Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 15, 2010 Taxes, Taxes, Taxes

April 15. Federal income tax returns for 2009 are due today.

If you haven't pulled all that paperwork together, you can apply for an Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return by filing Form 4868 (by paper or electronically) today.

An automatic extension of time to file is not an automatic extension of time to pay your 2009 federal taxes. 
With an extension, you estimate your total tax liability for 2009, subtract 2009 tax payments, and then pay the estimated balance of your 2009 taxes along with your Form 4868.

Later on, when you have all your financial information and file your return, you may owe more taxes to the IRS plus penalties and interest (if you underestimated/underpaid your 2009 tax liability with Form 4868) or you might end up with a refund (if you overestimated/overpaid your 2009 tax liability with Form 4868). 

For complete information and forms, check with your tax preparer or go to

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April 13, 2010 Planning Commission Sends Controversial Sign Ordinance To City Council for Approval or Rejection

The Morristown Planning Commission met this afternoon. Members are (Mayor) Sami Barile, Jim Beelaert, Katy Tindall Klose, Homer Harrell, Kelley Hinsley, Jack Kennerly, (Councilmember) Frank McGuffin, Rose Parella, and Bill Thompson.

The big item that brought a crowd to the city council chambers was discussion of a new sign ordinance for the City of Morristown. Despite a crowd in attendance, Chairman Beelaert stated that he would limit public comments to 10 people at 3 minutes each for a total of 30 minutes.

No one spoke in favor of the sign ordinance.  Numerous businessmen, including Steve and Jerry Isaacs, Steve Mills, Richie Broyles, Greg Hurst, Martin Daniel, and Nick Davenport spoke against the ordinance or parts of the ordinance.  Some commented that they had only recently learned that there was a new sign ordinance under consideration, and several of those pleaded for the commission to hold off on a vote until there could be more time for input from business people and the community.

There were business people who noted that signs were the lifeblood of their business--providing product and price information to draw customers in.

There were comments about the size and height of signs that are allowed.

Realtors and auctioneers expressed concerns about being unable to place signs in public rights-of-way as is allowed under the current sign ordinance with posting of a bond and placement of stickers on the signs.

Constitutional issues were raised.  Attorney Mary Ferrara, who drafted the ordinance, stated that constitutional issues prohibit government from allowing some signs in rights-of-way but not others. Government signs that are geared to public safety (traffic signs) or governmental actions (zoning notices) are, of course, permitted in rights-of-way.

Several speakers claimed that the new sign ordinance is overly restrictive and unfriendly to business. 

Sami Barile made the motion to approve the new sign ordinance and to send it on to City Council for consideration. Barile's motion included a provision that the ordinance would not be enforced until January 2011.

Here's the vote: Barile: YES
                        Beelaert: NO
                        Klose: NO          
                        Harrell: YES
                        Hinsley: YES
                        Kennerly: YES
                        McGuffin: NO
                        Parella: NO
                        Thompson: YES
The last time there was a vote on this issue, there was a 4-4 tie vote (Close was absent). With Close present and voting NO today, many thought that her NO vote would kill the new sign ordinance.  However, Kelley Hinsley apparently changed his previous NO vote to a YES vote today, resulting in approval and recommendation of the new sign ordinance to the city council.

Prior to casting her vote, Katy Klose made some very good points about getting more citizen and business input first and not being in such a hurry, particularly since the new sign ordinance will not take effect or be enforced until January 2011. Klose's suggestions echoed the sentiment of most of the business people in attendance, but they fell on deaf ears.

Monday, April 12, 2010

April 12, 2010 Burzell Appeals Termination To Civil Service Board

As I thought would happen, Ernie Burzell filed a complaint/appeal with the Civil Service Board over his termination as a deputy under the Civil Service Act. See previous post here. Burzell wrote a letter to the Civil Service Board (Joel Seal, Scott Purkey, and Tim Horner) on March 23, 2010, stating that he wants to "appeal" his termination by Sheriff Esco Jarnagin. He asks the Board to advise Jarnagin not to fill any positions opened as a result of "Sheriff Jarnagin's interpretation of the law regarding deputies running for Sheriff."
I can understand that Burzell and the other deputies (Rucker and Kitts) are upset. This whole matter has been a mess. 

But for Burzell to say that he or the other deputies were fired as a result of "Sheriff Jarnagin's interpretation of the law" is ridiculous. 

It was the STATE attorney general's interpretation of the law--as found in three different opinions--that said deputies who are covered under civil service can not run for sheriff.  The STATE AG also noted that the federal Hatch Act may also prevent deputies from running for sheriff.

It was HAMBLEN COUNTY'S attorney Rusty Cantwell who, after the third STATE attorney general's opinion came out, told Jarnagin that he (Jarnagin) had no choice but to dismiss the deputies (Burzell, Kitts, and Rucker) who were running for sheriff.

Civil service gives deputies protection from political firings BUT, according to the STATE AG, there is a trade-off for this job protection. The STATE AG has opined that deputies, who are covered under civil service, are not allowed to run a political campaign for Sheriff.

Prior to the adoption of Civil Service in Hamblen County, deputies could be hired without any detailed testing standards and could be fired for just about any reason or for no real reason.  

Prior to teh adoption of Civil Service in Hamblen County, there was no civil service board with whom a grievance could be filed when an adverse job action occurred. 

Prior to the adoption of Civil Service in Hamblen County, deputies could and were required or "strongly encouraged" by Otto Purkey and other incumbent sheriffs to campaign for their boss.

