Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March 30, 2010 Do You Want Your City Council, County Commission, or School Board Spending YOUR Tax Dollars to Tell YOU How To Vote on a Sales Tax, Liquor-by-the-Drink, or Wheel Tax Referendum?

Rep. Stacey Campfield and Senator Dwayne Bunch have bills in committee in Nashville that would prohibit spending public funds (taxpayer dollars) to support or oppose referendum issues.

Examples of local issues that are often placed on the ballot in cities and counties in Tennessee are wheel tax, sales tax, and liquor-by-the-drink referenda.

Campfield's bill HB 3065 prohibits public funds from being spent in support of (YES) or in opposition to (NO) referenda issues. 


If you want the law to clearly state that YOUR tax dollars can not be spent on government signs, mailouts, and newspaper or radio advertisements telling YOU how to vote in a sales tax or liquor-by-the-drink or any other referendum, contact these six representatives and let them know.

rep.eddie.yokley@capitol.tn.gov  615-741-6871 Fax 615-253-0225
rep.jim.cobb@capitol.tn.gov  615-741-1450 Fax 615-253-0262
rep.joshua.evans@capitol.tn.gov  615-741-2860 Fax 615-253-0283
rep.gary.moore@capitol.tn.gov  615-741-4317 Fax 615-253-0360
rep.harry.tindell@capitol.tn.gov  615-741-2031 Fax N/A
rep.eric.watson@capitol.tn.gov  615-741-7799 Fax 615-253-0252

When there is a referendum, we all know that the "official" position is to get more tax dollars and more revenue so the "officials" can spend every penny and more.  The question is whether "officials" should be allowed to raid the public treasury to advertise and promote the "official" position. 

Officials--like other citizens--are free to spend their own money promoting a referendum issue. Wonder how much money would be spent by officials on VOTE YES signs and letters if they were spending their own personal funds instead of raiding the public treasury?  Spending other people's money---lots of it---is soooooo easy.

Click here and here for a local example.  And what happened after the City of Morristown used thousands of taxpayer dollars in two different referenda and finally convinced taxpayers to VOTE YES on a sales tax hike?  Well, the City still couldn't pay its bills and still continued to illegally pull money out of the sewer fund to provide financial cover for general fund bills, debt, and payroll.  Yep, the illegal transfers/ switcheroos occurred before and after passage of the sales tax. Click here and here and here.  More revenue doesn't make spending problems and mismanagement go away.  Sometimes it just makes it easier to avoid or postpone taking care of the real problem.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March 24, 2010 Watch for a Grievance To Be Filed Against Esco Jarnagin; UPDATE: Read Attorney Cantwell's Letter to Jarnagin Advising Jarnagin To Dismiss Deputies

It is very possible that one or more of the deputies who were recently fired by Sheriff Jarnagin will file a grievance with the Civil Service Board over the terminations.

Jarnagin was recently force to terminate the deputies on the advice of County Attorney Rusty Cantwell in order to comply with the Civil Service Act that was adopted in Hamblen County during the term of former Sheriff Otto Purkey. 

To read Cantwell's letter and his advice to Jarnagin to "dismiss" the deputies, click or double-click on the letter (below) to enlarge it. Cantwell's letter was issued after a third attorney general's opinion (March 2010) again said that deputies in any county that has adopted the County Sheriff's Civil Service Act of 1974 can not run for sheriff. 

Click here for a prior post on this topic and links to the prior AG opinions (October 2009 and January 2010) on deputies covered under civil service running for office.

If a grievance is filed, will Scott Purkey--who has been serving illegally on the Civil Service Board for several months--hear the grievance? Click here. Scott is former Sheriff Otto Purkey's nephew. He is also the nephew of current County Mayor David Purkey, and the son of Junior Purkey.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

March 20, 2010 Scott Purkey Resigns One Position After Serving Illegally on Civil Service Board for Months

At the Thursday county commission meeting (March 18), I passed out a section of the Civil Service Act to all commissioners and to the press. After reading TCA Section 8-8-406 aloud, I pointed out the obvious, this one-sentence section says that a Civil Service Board member can NOT hold any elected or appointed office within the county.

