Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September 30, 2009 City Finance Committee Meeting and the Tennessee Open Meetings Act

The regular meetings of the Morristown City Council are on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. The Finance Committee of City Council meets regularly on Thursdays prior to Tuesday council meetings.

Yesterday (Tuesday) there was a special called meeting of the Finance Committee. There was an announcement of yesterday's Finance meeting in the Tribune on Sunday (9/27) and Monday (9/28).  The announcement said the meeting would take place at 4:00 in the City Chambers, the usual meeting place of the full Council. There was no information as to why a special Finance Committee meeting was being called and no information as to what would be discussed.

I called the interim Administrator's office around 4:00 pm on Monday afternoon to find out why there was a special Finance Committee meeting on a Tuesday and what was on the agenda for discussion or action. The administrative assistant, Nellie, said that she had been on vacation and that she had only found out about the special meeting by reading the notice in the paper just like I did. Nellie didn't know what was on the agenda and didn't know if any packets or information had been given to the Finance Committee members. Interim Administrator Buddy Fielder was not there and did not have voicemail to get messages.

I went to City Hall yesterday and walked over to the City Chambers to attend the meeting but found that the council meeting room was closed. It turned out that the meeting had been moved without announcement to the "mayor's conference room" near the Mayor's and Interim City Administrator's offices. Just before 4:00 pm, the new Finance Committee chair Frank McGuffin passed out a lengthy agenda. Click on the image above to see a copy of the agenda.

The first item on the agenda was the KIA property next to the Golden Corral on the West A.J. Hwy. It is my understanding that Councilwoman Kay Senter, various city officials, Chamber officials, Tribune publisher Jack Fishman, and "others" have already met in groups and have toured the KIA building. The KIA property is in foreclosure, and apparently some people have been discussing a public-private partnership to purchase the building for a future community center and other uses.

As it turned out yesterday, there was very little discussion about the KIA property or any other item on the agenda.

There are laws in Tennessee covering Open Meetings, and these were enacted to ensure openness and transparency in the governmental process at every step of the way.  I talked to Finance Committee Chair Frank McGuffin privately right before the meeting about the Open Meetings Act.  Since this meeting was not a regular previously scheduled Thursday meeting, it appears to fall under the notice requirements for special called meetings.

I showed Frank an unpublished opinion of the Tennessee Court of Appeals which also cites a published opinion regarding notice requirements for special called meetings.  The main requirement for special called meetings is notice to the public of what is to be discussed, so the public can decide if this special matter concerns something in which they are interested.

Frank was polite but did not want to re-schedule the meeting. Instead, he chose to call the meeting to order and proceeded to announce the first item on the agenda (KIA property).

I then asked and was allowed to present to the full Finance Committee and other city council members in attendance the questions that I had initially raised privately with Frank. As concisely as possible, I explained that special called meetings are called to deal with specific items--most often items that can't wait for a regular meeting--and that these items should be announced in advance so that the public can decide whether the special issues to be discussed or considered are such that they wish to attend. 

Although Kay Senter clearly wanted to continue with the meeting, she did acknowledge that typically special called meetings do have a specific agenda and the council can only discuss what is on the agenda for the special meeting.  The agenda for yesterday's meeting was drawn up at the last minute and was only handed out to council and those in attendance right before the 4:00 meeting time. Neither the public nor the full council knew the topics that were to be discussed and considered at this special meeting in advance of the meeting.

Of course, the Clintonesque excuses were then bandied about. Mayor Barile said the meeting was to be primarily about the KIA property, but she had added several items at the last minute. Mayor Barile said that the document that had just been passed out-- the one entitled "Finance Committee Agenda"--wasn't exactly an agenda. It was mostly just her thoughts. 

Frank McGuffin and the others admitted that regular Finance Committee meetings take place on Thursdays, but Interim City Administrator Buddy Fielder argued that this Tuesday meeting wasn't a "special called" Finance Committee meeting, it was just an "additional" meeting of the Finance Committee.  Some wondered aloud, if no votes are taken at the meeting then that that would take care of any Open Meetings Act problems.

