as much?" Jessee did not object to that question, but there was still no answer from the Mayor or council.

In the end, it really didn't matter how the question was phrased, the Mayor and council will not engage in open discussion about the double outside sewer rates and for good reason. They don't have any justification for charging outside customers twice as much. Someone just decided to slap on a punitive double charge years ago, no one ever questioned it, and now they don't want to listen to any questions about the double charge policy.

The Mayor and council don't like the question in any form, but let's get real about this and look at state law and case law. When you just hit someone with a double sewer charge as a matter of policy without a cost basis, that is just about as "arbitrary and capricious" as you can get. Policies can be erroneous, without basis, and illegal. [Remember Jim Crumley's ill-fated "moratorium" on garbage service to new city businesses that was later determined to be indefensible by attorney Dick Jessee?]

One of the newest members of the current council, Bob Garrett, has already told the council and city staff in an open meeting that the policy of charging double sewer rates is "illegal." Bob knows the law in this area. He worked for the water system for decades and knows that rates have to be lined up with costs---not just set up to punish one set of customers and favor another set. Bob spoke the truth, and I would imagine that there were several conversations afterward about such openness and honesty in a public meeting.

The Mayor and council can sit quietly and ignore the "arbitrary and capricious" double sewer rates, but the issue isn't going away. There can be different rates---but only if there is a cost basis for the different rates. A "policy" of charging twice as much--pulled out of thin air--is not a cost basis. There is no justification for the city continuing to treat some of its sewer customers unfairly.

It may be painful, but it's time for the city to stop avoiding the situation and take care of this matter. It's a matter of fairness because that is what the law requires. Rates must be fair and equitable. Bob Garrett knows that and has told the council as much. I have repeatedly asked the city to charge the same rate to inside and outside customers until and unless the city performs an outside study and finds that its costs for service to outside customers justify a higher rate and the amount, if any, of that higher rate.

The city's recent rate study by Lamar Dunn lumped the costs for all customers (inside and outside) together and came up with a single fair rate for all customers (inside and outside) based on those costs.

Lamar Dunn's report did not say that it costs twice as much to serve outside customers. The city simply took Dunn's single rate structure (inside and outside) and then applied its "policy" of automatically doubling Dunn's cost study rate and charging outside customers twice as much. Arbitrary and capricious? In my opinion, yes. Unfair? Yes. Needs to stop? Yes.

A rezoning ordinance for a Weigel's Store (2750 N. Davy Crockett Parkway and a portion of Cherokee Park) passed 5-0-1. Kay Senter abstained without comment and Gene Brooks was absent.

A change order for the airport renovation was approved.

Several fire department promotions were approved.

The council then convened as the Beer Board and approved four beer permits:

Maria Isabel Flores, Don Pancho Mexican Restaurant, 1134 South Cumberland.
Misael Martinez, Locanda Italian Restaurant & Pizza, 1590B Buffalo Trail.
Jaymin, Inc., Shell Gas Station, 2564 Buffalo Trail.
Kenneth E. McMullen, Weigel Stores, Inc, 2750 N. Davy Crockett Parkway.

The work session that followed was lengthy. Two companies gave health/wellness presentations, seeking city business to set up a local clinic for city employees. The presentations ran so long that three councilmen and the local "news"paper reporter left during the presentations.

When Councilman Frank McGuffin left, reporter Bob Moore followed him and called for Frank by name. Bob was gone for quite a while and missed a lot of the first presentation.

Bob finally came back. Councilmen Claude Jinks and Doc Rooney left separately. Then Bob Moore left again (permanently) and missed a lot of the second presentation as well.

At the end of the second presentation, there were a few city employees still around, a few members of the public, and only these elected officials: Mayor Barile, Kay Senter, and Bob Garrett.

Monday, July 06, 2009

July 6, 2009 City and County: Briefs and Upcoming Posts

A lot has happened locally over the past several weeks.

Democrat State Rep. John Litz announced that he would not run for re-election and said that he was not ready to comment on his future plans.

Democrat Larry Mullins jumped into the vacuum and announced that he is a candidate for state representative. In Mullins' announcement, it was mentioned that his wife Kathy Trent Mullins will not run for re-election as Circuit Court Clerk for Hamblen County.

John Litz later announced that his future plans include a race for County Mayor against Republican candidate Bill Brittain. [I don't think that John will have any opposition in the Democrat primary. There is a very slim possibility that Bill might have some opposition from an elected official who was miffed when current County Mayor David Purkey apparently got a group together and pretty much selected the current Republican candidate line-up without considering or consulting with that individual. The current Purkey line-up for the two major offices is Brittain for Mayor and Purkey's Finance Director Nicole Buchanan for Trustee.]

The School Board is meeting with the Hamblen County Education Committee on June 7 to discuss the Board's plans to spend $5.3 million on environmental and maintenance issues (roof, etc.) at East High. If you can get off work at 1:00 pm on that day, you might want to attend.

City Administrator Jim Crumley has been asked by at least four councilmembers to resign or retire or somehow get the heck out of City Hall. City Mayor Sami Barile hates the possibility of Jim leaving. With Jim gone, Barile loses her right-hand man and the source of her knowledge of city government.

With the prospect of Crumley's exit, Mayor Sami Barile is now telling government officials to act with civility at city council meetings. The local "news"paper has also editorialized for civility. Civility is important, but the Mayor needs to realize that disagreements and discussions are not automatically indicative of a lack of civility. And, hopefully, she will even come to recognize that questions are not micro-managing. If she had been paying attention and asking questions before and after taking office, maybe she would have known of the financial disaster that awaited her after she was sworn in in May 2007. In any event, Mayor Barile needs to worry less about what she considers a lack of civility and start worrying more about learning firsthand what's really going on in city government and in the City of Morristown.

Barile and council need to start addressing the jobs situation, skyrocketing unemployment in the City, the red light cameras, spending problems, the city's huge debt, sewer issues, and the lack of accountability. If and when Crumley is no longer spoon feeding Barile/council with his misleading analyses of the state of the city, Barile and company should set up procedures that will provide for checks and balances on the incoming administrator.

The Mayor and council need to be kept in the loop about city government (pay raises, car allowances, cell phones, contracts, sewer, spending). The Mayor and council need to eliminate the free-rein that Crumley had to spend and shift money around (in bunches of up to $10,000) without explaining the reason in advance and without getting council's permission in advance. Any contracts negotiated by the City Administrator or others need to come before the council for final approval and the contracts should be in final form and available to councilmembers for review at least a week before the contract is placed on the agenda for a vote.

In other news, former Hamblen County Deputy Dexter Morris was convicted in federal court of violating the civil rights of females stopped and detained by him and of lying to federal agents when confronted about the incidents.

There was testimony that a number of complaints were filed against Morris during the tenure of former Sheriff Otto Purkey and that Purkey ignored or dismissed the complaints, eventually promoting Morris to patrol officer. Other testimony indicated that Deputy Ernie Burzell handled a complaint filed by a 16-year old girl who was stopped by Morris without cause. Morris allegedly fondled the girl and apparently admitted to Burzell that he had no reason to stop the teenager and that he had asked the girl "What does a 16-year old do to get those boobs?" Burzell took no action on the complaint and entered nothing in Morris' file about the incident.

I will discuss these items in more detail in future individual posts

A lot more local governmental happenings and revelations are on the horizon.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

July 4, 2009 The Fourth of July


It is the Soldier, not the minister, who has given us freedom of religion.
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 protest.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Soldier, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.

The above tribute to American soldiers has been attributed to various individuals and has been worded in a number of different ways.

Freedom isn't free.