Click here for my previous post and to view the state law (TCA 8-8-406) that I handed out to the press and to the commissioners.

I then informed the commissioners that Civil Service Board member Scott Purkey has been serving illegally as a member of the Civil Service Board for many months because he is not only on the Civil Service Board but he is also on the Board of Construction Appeals.   [Maybe it is just coincidence, but the Scott Purkey who has been allowed to serve illegally on the Civil Service Board just happens to be the nephew of County Mayor David Purkey and former Sheriff Otto Purkey and is the son of Junior Purkey a/k/a the Purkey Posse.]

I was told today that Scott Purkey hustled to the Courthouse and resigned from the Board of Construction Appeals yesterday, one day after his nearly 6-month violation of the Civil Service Act was made public. One has to wonder if Purkey ever read the Civil Service Act--either before or after he was appointed to the Civil
Service Board. The law that he was to uphold and administer clearly says that you can't be on the Civil Service Board and hold any other elected or appointed office.

UPDATE: Purkey's rush to resign from the Board of Construction Appeals is an obvious attempt to preserve his position on the Civil Service Board where he can continue his partisan activities. David Purkey will try to keep Scott in that position even though there is support for the proposition that Scott already gave up his position on the Civil Service Board automatically on the day that he accepted appointment to the Construction Board of Appeals.

If you are thinking that you didn't see any report of this in the "news"paper, it's because the local "news"paper didn't report it.  Now we'll have to wait for Sunday's paper to see if the "news"paper bothers to report that the allegation was made, that Purkey was in fact in violation of the Civil Service Act for about six months, and that he then resigned from the Board of Construction Appeals to try to keep his Civil Service Board seat. Do NOT hold your breath on this one.

It would be a real shocker if the "news"paper actually did some follow-up and asked Scott Purkey about this and whether he has ever read any part of the Civil Service Act. Nah, that won't happen. The local "news"paper follows a Don't Ask & Don't Tell policy on "news" about elected and appointed officials. 

"News" doesn't exist unless it is "news" that has been pre-approved for publication by the powers-that-be.

March 20, 2010 Coleman Appeals Chancellor's Ruling That TNInvestco Documents Are Not Public

Larry Coleman, who lost a public records battle recently in Davidson County Chancery Court, has appealed the Chancery Court decision denying him access to TNInvestco documents and permitting the state to keep the TNInvestco records confidential for up to five years.

The Tennessean has the story here.

[Click here for my previous blog post on TNInvestco, the records that Coleman sought, and links to other related items of interest.]

Friday, March 19, 2010

March 19, 2010 Is Civil Service Board Member Scott Purkey Serving Illegally?

The 1974 Sheriff's Civil Service Act which has been adopted in Hamblen County provides for a three-person civil service board to test applicants, draw up employment rosters, etc.

The members of the Hamblen County Civil Service Board are Joel Seal, Tim Horner, and Scott Purkey. It is difficult to keep the tangled web of Courthouse kinships straight, but I understand that Scott Purkey is Mayor David Purkey and former Sheriff Otto Purkey's nephew and Junior Purkey's son. David, Otto, and Junior are brothers.

Yesterday at county commission, I provided the commissioners and "news"paper reporter Bobbie Young with a copy of the above section (TCA 8-8-406) of the Civil Service Act. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

During public comments, I read this short section that includes the statement that members of the Civil Service Board "shall not hold any elected or appointed office within the county."

I then pointed out that Scott Purkey is serving on the Civil Service Board while also holding an appointed position on the Construction Board of Appeals.  No commissioner said a word. Mayor David Purkey said nothing. County Attorney Rusty Cantwell said nothing. No commissioner asked Cantwell to comment. Chairman Stancil Ford finally said that he would look into it.

First, the Civil Service Board granted leave to deputies to run for office in violation of the Civil Service Act. Click here. Now--unless somebody decides that the words "shall not hold any elected of appointed office within the county" mean the exact opposite of what they say--it looks like a member of the Civil Service Board, Scott Purkey, is not "qualified" to continue service on the Board and is violating the Civil Service Act.