When the Clintonesque talk begins at any public meeting, you cringe. 

This is not a regular previously announced Thursday Finance Committee meeting, but it's not a special meeting either. [OK, so what is it? A semi-regular or semi-special meeting?] 

Even though this document that we just passed out says "Finance Committee Agenda" and lists what we are going to discuss and in what order,  it's not really an agenda, it's mostly just some "thoughts." [OK, so if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and even says it's a duck, it's not really a duck?]

If we don't take a vote, do we still have to worry about whether it's a meeting or a special meeting with additional notice requirements to the public per case law. [If there is discussion and deliberation of an item of public business or an item that will come before the governing body, then it is a meeting and adequate public notice applies. If the meeting takes place on a day/date (Tuesday) other than the day/date previously announced (Thursday), it requires a real stretch to say that it is somehow not a special called meeting and thus does not fall within the more specific notice requirements for called meetings.]

MTAS, upon whom the city frequently relies for legal opinions, has provided guidance on special called meetings and has included a reference to the unpublished opinion [Englewood Citizens] that I discussed with Frank and mentioned in my comments to the Finance Committee and other councilmembers. Click here to see the MTAS opinion.

There was notice of the Finance Committee meeting. Under the three-prong Englewood test cited by MTAS, there would be a question as to whether two-days notice was adequate public notice. In the case of a special called meeting, there would be a serious question as to whether the public was adequately informed of the public business to be discussed or deliberated upon at the special meeting.  In fact, since the "agenda" was only passed out to Finance Committee members at the meeting, there is a serious question as to whether the Finance Committee itself was provided with adequate notice of items to be discussed or considered at the special meeting.

NOTE 1: The city's website never provided notice of yesterday's Finance Committee meeting. As of several days ago and today, the city's website provides notice of the council meeting on 9/15; the Solid Waste Board meeting on 9/18; and the regular Finance Committee meeting on October 1 at 3:30. No website mention was ever provided of the 9/29 special Finance Committee meeting.

NOTE 2: It is my understanding that the items on the 9/29/09 agenda (shown above) will be considered at tomorrow's (10/1/09) regular Finance Committee meeting. Tomorrow's meeting, however, will start at Thursday's regularly scheduled time of 3:30 pm!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

September 26, 2009 Crumley May Be on His Way To Murfreesboro

Newly "retired" former Morristown City Administrator Jim Crumley appears to be headed to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to take the number two position there. Click here for more details.

Hopefully, as the 'Boro's #2 man, Crumley won't lead Murfreesboro into horrendous debt as quickly as he did Morristown. 

Hopefully, as the 'Boro's #2 man, Crumley won't have the power to shift large sums of money around without any accountability to the council as he did in Morristown.

Hopefully, as the 'Boro's #2 man, Crumley will entice a few more of his Morristown group to join him in beautiful Murfreesboro!

Prior posts on Crumley's departure here and here or scroll down the right side of this blog and click on the entry label "Jim Crumley."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

September 19, 2009 Hamblen County Website To Get An Update (Finally!!)

I have publicly asked county commission several times to update the county website and to make it easier to access information about county government. Here and here.

Commissioner Nancy Phillips and I pushed for a county website from the moment we took office in 2002.  A website was established with limited information provided at the start and the addition of a few features later.  Even though I did not run again in 2006, I have continued to attend commission meetings and I have continued to prod commissioners to enhance the website.

Finally, there is a response to my voice and to the voices of others who have asked for more information and online services on the website.

Yes, it looks like a more informative county government website is coming. See the current Hamblen County Government website here.

The one county official who has already made the most with her "section" of the website is County Clerk Linda Wilder. She has scanned in county commission minutes and has provided some online services.

One feature that would enhance the usefulness of the clerk's section and of the entire county website would be a key-word search feature. I have proposed this and county attorney Rusty Cantwell has previously agreed that this would be helpful not only to the public but to him in researching prior actions of county commission.

With a key-word feature, a word or words (e.g. "county budget") is entered in a search box and then the site provides a list where that word appears in the website, such as in Planning Commission documents, county commission minutes, agendas, etc.  A key-word feature is common on many websites. See the Knox County government website here with its key-word or search feature near the top of the page.

