Friday, September 05, 2014

September 5, 2014 Ford Calls Special Meeting Without Authority, Adjourns Meeting When Objection Raised by Commissioner

County Commission Chair Stancil Ford issued the call for yesterday's special meeting of the Hamblen County Commission.

Ford, however, had no authority to call yesterday's meeting.

Under state law, T.C.A. 5-5-105(a)(2), the chair can only call for a special session if the Mayor or a majority of commissioners apply in writing to the chair for such a meeting.

Neither the Mayor nor any commissioner had submitted such a request to the Chair. Ford had just taken it upon himself to call the body into session.

[Under T.C.A. 5-5-105(a)(1), the County Mayor also has the authority to call a special session but only if, in the mayor's opinion, the public necessities require it. Mayor Brittain did not issue the call for the special meeting.]

During public comments, I provided information regarding the above state law and an email exchange with an attorney in the Comptroller's office confirming the very clear requirements that must be met before the chair can call a special session of the commission.

County Attorney Chris Capps admitted that Ford had called the meeting without authority--that there had been no written request for this meeting. 

Brittain recommended that the meeting continue saying he and Stancil had "discussed" a meeting.

Attorney Capps recommended that the meeting continue while acknowledging that it was a technical violation of the statute. Capps added that it should only go forward if no commissioner objected.

Commissioner Johnny Walker objected.

A few commissioners were willing to go on with a meeting that had been called by the chair without authority to do so.

Ford, while serving as chair, entered into the discussion and said he thought the meeting should go on.

Walker said what kind of precedent does that set if we are not doing what we are supposed to.

Ford then asked Capps to explain what CTAS (County Technical Advisory Services) had said about the situation.

Capps said that his conversation with CTAS (County Technical Assistance Services) was not actually a specific discussion of T.C.A. 5-5-105 (a)(2) but was a "general" conversation. Capps added that he and Brown painted it "with a broad brush" in that conversation, and she did not consider it a "real big deal so to speak"

Commissioner Joe Huntsman then stated that he wanted to do what was right and he didn't want to set a precedent by breaking the law on their first day there. 

Stancil Ford again asked Walker if he objected. Walker said yes.

Ford closed the meeting.

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