Scott is not only related to former Sheriff Otto Purkey, he worked for Otto in the Sheriff Department and supported Otto in the 2006 Sheriff's election. Because of his obvious partisanship, Scott should never have been appointed to the Civil Service  Board in the first place. Out of all the people in Hamblen County, surely there is a person who meets the qualifications of the act and who can be expected to act in an impartial and knowledgeable manner in fairly administering the Civil Service Act.

Scott Purkey's initial appointment to the Civil Service Board gets back to the good old boys network and keeping everything in-house. It is obvious where that style of appointment has gotten the Civil Service Board.  We'll soon see if Scott is so desperate to stay on the Civil Service Board that he resigns his Construction Board of Appeals position or if Scott finally recognizes that his "service" on the Civil Service Board was compromised from day one and that he should resign from that Board.

Just to make sure that all the info is out. Scott was appointed to the Civil Service Board first and then many months later he was appointed to the Construction Board of Appeals.  It will be interesting to see if someone tries to justify Scott's dual service by interpreting 8-8-406 as saying that you only have to be free of other office at the time you are appointed to the Civil Service Board--then you can accept all the other appointments that you want to. 
That, in my opinion, would be an absurd position but who knows what will be done or said to protect Mayor Purkey's nephew. 

If the statute is meant to prevent a conflict in dual service on the Civil Service Board and other boards of offices, then when you are appointed to the Civil Service Board and when you are appointed to another office doesn't matter.  TCA 8-8-406 simply says members of the Board "shall not hold any elected or appointed office within the county."  Scott Purkey is a member of the Civil Service Board and holds an appointed position within the county. 

While he could "resign" from the Civil Service Board, there is support for the position that when Purkey accepted appointment to the Construction Board of Appeals, he automatically gave up/resigned his position on the Civil Service Board without any other action being taken.

March 19, 2010 Civil Service: Commissioner Bruce, Sheriff Jarnagin, and County Attorney Rusty Cantwell Tangle over Recent Firings

There were some real fireworks at the end of yesterday's county commission meeting.

Commissioner Ricky Bruce had sent a letter to commissioners expressing his concern and displeasure at the recent firing of three deputies who are running for office in Hamblen and Jefferson Counties in violation of the Civil Service Act. The three deputies are Ernie Burzell and Roy Rucker who are running for Sheriff in Hamblen County and David Kitts who is running for Sheriff in Jefferson County.

Bruce had lots of questions and comments about the law itself (he doesn't like it) and about the handling of the entire matter. Bruce wanted to blame the Sheriff for putting the three on unpaid leave and then telling them that they had to resign or be fired because of state law TCA 8-8-419.

Sheriff Jarnagin stated that the blame lies with the three-man Civil Service Board (Joel Seal, Tim Horner, and Scott Purkey). Jarnagin said that it was the Civil Service Board that granted leave to Burzell, Rucker, and Kitts, and the Sheriff then signed off on the leave. Jarnagin added that the Civil Service Board should be responsible for knowing the civil service act under which it operates and should not have granted leave. [UPDATE: Scott Purkey has been serving illegally on the Civil Service Board for many months. Click here and here.]

Cantwell tried to defend himself as he explained that he had been involved in many discussions about the law going back many months. Bruce began to realize that the civil service act as written and perhaps even the federal Hatch Act give job security to deputies but in return the deputies give up the right to run for partisan office. Bruce complained that the law makes no sense, is unfair, and he wants it changed.

Next, Bruce pushed for Jarnagin to agree not to fill the three deputy positions and to hold the jobs open until after the election if necessary. Jarnagin said that he could not do that. Bruce then asked if the county could at least continue to pay insurance for the men until some future date. County Mayor David Purkey spoke up and said that as County Mayor he is in charge of insurance and he could continue their insurance as he had done before for other individuals. 