The improved Hamblen County government website will be updated with current information instead of letting old and inaccurate  information remain on the website for months after changes occur. Links to state government and local legislators as well as U.S. Senators and Congressmen will be included. A community calendar of events will apparently be added--with information about non-governmental happenings such as Mountain Makins, plays, etc. The website will continue to have links to job opportunities with the county--but frankly these are few and far between and many are filled by officials or department heads without any posting at all.

The newspaper reports that beginning in October, the Hamblen County website will post committee agendas AFTER THE COMMITTEES HAVE MET.  Posting agendas after the meeting has already taken place is of zero use to the public or to interested citizens who might attend if they could see an agenda and decide if a topic of interest to them is to be discussed.  Posting an agenda after the meeting is about as helpful as locking the barn door after the cow has escaped.

I haven't received an answer to the obvious question about the committee agendas. Why won't the committee agendas be uploaded and posted (or scanned) on the website BEFORE the committee meetings? The agendas are prepared, printed, and provided to commissioners several days BEFORE the committee meetings. Why can't those agendas be uploaded and posted (or scanned) on the website at the same time? The City of Morristown posts agendas on its website before council meetings. Surely, the county can do the same.

Also missing in the planned update of the website is posting the minutes of committee meetings. The minutes of committee meetings are prepared just a few days after the committee meetings take place and are put in commissioners' packet several days before the full commission meeting. Why can't the committee minutes be uploaded and posted (or scanned) onto the website at the same time they are prepared, printed off, and provided to commissioners?

A government website should absolutely include committee agendas, committee minutes, as well as times, actual dates, and places of all government meetings. I would think that both a community calendar and full governmental information could be posted on the county government website. But IF for some reason there is not time or a willingness to do both, I hope the Mayor will choose to place county government information, including agendas and minutes, on the county government website first and add a community calendar at a later date.

A government website is a wonderful means of providing governmental information to a large segment of the public. Let's hope that Mayor Purkey and his assistant Amber Shelton decide to provide full and timely information about meetings, agendas, and minutes.  Agendas should be posted on the website before the meetings. Minutes should be posted after the meeting just as soon as they are prepared.  The final approved county budget should be posted within 30-60 days of its passage.  And a key-word feature should be added so that citizens and taxpayers are not searching for an "information needle" in a "website haystack."
Next would be making the information and packets that are provided to committees and commissioners and the press available online to the TAXPAYERS!  Now there's an idea.

Monday, September 14, 2009

September 14, 2009 Hamblen County Website. Are Changes Coming?

As one who was directly involved in pushing for and implementing a Hamblen County Government website when I served on the county commission, I asked then and I have continued to ask that the site be better utilized to provide much more information than is currently available.

If you go to the current Hamblen County Government website (, you will find that agendas and minutes of committee meetings were posted in January 2007. Minutes then ceased to be posted. Agendas were posted from January 2007 through August 2008 and then they, too, ceased to be posted. I spoke publicly to county commission around January 2007 about the lack of agendas and minutes. The response from the Mayor's Office was the one posting of minutes and several months of posting agendas and then it all stopped.

I guess you have to keep going back month after month to remind the Mayor and County Commission to provide public information, notice about meetings, and minutes.

One county official, County Clerk Linda Wilder, has actively utilized the county website to provide information and services. She posts minutes of the meetings of the full commission, and she also provides several online services. [If Wilder were in charge of committee agendas and minutes, she would probably post both, but these, unfortunately, are taken care of, or not taken care of, in the Mayor's Office.]

I believe that this serious underutilization of the website is about to change, and it's long overdue.

The capability to post committee agendas and minutes and commission agendas has always been there. However, the desire to serve the public and to provide this and other information has not always been present in all county offices.

I am hopeful that the time has now arrived when our elected and appointed officials recognize that they have held back on providing information to citizens and taxpayers in an easily accessible format long enough.