Not every county in Tennessee has adopted the 1974 Civil Service Act.  Hamblen County deputies, however, pushed for civil service in Hamblen County. During his last term in office (2002-2006), Sheriff Otto Purkey joined the deputies in asking the County Commission to adopt Civil Service and the Commission subsequently voted Civil Service in.

Now the deputies are seeing the flip-side of civil service. The STATE AG has interpreted the civil service act as requiring that a deputy resign or be terminated prior to announcing a run for Sheriff. The COUNTY ATTORNEY, after the third AG Opinion was released, advised the current Sheriff to dismiss the deputies running for office if they refused to resign.

Burzell is within his right to appeal his termination. He is flat out wrong, however, when he refers in his appeal to the terminations being "a result of Sheriff Jarnagin's interpretation of the law."  He should have said he wants the civil service board to review actions taken "as a result of three STATE AG opinions and as a result of the advice of County Attorney Rusty Cantwell."

Read the STATE AG's interpretation of the civil service act and deputies running for office here, here, and here.  Read County Attorney Rusty Cantwell's advice to Jarnagin here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

April 11, 2010 Brian Janish, City of Morristown Internal Services Director & Budget/Human Resources Director, Applies for Asst. City Administrator Job in Sevierville

Brian Janish, Internal Services Director and Budget/Human Resources Director for the City of Morristown,  has applied for the position of Assistant City Administrator in Sevierville. Janish was former City Administrator Jim Crumley's right-hand man for 9-10 years.

[In mid-2009, Crumley left the City after negotiating a "retirement" package instead of facing the prospect of a rancorous removal process. Shortly afterwards, the City was found to have made unauthorized transfers of money from the sewer fund to the general fund for at least three years to cover up the City's true financial position. Click here and here and here for some background on sewergate/bankruptcygate.]

Based on Janish's application in Sevierville, it looks like Janish, as Internal Services Director & Budget/Human Resources Director, had his hands on all city operations during Crumley's tenure. Click or double-click on each image to enlarge and read Janish's application.

The application is dated January 20, 2010.  Surely, there has been something in the local "news"paper about this during the past three months! Reporter Bob Moore knows everything that goes on at the City. I guess I missed his article. Could someone please leave a comment on this post to tell me the date of the "news"paper report on this?

I want to go back and read the "news"paper article and the reactions of the Mayor and City Council and new City Administrator Tony Cox at the possibility of losing Internal Services Director & Budget/Human Resources Director Janish who was such a vital cog in Crumley's financial machine.

Friday, April 02, 2010

April 2, 2010 Mitchell's Conviction after Arrest at Anti-Illegal Immigration Rally Overturned

The Criminal Court of Appeals has overturned the Hamblen County conviction of Teddy Ray Mitchell for disorderly conduct. It is unusual for a criminal conviction to be overturned. A video of the arrest submitted with the appeal made the difference. The majority opinion (Thomas and Witt) is here.  The dissenting opinion (Ogle) is here
Mitchell was tasered and arrested just prior to the start of an anti-illegal immigration rally in June 2006 as he argued with officers who refused to allow him to carry an American Flag on a metal pole onto the Hamblen County Courthouse grounds where the anti-illegal immigration rally was to take place.

Pictures taken at the rally are posted on my blog here and here.  Due to overwhelming numbers of law enforcement officers called in from across the state, there may have been almost as many law enforcement officers at the rally as there were participants.

The majority opinion first recounts the trial testimony of several officers about events leading up to the arrest. Next, the opinion quotes the testimony of several citizens who observed the arrest.

Finally, the Court's review of the video leads the majority to state that "the video recording of this incident belies the officers' testimony in very significant ways."

While there is no doubt that Mitchell's voice was raised and that he was belligerently arguing with the officers about his right to carry his American Flag into the rally, the majority found that there was no evidence or testimony that an officer was verbally threatened nor was there any video evidence to support an officer's trial testimony that he was poked by the metal flagpole.

Click here to read the 7-page opinion.  Page 5 has the standard of review on appeal and discussion of the disorderly conduct statute under which Mitchell was convicted.  Page 6 has the court's review of the video recording of the incident as contrasted to the trial testimony of the prosecution's witnesses. Page 7 is reversal of the conviction and dismissal of the case.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

April 1, 2010 Conference Call with Good News from Hamblen County Commission Chair Stancil Ford and Mayor David Purkey

I had a very nice surprise conference call with Hamblen County Commission Chair Stancil Ford and County Mayor David Purkey early this morning.

Stancil initiated the call, but Mayor Purkey was on the line as well.

Stancil said that the two of them had been studying commission operations and the way appointments are made to boards and commissions and they have decided to adopt some suggestions that I have made over the years in order to be more open and citizen-friendly. I listened.

Two of the changes that Stancil and David are proposing are:

1) Stancil said that Committee meetings will begin at 5:00 PM--just like commission meetings--instead of the current 11:30 AM. Stancil said that he had finally realized that having committee meetings at 11:30 AM shuts out the citizens of Hamblen County who want to hear the discussions and have input but have to work for a living. I thanked him.

2) David then said that he was going to propose time or term-limits for people who serve on boards and commissions in Hamblen County.

David said that Stancil and he had finally realized that the same people do not need to be appointed over and over to the same board and do not need to serve on 3-4 boards at the same time. They thought the Commission would go along with their idea. I thanked them.

It was a good conversation and I think they had some other ideas to share with me, but I didn't have time to listen.

In my best Stancil imitation, I banged the phone/gavel down and growled/shouted "Your three minutes are up!"

UPDATE:  To all who e-mailed or called to tell me how pleased you are about this change of heart/policy by Stancil and David. Sorry, there hasn't been even the slightest change of heart by either one. It's April 1st and you just got pranked!