Now I am sitting there thinking, just a minute, buster, you can't violate the terms of the insurance contract just because you are "in charge" of insurance.  County Attorney Cantwell said nothing in response to Mayor Purkey's assertion that he could take care of continuing to provide insurance for employees that had been terminated. Thankfully, Commissioner Baker spoke up and asked Cantwell if the county really could pay insurance for employees who had been terminated. Cantwell said that the insurance contract would determine who is a  full-time employee and who is eligible for county insurance. 

[Neither the Mayor nor anyone else can just decide to pick and choose and arbitrarily continue to pay insurance for people who are no longer employees.  The insurance contract does matter.  County Attorney Cantwell said nothing about Mayor Purkey's admission that he (Purkey) had continued county insurance for certain people in the past or Purkey's claim that he could continue insurance for the three deputies with a wave of the Mayoral hand.  Of course, terminated employees may have the option of continuing insurance coverage for a period of time under COBRA provisions.]

After all was said and done, Ricky Bruce was right about one thing--the situation was handled poorly.

Apparently, County Attorney Rusty Cantwell and the Civil Service Board and Sheriff Jarnagin and the deputies thought that they could get around the Civil Service Act if the deputies took a leave of absence to run for office despite two AG opinions (October 2009 and January 2010) that said when you announce for office you have violated the civil service act and must be terminated--and that added that the Federal Hatch Act may also prohibit the deputies from running for partisan office.

Then the more detailed third AG's opinion came out on March 11, 2010, saying that the Civil Service Act and the Federal Hatch Act may separately or together prohibit deputies from running for partisan elected office. The third AG's opinion specifically added that taking a leave of absence doesn't make it OK for deputies covered by civil service to run for office. It also mentioned that it didn't matter whether the deputy was running for office in his own or another county.

Rusty pointed out that the civil service board's agreement with the Sheriff to break the law by putting the men on leave is void. 

Cantwell advised Jarnagin in writing on March 16 that Jarnagin had to follow the law and had to terminate the men if they did not resign.

It was an interesting evening.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March 18, 2010 Rep. Chad Faulkner, a Knox Deputy, Requested Attorney General's Opinion on Deputies Running for Office

There is an interesting article in the News-Sentinel discussing Rep. Chad Faulkner.  Click here.  Faulkner requested the recent State Attorney General's Opinion on deputies running for partisan office.

[After this THIRD state AG opinion on this subject over a 6-month period and after campaigns had been underway for some time, Hamblen County attorney Rusty Cantwell finally advised Sheriff Esco Jarnagin that Jarnagin had to ask the deputies running for office to resign or be fired. The local "news"paper apparently didn't ask or didn't report on comments from any local members of the Civil Service Board (Joel Seal, Scott Purkey, and Tim Horner) or the Civil Service Board attorney Jeff Taylor about this matter.  Click here.]

Faulkner is a deputy sheriff in Knox County who ran for State Representative while holding the office of deputy. The AG's opinion not only raises the question of whether he may now run for Sheriff of Union County but also whether he legally ran for State Rep (a partisan office) in the last election.

The Federal Hatch Act is now getting as much attention as the Sheriff's Civil Service Act of 1974. 

Some, but not all, counties across the state adopted Civil Service for sheriff's department employees. Hamblen adopted Civil Service during former Sheriff Otto Purkey's last term---at Purkey's request and in the presence of numerous officers who requested that the county commission adopt the Act. 

The Federal Hatch Act and Tennessee's Little Hatch Act have been around for a while.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

March 17, 2010 County Attorney Advises Sheriff Jarnagin: Deputies Covered under Civil Service Can Not Run for Office

In their online editions, the News-Sentinel (here) and the local "news"paper (here) reported late yesterday that Sheriff Esco Jarnagin informed three deputies running for office to resign or face termination.  The local "news"paper stated that Jarnagin took the action as a result of a recent Attorney General's Opinion and upon the advice of County Attorney Rusty Cantwell.

The News-Sentinel noted that the Federal Hatch Act may also apply and prohibit deputies from running for partisan office. The Federal Hatch Act can apply to local and state employees where federal funding is involved. Click here.  How the Federal Hatch Act prohibits local and state employees from running for partisan office is here.