Another quick addition to the website should be showing the times of meetings and listing the actual meeting dates for each month. For most people, trying to remember when the Hamblen County Commission meets just creates confusion. The Commission meets on the Thursday after the third Monday of each month. I am sure that there is or was a reason for this schedule at some point in time, but today it just creates unneeded confusion.

Hopefully, more and more county offices are coming around to actively using the county's website and are abandoning the standard government knee-jerk reaction of holding back information. Voluntarily providing information to the public, voters, and taxpayers. Now that's a novel idea.

Perhaps, the Mayor is finally ready to post the 09-10 county budget that was adopted months ago! Maybe the Mayor is even ready to post committee agendas and minutes again and commission agendas! That would be special, and I've only been asking for that for 6-7 years.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

September 13, 2009 Saving Taxpayer Money: Use Current County Vehicles to Provide a Vehicle Pool for Work-Related Use but Not for Commuting To Work

At tomorrow's Hamblen County Finance Committee meeting, commissioners will conside the cost of purchasing three more county vehicles to be used as "pool" vehicles for county officials or employees who need to check out a car for work-related travel. The cost study was prepared by Sharee Long in the Hamblen County Mayor's Office.

The cost study report may be viewed by clicking on the document (above) entitled "Car Purchase and Costs Associated." [An earlier post today discusses unauthorized car allowances that have been provided by Hamblen County as well as Hamblen County Mayor David Purkey's "car allowance." Scroll down or click here to go to the car allowance post.]

The other document (above) shows the list of NINE take-home vehicles that Hamblen County already has and the value of each as a non-fringe benefit. Three take-home vehicles are driven by courthouse/justice center maintenance workers. One take-home vehicle is driven by an employee of the Garbage Department. One take-home vehicle is driven by the Hamblen County Road Superintendent. Three take-home vehicles are driven by employees of the Road Department.

And one take-home vehicle is driven by Frank Parker, the former Director of Cherokee Park who admitted to theft of money from an individual who was staying in a camper at the Park. Parker was "demoted" after the theft but was allowed to remain as a county employee. Parker, who had a county vehicle as Park Director, apparently still has a county vehicle despite his demotion, despite his currently being on probation for the theft after diversion was granted in mid-2008, and despite his apparent abuse of his position with excessive overtime.

Click here, here, here, and here for posts on Frank Parker's theft and public misconduct charges, his admission to lying to the TBI, and his abuse of overtime privileges. Despite Parker's actions, he is a good friend of Mayor David Purkey and thus he is still working for the county with a taxpayer-provided take-home vehicle.

No more taxpayer money needs to be used to buy more vehicles. There are already nine take-home vehicles. Pull these vehicles---or at least 5-6 of them---and make those vehicles Hamblen County "pool" vehicles to be used by the Road Department, maintenance department, and others on an as-needed basis.
With regard to Road Department vehicles, the county commission could at least ask that two of these vehicles be parked at the Road Department and used as Road Dept. "pool" vehicles for use on work assignments instead of being used for commuting to work, too.

With regard to the county maintenance vehicle, one of these could be put in a county maintenance "pool" to be used for work-related travel instead of being used for commuting to work, too.
With regard to Cherokee Park, that vehicle could be the Cherokee Park "pool" vehicle for work-related travel instead of being used for commuting to work, too.
The taxpayers have already paid for those nine vehicles, and the taxpayers already pay for gas and insurance on these vehicles. Taxpayers do not need to provide a vehicle, gas, and insurance for officials or employees to drive to and from their county job.
Government at all levels needs to wake up to the reality of the working world. Most working people have to drive their own car to and from work. Once they get to work, working people are usually paid mileage if they drive their own car on work-related assignments, or they are provided with a company vehicle to drive on work-related assignments during the workday. There are commissioners who will tell you that they had to drive their own vehicle to work.

With 4, 5, or 6 or even all 9 of the current take-home vehicles in some variation of a county vehicle "pool," officials or employees can check out a vehicle when they have a specific work-related need for a vehicle or they can charge mileage as the county policy provides IF one of the pool vehicles is not available.

They don't need to have a vehicle available to drive to and from work and available 24-hours a day. For the occasional emergency call before 8 am or after 5 pm, the official/employee can drive his own vehicle and collect mileage.

September 13, 2009 The Facts on Hamblen County's Payment of Unauthorized Car Allowances--Yes, Including Mayor David Purkey's Car Allowance

On August 20, 2009, Hamblen County Commission finally voted to come into compliance with long-standing state law and ceased paying car allowances to three individuals: Assessor Keith Ely, Marsha Hopkins, and Danny Young.
State law does not allow Hamblen County to pay car allowances. Click here to read the state attorney general's opinion 09-60 listing which three counties can provide car allowances (Knox, Bedford, and Dyer). See Page 2, Paragraph 3, and Page 3, Paragraph 3, stating that only Knox, Bedford, and Dyer can provide car allowances.
Despite the law and the attorney general's opinion, there is one individual in Hamblen County who still receives a "car allowance." That individual is County Mayor David Purkey.
Why, in the face of state law prohibiting car allowances in Hamblen County, does Mayor Purkey's "car allowance" continue to be paid? Because the mayor and the county attorney say that the mayor's car allowance is actually NOT a car allowance at all.
In a variation of the Clinton syndrome--the mayor and his attorney say that it all depends on what the meaning of "car allowance" is. What is unique about this word game is that the OFFICIAL WRITTEN PUBLIC DOCUMENTS (above) and the MAYOR'S OWN WORDS point out that the Mayor requested and received $600/month for a "car allowance."

(1) The Mayor's own letter and words (above) request a "car allowance" and then ask that the "car allowance" be paid through a salary increase;
(2) The Finance Committee minutes (above) that were prepared in the Mayor's office by the Mayor's staff show that a "car allowance" was voted on and approved; and
(3) The budget amendment (above) that was prepared in the Mayor's office by the Finance Director and approved by the county commission says that the $600/month is for a "car allowance" to be paid through a salary increase.
Purkey requested a "car allowance." [Click on page 1 and 2 of his letter of request above]. Purkey came to the Finance Committee and asked for and received a "car allowance." [Click on the Finance Committee minutes above].
Purkey's request for a "car allowance" was approved through a budget amendment prepared in his office by Finance Director Nicole Epps-Buchanan and later passed by Hamblen County Commission . [Click on the Budget Amendment for a "car allowance" above].
There will be further discussion of this matter on September 14, 2009, during the Finance Committee meeting that begins at 11:30 am in the conference room at the Hamblen County Health Department. [The Health Department is located next to the M-H Library on Main Street.]
Of course, the 11:30 am meeting time tomorrow makes it virtually impossible for most working people/taxpayers to attend without risking loss of job or income. Most commissioners, however, do not have to worry about work as most are retired, do not have a full-time job, or own their own business and do not have to ask for permission to leave work during the middle of the day with a loss of wages. See my previous post HERE that included discussion of meeting times.

It is my understanding that 12 of the 14 commissioners fall into one or more of the above categories: Larry Baker, Herbert Harville, Stancil Ford, Guy Collins, Paul Lebel, Nancy Phillips, Louis "Doe" Jarvis, Doyle Fullington, Dana Wampler, Reece Sexton, Joe Spoone, and Dennis Alvis.

In addition to excluding the working person/taxpayer, the 11:30 am meetings conclude with a taxpayer-provided lunch and drink for the commissioners. At the conclusion of previous committee meetings, some of the commissioners and county employees have even taken an extra (taxpayer-provided) lunchbox home for the spouse or family.

The old saying that there's no such thing as a free lunch, like so many old adages, obviously doesn't apply to government officials and employees!

There's nothing like scheduling meetings at times that for all practical purposes exclude the working/taxpaying public and then getting a free lunch out of it plus a free meal or two for the family.

Click here and here and here for previous posts on county car allowances.
Click here for a previous post where I publicly requested that meeting times be moved to a more taxpayer-friendly time.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

September 5, 2009 County Commission Stops Unauthorized Car Allowances in Order to (Finally) Comply with State Law

At its August 20 meeting of the full commission, the Hamblen County Commission voted 12-1 to stop three of the four car allowances that have been paid for several years in violation of state law. [Commissioner Tommy Massey was absent.]