I mentioned the recent Attorney General's Opinion last week (here) and reported on similar prior opinions going back to October 2009 here and here. All said the same thing. The state law, as it is written, says that those covered under the Sheriff's Civil Service Act of 1974 obtain a measure of job protection and other benefits but they also give up the right to run for office.

Two deputies (Ernie Burzell and Roy Rucker) were running for Sheriff in Hamblen County. One (David Kitts) was running for office in Jefferson County. Apparently all three refused to resign and were terminated. 

As I have mentioned before, Attorney General's Opinion have persuasive authority but only a court of law can declare precisely what the law is, either rendering a decision that, in effect, upholds the AG's opinion or rendering a decision that has the effect of finding that the opinion is incorrect or that the law itself is unconstitutional.

Where the Civil Service Act has been adopted, many Sheriffs across the state have been forced to fire deputies who did not resign in order to run for office. It is unfortunate that the county attorney did not provide advice on this matter back when the October 2009 attorney general's opinion came out saying deputies covered by the Civil Service Act can not run for sheriff.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 16, 2010 Public Notice: City of Morristown Looks To Borrow Up To $4 Million Dollars To Make It Through the Next 4-6 Months

The City of Morristown has gone out looking for money to borrow so it can make it through the end of the current fiscal year.  Three years of robbing Peter (sewer fund) to pay Paul (general fund) without authorization or approval isn't going to fly this year,

How much is the City looking to borrow? Oh, anywhere from $2 Million up to $4 Million. Bids or proposals from banks will be opened on March 24.

What's the problem? Not enough cash to pay the bills---especially with debt payments coming up.

Where's the money from the 2008 sales tax increase?  The City told you to VOTE YES for the sales tax increase. How's that sales tax increase working out?

Where's the money from the 2007 property tax increase?  The City raised the property tax rate by 40-cents, then lowered it by 15-cents after the 2008 sales tax referendum was approved.  That's still a 25-cent property tax increase. How's that property tax increase working out?

In less than three years, the City has raised property taxes, has raised the sales tax, has boosted sewer fees out the roof, and has cut expenses (supposedly). And they are still crying for more as they talk about a higher hotel-motel tax and a garbage fee and maybe another property tax hike.

The City taxpayers, trying to stay afloat themselves, sing aloud: "Where has all the money gone?" Good question.

Monday, March 15, 2010

March 15, 2010 Knox Deputy Decides To Run for Sheriff and Is Fired

In Knox County,  they follow the civil service or merit protection law as it is written--no halfway measures.

The News-Sentinel posted an article late last night about a Knox County deputy who announced that he was running for Sheriff in Knox County and was promptly fired. Click here.

Of course, that is what the State Attorney General has repeatedly said is the law in Tennessee as it is written. Here and here

Until someone successfully challenges the law in court, civil service in Tennessee apparently comes with a price. You get job protection with civil service, but in return you give up the right to run for public office.

And here is a link to information about the Federal Hatch Act--another law that is often mentioned when the subject of government employees running for public office comes up.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

March 11, 2010 Another Attorney General's Opinion on Deputies Running for Sheriff

Click here for yet another in the continuing series of Tennessee Attorney General's opinions on deputies covered under Civil Service running for sheriff.

Although the opinion was requested by Rep. Chad Faulkner, several of the questions very closely mirror many of the situations in the Hamblen County Sheriff's race. According to the state attorney general, several deputies running for sheriff should have been dismissed from the sheriff's department after they announced their candidacies rather than being allowed to run while on leave without pay.

1. AG: If a deputy is covered under the Sheriff's Civil Service Act, he can not run for sheriff.

2. AG: If a deputy sheriff is covered by the civil service act in his county of employment, he can not run for sheriff in another county--even in a non-partisan election--because announcing his candidacy would be an endorsement of a candidate.

3. AG: A deputy covered under the civil service act can not solicit money for a political campaign (apparently, even his own) under any circumstances. 