This was a total reversal of what the Finance Committee had recommended on August 10. See my post on the August 10 Finance Committee meeting here.

At the August 10 Finance Committee meeting, I had asked the committee to stop payment of unauthorized car allowances. The Committee refused to stop these unauthorized payments and, instead, voted to study the issue again in September. The payments were going to continue despite state law that does not allow Hamblen County to pay car allowances, despite an April 2009 state attorney general's opinion on county car allowances, and despite the county attorney's May 2009 opinion (which was just a review of the state attorney general's opinion noting that Hamblen County is not among those counties authorized to provide car allowances).

After years of paying unauthorized car allowances and with the prospect of these payments continuing for still more months, I spoke to the full commission during the public comments forum on August 20 and, as I had done on August 10, I again asked that these unauthorized car allowances stop now and that Hamblen County come into compliance with state law now. Why continue to violate state law and pay out thousands of taxpayer dollars on unauthorized car allowances?

Despite state law and my request that the commission comply with state law immediately, Finance Chairman Joe Spoone made a motion to postpone any decision and to "study" the car allowance situation in September. Thankfully, one commissioner was listening and had the courage to question what was going on and to stand up for the taxpayers.

Commissioner Dana Wampler noted that Hamblen County is out of compliance---as I had stated---and Wampler then amended Spoone's resolution to stop three of the car allowances now (Ely, Hopkins, Young) and to pay mileage to those individuals if they use their car on county business. The situation is still set for review in September, but unauthorized car allowances will stop.

During discussion of the amendment, Wampler turned to county attorney Rusty Cantwell and asked about the unauthorized car allowances and when the county should come into compliance. Rusty said that there are three car allowances (the fourth car allowance is that of the County Mayor but Rusty doesn't think that the Mayor's $600/month car allowance is really a car allowance). As far as when the county should come into compliance with state law, Rusty said that was "up to you (the commission)." That response from the county attorney was a bit of a surprise.

Thankfully, Commissioner Wampler stuck to his guns and decided that the county should come into compliance with state law right away. The motion to stop unauthorized car allowances passed 12-1. Guy Collins voted no. I'm not sure if Collins' "no" vote meant that he wanted to keep paying unauthorized car allowances or if he just didn't understand what was going on. Tommy Massey was absent.

I appreciate Commissioner Wampler for doing the right thing. I'm guessing that he took some flak for that after the meeting. Stancil Ford doesn't really like for the public to have any input. He doesn't like a lot of discussion by commissioners at the full commission meetings, and he doesn't like to have changes from the original script.

When you watch the tape of the meeting, Ford turns to County Mayor David Purkey and to County Attorney Rusty Cantwell. Ford is not really happy with the question and comments and amendment by Commissioner Wampler, but in the end he can't stop the amendment and he himself votes for the amendment. Why? Because the amendment brings Hamblen County into compliance with state law and saves taxpayer money, too. How could you oppose that?

The real question is, why did it take four months to get a vote on coming into compliance with state law on the floor at a county commission meeting? Many thanks to Commissioner Wampler for doing "the right thing." Commissioner Wampler showed that one commissioner can make a difference when he or she just does "the right thing" and puts it out for a vote.

Joe Powell tapes the meetings for the county and they are shown on Charter Ch 7 (goverment/education channel) at 9:00 PM on Tuesday? and Saturday nights. [I watch on Saturdays, and I think Tuesday is the other day that the tape is shown.] You can call the county mayor's office (586-1931) to find out what other day the tape is aired.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

September 3, 2009 More from City Council's Meeting on 9/1/09

Other happenings at City Council on 9/1/09 and what the Trib is likely to report and what the Trib is likely to leave out.

The Trib may report today or tomorrow on the lengthy city council discussion on the Farmer's Market at the corner of S. Henry and W. Morris Boulevard. Mayor Barile did not want to discuss this on Tuesday, but councilman Gene Brooks managed to get the discussion going anyway.

Lots of ideas were thrown out---build a canopy over the area so it doesn't look, as one individual put it, like a "tent city"; sell it (proposals were sought from interested buyers about two years ago, but that's as far as it went); enforce the regulations for the market and perhaps clarify the current regulations regarding who can set up a booth and what can be sold; try to collect sales taxes (This was said to be virtually impossible since the city and state essentially rely on the honesty of the vendor to report sales and forward sales tax to the appropriate entity. It was also pointed out that farmers who are truly selling produce that they grew on their own farm are exempt from sales tax. One person said that he was pretty certain that pineapples being sold at the farmer's market were NOT grown by a local farmer).

What the Trib's Bobby Moore probably won't report is that Charles Cook asked the Mayor and Council to move their meetings to a later time--perhaps 6:00 pm--so more working members of the public could attend if they wanted to.

Cook made an excellent point---city government meetings should be held after normal work hours so the working person can attend.

I have publicly asked a number of times that County Commission move its 11:30 AM committee meetings to 5:00 PM or later for the same reasons as stated by Mr. Cook.

Government meetings should be held at times that are most convenient for the public. Having 11:30 am meetings (county commission committees) and 4:00 pm meetings (city council) shows disregard for the taxpaying public and interested citizens.

There are numerous other "public" meetings of government committees and groups that take place at 7:30 am, 9:00 am, 12:00 pm, 3:00 pm, and other times when the public for all practical purposes is excluded. LAMPTO (Lakeway Area Metropolitan Planning Transportation Organization), Morristown Regional Planning Commission, Morristown Utility Systems, and the Solid Waste Board are a few examples.

Another item that the Trib's Bobby Moore probably won't report is that after Mr. Cook suggested having later meeting times, I asked that the Mayor and City Council tape their meetings and air them on the MUS FiberNet government/education Channel 7. Over 18 Million dollars has been spent on the FiberNet/cable/phone system operated by the City.

County Commission meetings are shown or are supposed to be shown on MUS Ch. 7 (govt/ed channel) on Tuesday and Saturday nights at 9:00 pm. [I get Charter cable, so I'm not certain if MUS is still showing county commission meetings at the same time as Charter does. I do know that MUS is supposed to air county commission meetings.]

With the millions invested in MUS FiberNet, why in the world won't the City tape and air its own meetings on MUS Ch. 7? In addition to airing the tapes, the City could allow easy internet access to the tapes of these meetings at the city's website.

If the City really cares about giving more than lip service to open government, its meetings should be held late in the evening, meetings should be taped and aired on cable Channel 7, AND the meetings should be accessible at any time on the city's website at

I believe Mayor Barile will place the matter of meeting times on the agenda for discussion at a future work session. She was very hesitant, however, to give the same consideration to taping and airing council meetings.

UPDATE: Well, the Trib's Bobby Moore finally got around to reporting the Farmer's Market discussion (see above) in yesterday's Trib---and that was only three days after the discussion/news took place! Bobby's front-page article was under the headline Farmers Market debate resurfaces. And if you read to the end of Bobby's "Farmers Market" article, you would find a short paragraph about Mr. Cook's request that council hold meetings later in the day (see above) and my request that council televise their meetings (see above). Impressive reporting.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

September 2, 2009 Jefferson County Land Purchase? Mayor Barile Did Not Talk To the Industrial Board

For all who believed "Morristown" Mayor Barile when she said that she would contact the "Morristown" Industrial Board to find out what was going on about the "Morristown" Industrial Board contacting landowners in Jefferson County about selling their land to "Morristown/Morristown Industrial Board," she didn't do it.

On August 18, she and the council were asked if they knew about contacts with Jefferson County landowners made by or on behalf of "Morristown" or the "Morristown" Industrial Board to purchase land in Jefferson County.

On August 18, Barile publicly stated that she would contact the Industrial Board and find out. Click here for what was asked on August 18 and for the Mayor's reply.

Yesterday, she was asked if she had in fact contacted the board as she said she would.

Barile replied that she had not contacted the Industrial Board.

Doing what you said you would do and finding out what the "Morristown" Industrial Board is doing are apparently not high on the list of priorities of the Mayor of "Morristown."