4. AG: A deputy who is covered under the civil service act and who is dismissed for violation of that act (e.g. for announcing his candidacy for a partisan race or for soliciting money for his campaign or that of others) has no cause of action for being fired or dismissed for violation of the statute.

Hamblen County Attorney Rusty Cantwell was going to ask for an AG's opinion at one time--presumably to ask these and/or similar questions. Click here. Too late now. The attorney general keeps saying the same thing over and over. The attorney general's opinion is clear.

But....an attorney general's opinion is just an "opinion."  The ball has been tossed back into Hamblen County's court, the clock is ticking, and pretty soon the buzzer goes off. 

Where does the State or Local Election Commission stand on this? What does Hamblen County Attorney/Hamblen County Ethics Officer Rusty Cantwell say?  

Saturday, March 06, 2010

March 6, 2010 Bob Moore's "News"paper Report vs. Video

CFA, Citizens for Accountability, has been taping both city council and city finance committee meetings for months and months without any problems. At the February 16 council meeting, however, a small light that is about the size of a pencil eraser and that is built into the hand-held camera accidentally came on during the taping.

The lady taping the meeting couldn't see the light, but when Councilmember Claude Jinks complained about a light, she apologized and immediately moved to the other side of the room to tape. After the meeting, she again tried to apologize to Jinks but he would not talk to her or accept her apology. CFA website is here.

Instead of talking with the lady or contacting CFA to see why there was a small light on the camera on  February 16--when that had never occurred before--the council prepared a formal resolution for its March 2 meeting to ban "certain lights" on cameras

Om March 2, Charles Cook, one of the founders of CFA, addressed the council about their resolution banning "certain lights."  "News"paper reporter Bob Moore was there and wrote an article on March 4 in which he described Cook as "angry," said that Cook interrupted Jinks--when it was actually the other way around, and called Cook's comments "invective."

in·vec·tive    (noun)

1.vehement or violent denunciation, censure, or reproach.
2.a railing accusation; vituperation.
3.an insulting or abusive word or expression.

Fortunately, CFA's camera was rolling during the entire March 2 meeting. Click here to see the video segment that shows what was really said, how it was said, and who interrupted whom.

Notice that Jinks interrupts Cook, "requires" Cook not to mention Jinks' name, and demands to see Cook "face-to-face." 

Jinks adds that it's council's policy not to endure personal attacks during the public comments portions of council meetings. Look and listen. Cook didn't "attack" Jinks.  The video shows that it was Jinks who interrupted Cook right after Cook mentioned that the lady who had taped the February 16 meeting had tried to apologize to Jinks twice and that Jinks had refused to accept her apologies. It was Jinks who demanded that Cook meet Jinks "face-to-face."

This type of exchange and this type of reporting is why all work sessions, committee meetings, and regular council meetings should be videotaped and aired on the local government/education channel that is set aside for that purpose.

Invective? That might describe Jinks' attitude and orders to Cook. That might describe Bobby Moore's reporting.

A video tells the tale far better than the nearly 400 slanted words that Bobby Moore used to describe Cook and the nature of Cook's comments to the full council.

March 6, 2010 Chancellor Says State TNInvestco Records Can Remain Sealed For Five Years

Nashville Chancellor Russell Perkins has sided with the State of Tennessee's request to keep certain  economic and community development documents away from citizen scrutiny. Perkins recently ruled that Tennessee officials don’t have to disclose the documents that would show how six firms were scored and selected to participate in the $120 million Tennessee Small Business Investment Company Credit Act. Perkins' ruling does not kept the records permanently from the public. The state has five years to release the details. A good discussion and access to court filings is here.  The Tennessean article is here.

In keeping the records out of the public domain, Perkins labeled as "sensitive" those TNInvestco records kept by Matthew Kisber, state commissioner of Economic and Community Development, and Reagan Farr, commissioner of the Department of Revenue. See my previous blog post. The records request was filed by Larry Coleman, a businessman who wanted to see how Tennessee officials scored and selected six companies to participate in the TNInvestco program.  Coleman's firm was not selected.

Coleman vowed to appeal the ruling. “The more light we can shine on this process, the better off we’re going to be as taxpayers,” he said.

After the ruling, Kisber commented: "We fully understand the need for open government, and we are committed to upholding that principle while balancing the need of our state to maintain a competitive posture, as we seek to attract new investment and create jobs for the people of Tennessee.”

The TNInvestco program was passed last year as a way to promote economic development. The program allowed the state to sell $120 million worth of tax credits to six investments firms at a discounted rate of $84 million.  Each of the six winners was eligible for the $20 million of tax credits in order to invest in startup and mid-stage companies. The stated purpose is for TNInvestco to spur economic development and create jobs.

State officials have hailed the program as a way to bring jobs to Tennessee. Critics of similar programs in other states have claimed that they wind up enriching the venture capital funds while creating few jobs.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

March 4, 2010 Morristown-Hamblen CFA (Citizens for Accountability) Tapes City Council Meetings (UPDATE: Video Clip Available)

UPDATE 3/6/10: If you take the local "news"paper, read the March 4 article by crime and city government reporter Bob Moore describing Charles Cook's remarks to council about council's resolution to ban "certain lights" on cameras at council meetings. Look at Bob's choice of words ("invective" "blurting" "interrupted" "angry") in describing Cook and his comments. Now click here to link to the Citizens for Accountability video of Cook's full comments and Jinks' reactions. Cook's comments were delivered calmly and without raising his voice. It would be a real stretch to say the comments were part of an "invective" or that Cook appeared "angry." Further, it is clear that it was Jinks who "interrupted" Cook after Cook mentioned that the lady who taped the February 16 meeting had twice tried to apologize to Jinks after the meeting but Jinks refused to talk to her or to accept her apologies.

Morristown-Hamblen CFA (Citizens for Accountability) has been taping City Council and City Finance Committee meetings for many months now. On Tuesday, March 2, the City Council passed a resolution  banning "certain lights" on cameras at City Council meetings. At least one of the "certain lights" that the City is banning is apparently the light on a camera used by Morristown Hamblen Citizens for Accountability-- a very small light that came on by accident during the taping of the February 16 meeting and that the operator did not know how to turn off.

MHCFA's website is here.  Charles Cook, one of the founders of CFA, was present on March 2 and taping the meeting when the Council voted to ban "certain lights" on cameras. 

Cook addressed the Mayor and Council before the vote on Tuesday. He also wrote an interesting article at the CFA site. Click here to see Charles' article. CFA has been taping council and Finance Committee meetings for many months. For the first time, a small light on the camera being used to tape the council's February 16 meeting came on during the taping. This had never happened before and was not intentional. Claude Jinks complained about the light, and the woman taping the meeting immediately apologized and moved to another side of the room.  The camera operator did not know what had caused a light to come one and could not see the light because it was so small and at the front of the hand-held camera.

After the meeting was over, the camera operator again went up to Mr. Jinks to apologize for the mistake and to assure him that it would be corrected and would not happen again. Mr. Jinks would not accept her apology or talk to her. He just turned and walked off.

The Mayor and Morristown City Council have been asked repeatedly and have refused consistently to tape their meetings and air them on the city's government-education channel that is provided for that very purpose. The Council would love to pass an outright ban on all cameras, but Councilmembers know that they can not do that. So the next best way to show their displeasure and get in a dig at those who are taping the meetings is to draft a formal resolution banning a "certain light" on cameras used to tape the meetings.

Maybe at their next meeting on March 16, the Mayor and Council will consider passing a really important resolution such as one that would "ban Council from sitting around while the City's finances collapse." Oh wait, no need for that resolution. The City's finances are already in a shambles, and the city's sewer system is a multi-million dollar train wreck. And on top of that the Mayor and Council only recently found out about this at least three-year-old mess. Click here.

Yep, it's much more important to spend time drafting resolutions banning "certain lights" on cameras! And it's much more important to make a mess in front of the City Center with a fenced enclosure for "bad signs."